As nurses, we are used to seeing the cycle of life up close, however, that doesn’t make it any less painful when it comes to loss.
It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of Vera Chernecki; this news has affected our MNU family deeply.
Vera was the President of the Manitoba Organization of Nurses Associations (MONA) and then the Manitoba Nurses Union from 1981 to 1999. She led our union during a very transformative era, from MONA to MNU, including the historic 30-day strike in 1991.
Following her retirement, Vera participated in our AGMs for many years as our parliamentarian, and was a well-respected and highly regarded parliamentarian for other unions and organizations.
“Always very eloquent and always the voice of reason, Vera will be so missed by her family and many friends,” said MNU President Darlene Jackson.
“Vera has left a lasting legacy at MNU, as many of you can attest, and she waded into every conflict, both big and small, with unwavering grit and determination. May you rest in power, my friend.”
The CFNU digital book Taking Our Place: Stories from Leaders of Canada’s Nurses Union Movement, released in 2019, featured a lovely biography of Vera:
Vera Chernecki grew up in Ethelbert, Manitoba, a village 270 km north of Winnipeg. A young farm girl named Sylvia had boarded with Vera’s family in order to attend the local high school. Sylvia went on to become a nurse, and “her letters to me convinced me to try nursing.” Vera graduated in 1962 and took a full-time nursing job at St. Boniface, later moving to work at a nursing home.
After the birth of each of her four daughters (1964, 1966, 1971 and 1972), she had to quit work (there was no maternity leave), and she returned to casual and part-time work. She was earning $3.60 an hour. In 1974 she was elected president of the local at the nursing home. “When our contract expired, I was at the bargaining table. I just jumped in with both feet. I attended provincial staff council meetings every month... I couldn’t have done everything I did without the support of my husband, who was a teacher, and I think it also helped my daughters become strong people.”
Vera hadn’t set her sights on becoming union president, but in 1981 she was second vice-president when then-president Sonny Arrojado left to head up the newly formed the National Federation of Nurses Unions (predecessor of the CFNU) and first vice-president Mary Lynn Brooks took a staff job with the union. Vera was re-elected annually for the following 17 years. Before her first television interview as union president “my knees were actually knocking.” She grew more confident, and media interviews became easier, “but I was never totally comfortable – you never knew what the questions would be.” After retirement Vera, who had run so many meetings, became certified as a Professional Parliamentarian (an expert in Robert’s Rules of Order).
Our deepest condolences go out to Vera’s beloved family, friends, colleagues and all who were lucky enough to know her.