Ace Burpee's Top 100 Most Fascinating Manitobans 2018


I believe this is the eighth or ninth edition of my annual list. I can't recall exactly.

It's a bit of work, but I love putting it together.

A couple of things to point out if you've never seen the list before. For starters, the numbering is simply because numbered lists are awesome. However, No. 79 isn't any less of a person than No. 3.

Also, I've never repeated names. Every year, 100 per cent of the names have never before been on the list — unless I've screwed up. This, of course, is possible, but very rare.

There are always going to be plenty of 'Ya, but what about so-and-so?' comments, but it doesn't mean that person hasn't previously been on the list. That is all I'm saying.

Each time I embark on this endeavour, I think I'm going to struggle with getting 100 people, but then I get down to the final 10 spots and  I've still got dozens of worthy Manitobans in my notes on my phone. It's a great problem to have.

Enjoy the list and all the best!    - Ace Burpee


100) Jason Gibbs: Discovered the Epeolus gibbsi, a new species of bee in Manitoba. The bee is named after Gibbs, the University of Manitoba assistant professor of entomology. He already has two other bee species — one from Nigeria and the other from Mexico — that bear his name.


99) Sam Jackman: Dropped 97, yes, NINETY-SEVEN, points in a single high school basketball game for Morris School. Apparently records for points in a game are not officially kept by the Manitoba High School Athletic Association, but the previous unofficial record was 83.


98) Dillon Vincent: Was driving alone when he came across a single-vehicle rollover that clearly had just happened near the intersection of Plessis Road and Dawson Road South. The driver was trapped behind the wheel while flames were poking out from under the hood. Dillon was able to pull the grown man through the window and drag him to safety. Mere seconds later the entire vehicle burst into flames. You literally saved a life, man. Respect.


97) Emily Cablek: While many are familiar with THE story — the abduction of her children, her tireless search, their discovery in Mexico, their safe return — this year Emily published HER story. Her book, Holding onto Hope, is incredible. A strong, brave woman.


Photo Cred: CTV
Photo credit: CTV

96) Lou Billinkoff: At 95 years of age, Lou set out to run the fastest 100 metres anyone his age had ever clocked in Canada. He did it. He ran the 100 metres in just under 30 seconds. The previous record in his age division? One minute and 18 seconds. Legend.


95, 94) Raven Beardy and Robyn Shlachetka: They are both young pilots serving northern Manitoba communities. They made history this year as the first ever female Indigenous medevac team in the province.


93) Rusty: For almost a decade, Rusty, the glasses-wearing therapy dog, has been comforting patients and staff at the St. Boniface Hospital. Good boy.


92) Scott and Anne Oake: Addiction claimed the life of their son, Bruce, eight years ago. For the past few years, the couple has been working and fundraising tirelessly to open a much-needed recovery centre in Winnipeg. Of course they've been met by opposition, but they soldier on, their intentions pure, hoping to save future families from living through the same nightmare.



91, 90) Jen Roscoe and Steve Gregg: Best. Photobomb. Ever. The newly married couple were having wedding photos taken on Waterfront Drive when Sir Paul McCartney rode up on a bicycle, stopped to wish them well and posed for what are now some of the most legendary wedding pics of all time.


89, 88) Jen Meixner and Jon Skrypnyk: Jon pulled off a super-cool surprise engagement proposal on stage at one of the Jets whitout parties in front of thousands of people. She said yes and it was awesome.


87-85) Zainab Ali, Darryl Stewart and Joseph Chaeban: Joseph, a Lebanese cheese-maker, used his experience in dairy to open Chaeban Ice Cream. They've been crushing it since taking over the former home of Banana Boat on Osborne. Encouraged by friend and now partner Darryl Stewart, the flavours are both prairie-inspired and influenced by the Syrian heritage of Joseph’s wife. Wishing you continued success!


84) Begonia: As brillant live as she is on record, singer Alexa Dirks is a must listen. Another major talent in a local music scene that continues to produce literally world-class talent. Give her stuff a spin and enjoy.


