"The Universal House of Justice was deeply saddened to learn from your
email message transmitted on 8 January 1996 of the passing of your
dear wife, Knight of Bahá'u'lláh Mary Zabolotny McCulloch. You are
assured of its ardent prayers at the Sacred Threshold for the progress
of her soul in the Abha Kingdom. It will also pray on your behalf
and that of Laura, that you both may be strengthened and comforted
at this difficult time."
The above message was received from the Supreme Body of the Bahá'í
Faith, on receiving news of the passing of Knight of Bahá'u'lláh Mary
McCulloch. Here is her story.
In our joint memoirs, she wrote: "Back in 1918, in the early hours of
a frosty November morning, on November the ninth, a baby girl was born
in Winnipeg. Her parents, Michael and Theodora [Olinyk] Zabolotny,
were of Ukrainian lineage, from those parts of Ukraine that had been
annexed by Austria-Hungary and Russia, respectively. That little girl
was later to be known as Mary Zabolotny, and her parents had come to
this new land, Canada, by ship across the Atlantic Ocean, to make a
new home for themselves in the cold and apparently inhospitable city
of Winnipeg. They met and were married there; my father being at the
time twenty-two and my mother not quite eighteen. Their wedding day
was a cold January 19th, 1915. My brother was born on November 11,
1916, and was given the name Vladimir; later he was called Walter,
because it was shorter and easier for the teachers at school to
pronounce (and spell). The last name usually had to be spelled out
also, as it was meaningless to the teachers, although in Ukrainian it
was a common name meaning `over or beyond the marshes'.
"Except for the occasional children's squabble, we were a happy
family, and if my father and mother had their arguments, I was always
the peace-maker, and had developed a talent for settling their
disputes. At a very early age I had also developed a talent for
drawing. At the age of seven I joined the library, and gained a love
of books. My parents taught us the love of art, music and poetry, and
emphasized many a time the importance of getting a good education, of
which they had been deprived themselves. They had left their homes so
early in their lives and had to struggle to earn a living in a new and
strange land, where they had had to learn English to subsist.
Therefore, my father taught himself to read and speak English, with
help from those he worked with, and from his children. He worked in
lumber camps and for the Canadian National Railways. He sold Ukrainian
books in his spare time, which resulted in our acquiring a collection
of Ukrainian novels, history and poetry, which my mother loved to read
to us. Some of these we still have. I remember the concerts every
Sunday evening, when we were expected to get up on the stage and
recite poems and sing in the choir or take part in little plays or
dramas, in the Ukrainian language, also the dancing, which seemed to
satisfy an artistic urge to express myself in that form. When we
attended public school, at Michael Faraday school, we were not
allowed to forget our own language, and had to attend classes in
Ukrainian after four o'clock; this was at times wearisome, but it
helped retain our identity. The children on our street were of
various backgrounds, English, Scottish, Welsh, German, Jewish and
Polish. In fact, Mother had a Jewish friend who assisted her as midwife
when I was born, as doctors were scarce, and there was no Medicare at
Mary's education was completed in Winnipeg. After elementary and high
school, she entered Wesley College (now the University of Winnipeg)
at age 15. For her second year she transferred to the University of
Manitoba. Finally, she went to the Winnipeg Art School. "At that time,
LeMoine Fitzgerald was the Principal of the School, and a most
understanding and wise teacher, whose students adored him. He had
been a member of the `Group of Seven' artists, who had become famous
for finding new ways of expressing Canadian art."
After she graduated, she worked in commercial art for a while. "At
that time I was also going back to Art School, for some refresher
courses in drawing and painting from life. There I met a fellow
artist, Frances Boyce, who was at the time also working as a
Mary and Frances travelled in Yukon and Alaska for several years,
paying their way by working at whatever jobs were available, or by
selling some of their paintings. Their adventures and experiences are
far too numerous to detail here. "I then went home to Winnipeg. After
these painting trips were finished, and I was back home in Winnipeg,
I began to search for a way of life that would approach what my spirit
craved, although at the time I did not know what that was.
