Several former and current Alberta politicians took to Twitter Sunday to share their memories and condolences over the death of former Edmonton Mill Creek MLA Gene Zwozdesky.
UCP MLA Ric McIver, who served alongside ‘Zwoz’ as he was affectionately called, said he would miss Zwozdesky’s good humour.
“He was always helpful and charming. Just a joy to be around,” said McIver. “He made every person that came into the legislative assembly feel welcome regardless of their background or culture. He took time for everybody.”
WATCH BELOW: Condolences and heart-warming stories of Gene Zwozdesky have been pouring in since he passed away on Sunday. Kendra Slugoski has reaction to the former Speaker of the Legislature’s passing.
Zwozdesky died Sunday at the age of 70 from cancer.
“He’d been battling cancer for a while,” McIver said.
He was elected to the Alberta Legislature in 1993 as a Liberal, but later crossed the floor to join the PC’s — filling several roles in cabinet, including serving in portfolios that included health and education.
“He was well-respected, did a fantastic job. It was a real honour to work with him,” said McIver. “He made it fun for other people to come to work every day. He’s leaving a big hole in this province and a big hole in a lot of people’s hearts.”
He also served as Speaker of the Legislature between 2012 and 2015.
“The only real criticism I can give you of Gene Zwozdesky is that he was too nice of a guy,” McIver said fondly.
“When you’re the Speaker of the House and you have 86 people losing their mind, and the Speaker has to keep control of traffic, being too nice of a guy doesn’t always get the job done on those really grumpy days.”
McIver said a lot of different premiers had confidence in the abilities of Gene Zwozdesky and for good reason.
“Gene was very good at a lot of things. I understand at some point in his youth he was a Ukrainian dancer, he was a great piano player. He was successful in managing several ministries along the way.”
Watch below: (From Jan. 7, 2019) Former Edmonton MLA Gene Zwozdesky died over the weekend. As Vinesh Pratap reports, he is being remembered for more than just his service at the Alberta legislature.
UCP Leader Jason Kenney described Zwozdesky as a “legend.”
Heather Klimchuk served alongside Zwozdesky and said he celebrated “the very best in all of us.”
Zwozdesky was known for his humour and showmanship, at times performing at charity events. Zwozdesky was also well-known in the hockey community and volunteered as a referee with the Quikcard Minor Hockey Week for many years.
He was also the executive director of the Alberta Cultural Heritage Foundation and the Alberta Ukrainian Canadian Centennial Commission, and was active with numerous organizations including the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, Alberta Folk Arts Council and Edmonton Heritage Festival Association.
Zwozdesky displayed his Ukrainian heritage with pride and was a fierce proponent of the arts. He appeared on Global News dozens of times over the years.
WATCH BELOW: On the 25th anniversary of the Ukraine declaration of independence from the USSR, Alberta’s Ukrainian community celebrates with dance and song in Churchill Square. Gene Zwozdesky speaks more about the event.
Current Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel described Zwozdesky as a great friend.
“He was a wonderful man who served diligently and honourably for all of Alberta,” Mandel tweeted. “He has left us too soon and he will be sorely missed by all Albertans.
“Sending our deepest condolences to his family.”
LISTEN: Stephen Mandel joins Danielle Smith to remember Gene Zwozdesky
WATCH BELOW: Alberta’s new MLAs learn the ins and outs from outgoing Speaker Gene Zwozdesky.
There’s no word on funeral arrangements yet.