83) Rachel Parson: Won multiple awards at the 2018 Manitoba Schools Science Symposium for her research into phytoremediation  and cattails. That basically means how living plants can clean our air, soil and water. Her project, however, was anything but basic.


82) Dr. Cheryl Rockman-Greenberg: An incredible woman in so many ways, her research in pediatric health has benefited this province for many years and will continue to for decades to come. Already a recent member of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, this year she received the Order of Manitoba.


Photo Credit: Winnipeg Free Press

81) Peyman and Ronak Esfehani: Cottage Bakery is the longest-running business on Pembina Highway. The business has a rich and storied history, with the most recent chapter having been written by Peyman and Ronak, two of the kindest, sweetest and hardest-working people in this town. More than 80 years of quality and great people. Continued success.


80) James Ehnes: He'll forever be a Brandon boy, even though his career takes him all over the globe. James is one of the finest violinists in the world, and this year he has been nominated for a Grammy for Best Classical Instrumental solo. Oh, and he also has 11 Junos. Legend.


79) Barbara Bruce: Barbara has compiled an extraordinary list of accomplishments. She's planned numerous Truth and Reconciliation Commission events, been an integral piece of the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board as well as the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. This year, Barbara was recognized for her life of championing others by being named to the Order of Manitoba.


78) Bob Irving: This past CFL season, Bob "Knuckles" Irving called his 800th Bomber game. Incredible. For 45 years we've been lucky to have Bob at the mic through good times and bad. The bonus being he's one of the nicest guys out there. An absolute true pro.


77) Sidney Wolinsky: He already has an Emmy for editing an episode of Boardwalk Empire. He has several other nominations for his work on The Sopranos and, in 2018, was nominated for an Oscar for editing the critically acclaimed film The Shape of Water


76) Alex Plante: I know her so I was well aware how ridiculously talented she is, but 2018 could be considered a bit of a breakthrough for the artist. She sent me a text on a Friday afternoon saying she had an idea. The idea was brilliant, and THE NEXT DAY she sent me the finished product. 


75) Maxwell Oliver: At only eight years of age, Max set up his "cast-a-can" voting station outside his home during the fall civic election. People in the neighbourhood could “vote” for councillor, mayor, and 'yes' or 'no' on Portage and Main by placing cans of food into marked bins. All of the food went to Winnipeg Harvest — more than 1,000 cans worth. Nice job, Max.


74) Beau: I made my list too early last year and so it was too late to include Beau. From Dauphin to Q94 to 99.9 Bob FM, he’s been grinding it out on radio for more than 40 years and was recently inducted into the Manitoba Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame. I get to see him every morning, as we work next door to each other, and he's just the best dude. Legend.


73) Jane Burpee: Could be on this list for multiple reasons. She has spent more than 40 years in mental health and is a true ally and advocate for those who need help and compassion. She's also an incredible actress, this year receiving the Outstanding Actress Award for her role in Royal MTC's The Humans at the Winnipeg Theatre Awards. She’s also a wonderful mother.


72) Leila Castro: She is the founder of 204 Neighbourhood Watch Inc., a weekly safety patrol. She has previously received the Newcomer Volunteer Award, and this year was named a Manitoba Hero. Leila is tireless. She's been active finding shelter for First Nations communities displaced by fire, volunteers with the Alzheimer Society, and much more. A true asset to our province.


71) Brad Katona: Became the first Canadian in history to win the reality show, The Ultimate Fighter. He earned a six-figure UFC contract with the win. Brad trained at the Winnipeg Academy of Mixed Martial Arts for 10 years, while also earning a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Manitoba.


70) St. John's Tigers: Ended a 38-year championship drought by winning a city title in football for the first time since 1980. The team used the championship moment to honour former quarterback Jordan Thomas, whose life was tragically taken just two years ago. Congrats to coach Grant McMillan and the entire team and school.


