His violin and guitar have gone silent…
The family of the late Peter Cherkas of Kamsack, Saskatchewan are heartbroken to share the news of his passing but feel truly blessed to have shared one last Christmas with him before he departed.
Peter (Pete) Cherkas was born in the Kamsack hospital on May 23, 1936 to parents Alex Cherkas and Kateryna Cherkas (nee Horoshko) who both immigrated to Canada from Ukraine in the 20’s and settled in the Kamsack area (Alex immigrated in 1925 after his brother William (Bill) Cherkas sponsored him, and Kateryna arrived in 1929). Peter was their only child. They worked hard and saved their money and purchased a farm three kilometers southeast of Kamsack in 1944, which is still owned today.
Peter attended the Aisne School south of Kamsack in his early years, and then attended the Silver Creek School after they moved to the current farm location. Alex and Kateryna spoke little English, and so his early school years were especially difficult. After completing grade 8 at the Silver Creek country school, Peter attended high school in Kamsack until Alex broke his arm and needed Peter to help fulltime on the farm when he was in grade eleven. He left school without graduating. Alex bought him a red and white 1957 Dodge sedan, a prized possession valued by him and his family to this very day.
He began to collect coins at a young age, and his numismatic passion never ceased. When he and Lydia travelled, Peter took every opportunity to seek out and attend a coin show or stop by a favorite coin store, much to Lydia’s dismay. In his later years, he was a well seasoned and highly regarded numismatist, and enjoyed completing his sets and gifting his lifetime collections to his children.
His father taught him the value of hard work, how to farm, and to invest in land and farm equipment, and so Peter often accepted work during the winter months at various northern locations to grow his investment capital (Lynn Lake, MB nickel mine, and driving taxi, Yellow Knife, NWT gold mine). He worked in the mine labs and lived in camps, and would often reminisce about the friendships made but also about the lonely times. Music provided solace (guitar and later violin).
Peter loved music, and would often jam with his best friends (Mike Chutskoff, and his twin brother Fred, and Edward Barisoff) and they sometimes played at local celebrations.
In 1961 he met his future bride, Lydia Konkin. Lydia had made up her mind to go into nursing. The two dated on and off again over a two year period, but Lydia had made a lasting impact on Peter. They fell in love, and their relationship blossomed in the summer of 1963, and in July Peter proposed to Lydia and she agreed to marry him. By late October (that same year) the two were married and settled on the family farm, as Alex and Kateryna moved into town (Kamsack).
Lydia quickly became pregnant, and their first son (Dean Patrick) was born less than a year into their marriage, on August 22, 1964. This was followed by the birth of their second son (Alan Blair) on May 16, 1966, and finally, the birth of their beloved daughter (Kathleen Stacy Faye) on March 6, 1971.
All the while, Peter worked hard (along with the help of hired hands, and eventually his sons) to grow the family grain farm, buying additional land, and renting from other neighbors that were looking to step back from farming, until he peaked the farming operation at close to 1,300 acres. Lydia supported Peter in his efforts by tending to the children, working at the hospital as a nurse at nights, and ensuring that Peter, the children, and his hired hands were well fed.
During the lean farming years, Peter would seek additional work in the winters, in addition to the job of caring for his herd of 30 cattle. Peter learned to operate heavy equipment and spent a few winters living in camps and clearing bush for the oil and gas industry in northern British Columbia. He dreamed of owning his own equipment and making a living operating a fleet of such equipment. And so, in the late 70’s he purchased a D8 Cat and set out contracting for work, until a frozen water crossing mis-hap ended this pursuit. Peter was forced to sell his bulldozer to cover the water damage repair costs. It was a bitter loss that left him somewhat jaded regarding business for several years.
As the children grew, Peter and Lydia encouraged them to pursue music. Peter and his best friend Mike Chutskoff formed the CC Band (CC for Chutskoff-Cherkas). Mike brought his sons Murray and Kevin into the band, and Peter introduced Dean and Alan into the group while they were still in elementary school. The band was featured on the local television show Profile, and played weddings, anniversaries, and other local celebrations.
This proved to be an excellent way for Peter and Mike to maintain their love for music, instill the same into their children, bond, have fun, and make a little spending money on weekends. As teenagers, the kids performed more modern music, and Peter and Mike focused on playing polkas, waltzes, and other more traditional dance favourites. The group later rebranded as the Silver Creek Band, hired a few very talented female vocalists over the years (eventually sister Stacy sang with the group), and performed until the children completed high school and Dean and Alan moved away to pursue post secondary education.
Peter learned to overcome adversity and taught these important life lessons to his children. Shortly after turning 50, Peter suffered a detached retina in his right eye and corrective surgery failed. He was left blind in that eye, but continued to farm for the next 15 years, drove, and continued to do most everything he was able to do before. He suffered from heart disease, and withstood open heart surgery and a quintuple heart by-pass eleven years ago, and faithfully took his medication so that he could continue to be there for his wife and family. His knees started to give out, but he continued to move about with the aid of a cane or wheeled walkers. And more recently (in 2019) he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and received radiation treatment and took monthly hormone injections to persevere.
He was active in the community, by sitting on the Kamsack Power House Museum board, was an active board member and Secretary for the Verigin Co-op up until his passing, served on the board of the National Doukhobor Heritage Museum, and was a past President of the local chapter of the National Farmers Union. He continued to love and play music late in his life, providing free monthly entertainment to the residents of the Eaglestone Lodge and the Kamsack District Nursing Home, along with Al Makowsky, Alan Kondratoff, Bill Zbeetnoff, Danny Horkoff, and Brent Toporowski, until Covid-19 made such events impossible. Peter’s love of music is a special gift that has been lovingly passed down through his children to his grandchildren.
Family was extremely important to Peter. Growing up without siblings caused him to place special emphasis on his relationship with his cousins (decedents of his Uncle Bill), his mother’s family in Alberta, and his wife’s family. And as his own children grew up and married, he took great pride in them, and eventually his grandchildren. He and Lydia did not take many vacations, but travelled frequently to visit and spend quality time with family, supporting and cheering on their children and grandchildren.
Peter is pre-deceased by his father Alec, and mother Kateryna. He is survived by his loving and faithful wife of 58 years, Lydia Cherkas (nee Konkin). He is survived by his son Dean, his daughter-in-law Marianne (nee Zdrill), and his grandchildren Kayla (Bryce), Taylor (Danielle), and Chelsey. He is survived by his son Alan, his daughter-in-law Jacqueline (nee Diaz Sosa), and his grandchildren Jose (and great granddaughter Savannah), Diana, Jennifer, and Alexander. He his survived by his daughter Stacy, and son-in-law Sean Kuzma, and grandchildren Lauren and Drew. He will be dearly missed by his family, cousins, and his absence will be felt in the community by all who knew and loved him.
The family asks that you consider making a donation in Peter’s name to the Kamsack Power House Museum, the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, or the Canadian Cancer Society.
Regina Cancer Patient Lodge
4104 Dewdney Ave., Regina SK S4T1A3
Kamsack Power House Museum
Box 991, Kamsack SK SOA 1SO