Hundreds gathered at Edmonton’s Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral Wednesday morning to say farewell to former Speaker of the Alberta Legislature, Gene Zwozdesky.
The 70-year-old politician died on Jan. 6 after a battle with cancer.
Zwozdesky was first elected to the legislature as a Liberal in 1993. He later crossed the floor to join the Progressive Conservatives. He served in several roles in cabinet, including portfolios that included health and education.
Politicians who served alongside “Zwoz,” as he was affectionately called, remembered him for his humour, kindness and aptitude.
“Gene was very good at a lot of things,” UCP MLA Ric McIver said.
“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.
“He was always helpful and charming. Just a joy to be around,” McIver added. “He made every person that came into the legislative assembly feel welcome.”
Zwozdesky was also very philanthropic and well-known in the hockey community and volunteered as a referee with the Quikcard Minor Hockey Week for many years.
“Gene was a giant in his personality,” country music star Brett Kissel said on Wednesday.
“He was a guy that, when you walk in the room, you know that Gene is there — not because it was all about him, not at all — it was because it was about everybody else and what could he do to give more to that cause, to give more to that fundraiser, to give more to that event.
“Gene was somebody unlike anybody I had ever met,” Kissel added. “He was so vibrant, he was so bright, he was so cheerful and the life of the party in every party.”
Zwozdesky 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.
A public reception is being held at the Enjoy Centre at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The flags at the Alberta Legislature were lowered to honour Zwozdesky.
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. (Jan. 7, 2019)