69) Greg & Jeff Fettes: Have quietly and carefully grown their made-in-Manitoba business, 24/7 INTOUCH, into a powerful brand providing customer service to companies all over the world. They are extremely generous men, and have created tons of jobs in Winnipeg. Forbes listed their company on its 2018 Best Employers for New Grads list, and 24/7 now has operations in Las Vegas, Denver, Tampa, Montego Bay, Los Angeles and Phoenix… and have expanded their Winnipeg operation yet again.


68) Evelyn Wawryshyn: Evelyn, from Tyndall, was playing baseball for the Canadian Ukrainian Athletic Club in Flin Flon in the 1940s when she was scouted by people looking to start the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. She ended up taking the train to Chicago, joined the Muskegon Lassies, and was named an all-star in 1950. Already a member of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame... this year saw Evelyn (93 years of age) inducted into the Ukrainian Sports Hall of Fame in Pennsylvania.



67-63) Matthew Driedger, Sawyer Rempel, Morgan Taverner, Emerich Kovacs III and Valorie Platero: For sure a candidate for team of the year, these five brilliant minds make up the U of M Space Applications and Technology Society team. They were tasked with designing and launching a fully functioning satellite at the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge in Ottawa, and came home national champions. Nice job.


62-54) Rachel Gordon, Cameron MacAngus, Keaton Whitaker, Orisha Peters, Whitney Boiteau, Kaitlyn Lewis, Keelyn Lewis, Michelle Watson and Monica Manaigre: Over the past few years, Motionball Winnipeg has become one of the coolest fundraising events on the calendar. Motionball is a marathon of sport, held in support of Special Olympics Manitoba. The event grew this year — thanks to the hard work of the committee — to more than 50 teams, and raised a ridiculous $183,000 to support our Special O athletes and programs. Awesome work.


53, 52) Jenn Strauman and Mary Lou Vendivil: While both are professionals in the medical field, Jenn and Mary Lou also share a love of baking. Their custom cookie company, Scientific Sweets, got a huge bump this year when they were asked to create custom baby cookies to celebrate the arrival of Khloe Kardashian's baby True. They were a big hit.


51) David A. Robertson: A prolific and award-winning writer, David has already put together an incredible resume and shows no sign of slowing down. From his Governor General’s Literacy Award-winning When We Were Alone, to epic graphic novel series, to another nationally recognized novel Will I See?, he's on a roll. A member of Norway House Cree Nation, David educates as well as entertains through his writings about Canada's Indigenous people.


50) Kim Walker: Took over the co-ordinator role for Winnipeg Terry Fox Run and made the 2018 event one of the best in recent memory. Excellent job, Kim!


49) Abigail Stewart: When she was four, Abigail was diagnosed with Multisystem Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis. It's a rare condition where white blood cells eat away at the bones, similar to cancer, and is treated similarly. Now 11, and in remission, Abigail did a wonderful job as the 2018 Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba's Champion Child. She’s so sweet and so cool, and along with being an ambassador for the 120,000 kids and families helped by Children's Hospital every year, Abigail also raised tens of thousands of dollars for children's care all on her own. Great, great kid.


48) Jermaine Loewen: In the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Jermaine became the first Jamaican-born player chosen by an NHL club (Dallas Stars). Adopted by a couple from Arborg after having been abandoned at age one, Jermaine got skates for Christmas when he was eight. He had wished for a Tonka truck, but decided to give the skates a try. Ten years later he's an NHL draft pick. Incredible story.


47) Madhumita Chandrasekaran: As a Grade 8 student at Acadia Junior High School, she entered her project into the Manitoba Schools Science Symposium. Her study — A Novel Approach to Efficiently Recycle Used Diapers in Optimizing Plant Growth — won at the provincial level and then took gold at the 2018 Canada-Wide Science Fair. Awesome.


