Peter Pochynok stands in his office at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium shortly before his retirement in 2009.
Peter Pochynok was an artistic inspiration, best known for his 40-year career behind the scenes at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium.
Those in Brandon’s arts community were shocked and saddened by the news of Pochynok’s sudden death on Saturday at the age of 67.
"It’s a great loss," said Barbara Ehnes, founder and former director of the Brandon School of Dance. "It was amazing to have such a professional with such high standards to work with on all our productions. He was a creative genius and it was just an honour to collaborate with him."
Ehnes worked with Pochynok for more than 35 years.
"He showed an example of ... a job well done is the only way a job should be done," Ehnes said yesterday from her home in Florida. "He was marvelous to work with and he really cared about the final product on stage. He was a real inspiration for young performers."
Kelly Lumbard, current director of the Brandon School of Dance, and artistic director of the Brandon Dance Ensemble, said Pochynok has left a legacy in Brandon. He sat on the Brandon Dance Ensemble board from 1987 to 2009.
"He was a shining example of a person who devotes himself to his work, and excellence in the artistic world," Lumbard said.
Pochynok’s wife of 45 years, Carol Pochynok, remembered her husband as "strong and full of wisdom."
"He was very creative," Carol said. "A leader, and liked to do everything on his own."
He had a great sense of humour, and was a very generous man.
"Peter would do anything for anybody," Carol said. "That was him. He never turned anybody away."
Pochynok has one daughter, Kathy Olson, and an 11-year-old granddaughter named Kellie.
He had a nickname, "The Wizard of Ahhs," for the magic he created on the stage.
"He can visualize something and make it," son-in-law Dave Olson said. "He sees it in his head and he can make it … I think that was a huge part of his talent."
Pochynok retired in the fall of 2009 after 40 years at the WMCA. Pochynok literally built the auditorium from the ground up — he was part of the construction crew back in the late 1960s. After the building was complete in 1969, Pochynok got a job working backstage.
Longtime friend George Buri, artistic director with 7 Ages Productions, remembers the first time he worked with Pochynok.
"It was on a production that was done by a local group in town … in 1971," Buri said. "I was an actor in that play … I moved away from Brandon for a while and returned in ’76 and from then on, I was involved with the productions at the auditorium and working with Peter."
Buri said Pochynok was "one of the best lighting guys around."
"And not just that, he built sets, he helped out so many people in so many different ways," Buri said.
"I think sometimes he appeared a little gruff. But ... I think he was a real sweetheart underneath. He was a very modest man. He never wanted to take any credit for anything."
When Pochynok retired in 2009, his friends, performers and colleagues staged a tribute show for him at the auditorium, called "Thanks for the Memories."
Buri was one of the organizers of the tribute.
"I’m so glad that I was a part of that, and we did that for him while he was there to see it," Buri said.
Buri said he would like to see a room at the auditorium named for Pochynok to honour his memory.
Pochynok’s funeral service will be held on Monday at 11 a.m. at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to be made in memory of Peter to the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Manitoba or to the Diabetes Association.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 4, 2012