46) Karly Tardiff: Organized Chain for Change in support of CancerCare Manitoba. It was a massive undertaking. The goal, which she pulled off, was to stage the longest-ever unbroken chain of ice skaters. I was there. It was a cold and nasty day on the river trail, but Karly was amazing. We had to skate a minimum of 400 metres and the chain could not break at any time. Almost 400 skaters came through, breaking the record of 370, which had been set in Japan.


45) Jay Richardson: I'm likely biased, but for my money, the in-house announcer for the Winnipeg Jets is the best in the game. Be it an announcement requiring a sombre tone or a hyped goal, Jay makes a night at Bell MTS Place even better.


44) Gavin McHale: His regular gig is trainer and goalie coach for the reigning national women's hockey champions — the U of M Bisons. For one night in November though, McHale, 30, suited up for the Washington Capitals versus the Jets on an emergency call-up basis.


43) Chantal Lacoste: She's the community leader for Mealshare, a non-profit that donates meals to children in need. Working with local restaurants, the concept works basically on a "buy one, give one" model. New to town in 2018, Mealshare has already donated thousands of meals to Boys and Girls Club Winnipeg and to Save The Children International.


42) Sam Posnick: This province currently boasts some of the greatest makers and artists in the country. Sam is one of my favourites. Her style is super cool and you should give it a look at


41) Carly Minish: She's the founder of Smak Dab mustard. The best mustard in the whole wide world? I would say ‘yes'. Thank you Carly for making life more delicious.


40) Tanjit Nagra: She's a force. The recipient of the 2018 Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy award, Tanjit has been everywhere supporting countless Manitobans. From the creation of the UMSU Indigenous Award of Excellence, facilitating health and dental plans, and advocating for universal bus passes in her role as University of Manitoba Students Union president. Outside of school, she’s been serving on the Library Advisory Council as well as the Marlene Street Resource Centre — a drop-in for immigrant/refugee and low-income families. And more. Much more. Incredible woman.


39) Dayna Spiring: As President and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg, Dayna has been an incredible voice, leader, and champion for Winnipeg. A true, passionate advocate for making Winnipeg a destination for both business and tourism. She's awesome.


38) Brian Sanderson: Such a nice man. Brian was a staple for 30 years in this town, being our St. Nick for literally thousands and thousands of families. He loved his role as Santa Claus, and his big chair at CF Polo Park was a treat to visit every season. Brian passed away in October and he will be sorely missed. All the best to his family and many, many friends. 


 37, 36) Raelle and Karl Shoenrock: Together they run Kismet Creek Farm, a sanctuary for abused, abandoned, or simply in-need-of-care animals. They shelter sheep, donkeys, horses, chickens, goats, and tons more. Their farm, located just south of Steinbach, is open for tours and events. Check here


35) University of Manitoba women's hockey team: National. Champs. For the first time in school history. Fantastic achievement for a program that has been trending upwards for years. Well-deserved.


Photo Credit: Winnipeg Free Press

34) Emilie McKinney: Only 17 years of age, she is the founder of Anishinaabe Bimishimo. She couldn’t find authentic jingle cones and lids, which are the decorative pieces Indigenous dancers sew onto to clothing to provide a jingling sound. So Emilie, a dancer herself and band member of Swan Lake First Nation, began making her own. She got her business up and running within a year. I was hosting the Startup Canada Awards a few months ago and watched her receive the Young Entrepreneur Award. She’s awesome.


33) The Pas Huskies: The peewee team was the winner of the Good Deeds Cup, which rewards a hockey team in Canada for work they do off the ice and in their community. They showed incredible hustle and huge hearts, earning a $15,000 prize for Oscar’s Place in The Pas, a homeless shelter that was on the verge of closing. Great, great job, boys.


32) Lena Wenke: She was a starter with the University of Winnipeg women's basketball team having just come off a year that saw the team go 18-2 and medal nationally for the first time in years. Soon after the season ended Lena was the victim of a horrific attack that saw her stabbed 70 times, rushed to hospital in critical condition and put of life support. That was 2017. Just a year later, she worked her way back to regain a spot on the U of W basketball team. Unreal. Remarkable. Inspiring. All the best, Lena.


31) Uzoma Asagwara: A former member of the Canadian women's national basketball team, a registered psychiatric nurse, and founder of Queer People of Colour Winnipeg. Making a difference in the lives of many in our community through advocacy and activism, Uzoma was chosen as the 2018 Black History Month Manitoba Humanitarian of the Year.


30) Sarah Ernstberger: A goaltender for the Northwest Eagles, Sarah came up with an idea when she saw a donation request in the mail from CancerCare Manitoba. Just 10 years of age, her plan was to raise money by donating a dollar for every goal she lets in, and $5 a shutout. She ended up in the double digits in shutouts, and her campaign caught the attention of many, including two-time Olympic hockey gold medalist Shannon Szabados, who agreed to match all donations. Atta girl, Sarah. Great job.


29) Ryan Delong: He's sort of becoming the random act of kindness guy. It's a good look. From gifting Jets tickets to those fighting cancer, to stepping up with a gift of goodwill to a man who stepped in to save a homeless man in peril, Ryan is one of the good guys. Respect.


28) Jason Hildebrand: The dude has one of the greatest party stories in history. When a member of our Winnipeg Police Service jumped in the back of his truck in order to pursue a suspect on foot, what ensued was literally straight from an action movie. The cop in the back of the truck shouted instructions and directions to Jason at the wheel, doing things with his truck he'd never get away with otherwise. Also, it totally worked.


27) Jody Ansell: She was one of the many who was shot at the devastating Route 91 country music festival in Las Vegas. Jody survived, is doing well, and this summer returned to Vegas on the one-year anniversary of the massacre to meet and thank everyone — from civilians to law enforcement — who helped save her life after she was hit. All the best to you, Jody.


26) Heather Hinam: Combining a PhD in ecology with decades of experience as a nature and heritage interpreter, Heather is passionate about stewarding and sharing the natural wonders of Manitoba. She's the driving force behind Second Nature, Adventures in Discovery, and will beautifully guide you through the outdoors both in person and online. A winner of both sustainable tourism and entrepreneurial awards, Heather is a great ally for all living things in our province.


25) Anne Mahon: A writer, philanthropist and a champion for immigrant and refugee families in Manitoba. This year, Anne also became the 14th chancellor in history of the University of Manitoba. Congratulations, Anne, and all the best.

24) Bob Hebert: Just a beauty of a guy. Bob spends literally every day volunteering and helping out his community of Selkirk. From personal care homes to school breakfast programs, and from food hamper drives to homeless shelters, Bob does it all. He lives with an intellectual disability and is a tireless voice — and first vice-president — for People First, a self-advocate organization. This year, Bob was honoured as Selkirk's Citizen of the Year. Good man.


23) Matthieu Gomercic: A Winnipeg boy playing for the Humboldt Broncos, Matthieu was injured but survived the deadly bus crash. He worked his way back to the ice, earning a spot in Canadian university hockey with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa. All the best to you, man.


 22, 21) Jennifer and Rodell Bautista: Suffered the tragic loss of their son this summer, but turned that grief into advocacy for those battling addiction and mental health issues. They became public faces and voices for what is a very real problem affecting countless families. Great respect to you both for speaking up in the face of tragedy. Better days ahead.


20-16) Leonard, Eleane, Lenny Jr., Jason and Jeffrey Baranyk: One of those truly great families we're lucky enough call Manitoba home. Leonard Sr., the legend, passed away this year after a courageous battle with cancer. He and his family have been so incredibly generous and caring to so many. Thousands can tell you first-hand stories of the Baranyk family kindness. They had agreed to chair the annual Daffodil Gala in support of the Canadian Cancer Society this year, mere weeks before the passing of Leonard Sr. They carried on, and were key in raising more than $800,000 for various programs and research for those fighting cancer. Just a beautiful family.


15-13) Kendra Hurley, Rylea McEvoy and Claire Davis: They said they "blamed" sangria for the idea. For the record, their idea was incredibly awesome. The three women make up the Byway Babes. Their idea? To canoe across the entire country in support of cystic fibrosis. Love it. They started in Vancouver, paddling, portaging, and hiking the entire country to the Atlantic. That's bad-ass. Great work.


12) Kate Fenske: Big year for an outstanding woman. She was first elected to be the incoming board chair for the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, but instead will now work with the chamber in her new role as CEO of the Downtown BIZ.


11) James Starr: James made so many people smile for so many years. For those who spend any time on the east side of Lake Winnipeg in the summer, there was always that guy that waved at them. Seated off to the side of Highway 59 on Brokenhead Ojibway First Nation, that guy was James, often accompanied by his brother, Nelson. James recently passed away, and will be missed by the thousands he made smile. Such a simple thing that brought good vibes to so many. Wavers, the gas station named in his honour, along with the ceremonial chair near his favourite waving spot, will remain.


10) The guy who put up the Garbage Hill sign: Never has anything been more popular and lasted less time. Do I know the story and who was behind it? Yes. The fact that he/they never came forward, to me, makes it even cooler.


9) Jerett Bogue: Since its inception, at least one member of the Bear Clan has made this list. By now we’re all aware of the fantastic work they’ve been doing, and Jerett is now the longest serving volunteer. Two or three nights a week for the last few years he’s been on the streets looking out for others. That's dedication. Thank you, Jerett, and everyone who walks with the Bear Clan Patrol.


8) Kayla Creely: An extremely talented graphic designer, her work has been used by local non-profits in Manitoba as part of awareness campaigns. At only 16, she’s got an incredibly bright future, and was recently awarded the 2018 Manitoba Aboriginal Youth Achievement Award for artistic visuals.


Photo Credit: Filipino Journal

7) Stephanie Sy: Rainbow Stage’s The Beauty and The Beast was a massive hit this past summer, and the role of Belle went to Stephanie. She was fantastic. It was also a nostalgic homecoming of sorts as well, as the last time she stepped on stage under the dome in Kildonan Park was in 1997's South Pacific.


6, 5) Crissy Slater and Ariel Spence: At first it was meant to be a one-off fundraiser so Crissy could send her daughter Ariel on a grad trip. Now it's turned into a full-time business. Red Road Clothing is a fantastic story. An original sketch called Berry Fast, which depicted Ariel's year-long journey participating in a womanhood ceremony, was put on articles of clothing and instantly generated massive sales. Several new designs have been created, the most popular being Under the Moon — a design honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls — and Crissy and Ariel are now partners in a flourishing business. Check them out here


4) George Klassen: He was co-ordinator of a new Guinness World Record set this year, just south of Winkler. George and his team managed to arrange for more than 300 combines to harvest a field of winter wheat simultaneously. The previous record was 244 combines, set in Saskatchewan. Not only will they enter the record books, the event also raised nearly $5 million for Children's Camps International, an organization that sends kids in developing countries to summer camp.


3) Annette Riziki: She and her family fled war in the Democratic Republic of Congo when she was just two. Two decades later, after arriving in Manitoba in 2011, Annette has just received a Rhodes Scholarship to the University of Oxford. A rare and prestigious honour, she is one of only 11 Canadians to receive a Rhodes this year.


2) Dr. Marcia Anderson: Every year, the Women's Executive Network of Canada honours 100 women with recognition as Canada's most powerful women. Dr. Anderson received the honour this year for bolstering Indigenous medical education and health-care delivery in Northern Manitoba. She is the Executive Director of Indigenous Academic Affairs at the Ongomiizwin Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing. Congratulations, Dr. Anderson, and all the best.


1) Brigette Lacquette: This year, Brigette, from Mallard, Man., became the first Indigenous woman to represent Canada in Olympic hockey. A great athlete and even finer person.