"I do not recall exactly when my dream happened. Many years ago I had
dreamt about the feast spread in our home, and the King and Queen and
many guests visiting us. I remember well the table bountifully spread
with good food, and the bejewelled wraps of the guests. The Queen
beckoned to me, and asked me to fetch her wrap from the closet. In the
closet were many garments, studded with jewels. Some of the furs were
colored, in purple, etc. There was a crimson evening gown hanging
upside-down. I wondered at this, and thought, `Is this mine?' Many
years later, after becoming a Bahá'í I had read the Tablet of Ahmad
(which opens with the words "He is the King, the All-Knowing, the
Wise! Lo, the Nightingale of Paradise ...") one evening, and some of
the truth of the dream dawned upon me. `He is the King' - meant God -
and a new Revelation - the Nightingale was Bahá'u'lláh."
"Then, in 1951, a friend from my Art School days, Leonard Woods, sent
me a pamphlet on the Bahá'í Faith, saying he thought I would be
interested. That was all he said, but after reading the Principles,
and a little of the history of the Faith, it seemed to me that I had
at last found the Truth, and was ready to support these Principles,
but I needed to know more about them. Leonard had said that a friend
would contact me, as he was in Vancouver himself. I waited three
months and no one contacted me. Then Leonard came from Vancouver to
Winnipeg on a holiday. He asked me if I would like to attend a
fireside at the home of Angus Cowan, a Winnipeg Bahá'í businessman;
he was working for IBM at the time. That was to be a Friday night I
would never forget, as this was my first contact with Bahá'ís. Young
people met there every Friday to discuss various aspects of the Faith.
Angus and Bobby Cowan were very kind and hospitable, sharing much fun
and laughter, and with radiant hearts making everyone feel that they
were wanted and respected. Many speakers came to that house to talk
about some aspect of the Faith, including Glen Eyford and Jamie Bond,
both of whom later served on the National Spiritual Assembly of the
Bahá'ís of Canada."
Here is the letter received from the National Spiritual Assembly,
which summarizes very well the services Mary offered the Faith:
"To the family and friends of Mrs. Mary McCulloch
"We were most deeply grieved to learn of the passing of Mrs. Mary
McCulloch, and extend heartfelt condolences to her husband Ken, their
daughter Laura and her family, and Mary's many friends. Although we
mourn the loss of Mary's physical presence, we are comforted in the
knowledge that she has been freed from the limitations of this earthly
existence, to soar in other worlds of God.
"Mary's ardent love for the Faith and commitment to its principles was
evidenced by the generosity of her response to its needs. For over
four decades, Mary served with exemplary dedication. When she arose
to settle in Anticosti Island in 1956, she joined that small band of
Bahá'ís around the world who had achieved the honour of being named
`Knight of Bahá'u'lláh' by the beloved Guardian. This was the crowning
laurel in a life that was characterized by a spirit of loving service.
"In addition to earning the title "Knight of Bahá'u'lláh," future
Bahá'í historians will record, with joy and gratitude, her many
contributions to the growth and development of the Faith in Canada.
Within months of her enrollment as a Bahá'í, she helped form the first
Spiritual Assembly in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. This was followed
shortly by her assisting with the formation of Spiritual Assemblies
in several localities in the province of Quebec, and then by her
service in Anticosti. For over twenty years, she served in Baker Lake
with her husband Ken and their dearly-loved daughter Laura, where the
McCullochs established Bahá'í House, promoted translation of Bahá'í
materials into Inuktitut, and, above all, conveyed the spirit and
principles of the Faith to their neighbours with tireless devotion.
For the past several years, Mary and Ken have been stalwart promoters
of the teachings of the Faith in The Pas, and in recent years, Mary
was able to assist with translation of Bahá'í materials into Ukrainian.
"Mary's signal contributions to the work of the Cause were made with
quiet courage, steadfast dedication, and profound resolution. Although
we cannot be with you physically, we join you in spirit in offering
heartfelt prayers for the progress of this maidservant's valiant soul,
and for the comfort of her sorrowing family and many friends.
"With abiding love,
"Susan M. Lyons, Assistant Secretary."
Mary was not well when we attended the Observances of the Centenary of
the Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, in Israel in May 1992, and at the Bahá'í
World Congress in November 1992. Early in 1993 she had surgery for
cancer. She was quite well when we went on Pilgrimage to the World
Centre in Israel in November 1993. In April 1995 we went back to Baker
Lake for a one-week visit. In August 1995 she had an accident, and was
in hospital 19 days. She got weaker after that, and it appeared that
the cancer had come back. Finally, on January 7, she passed away. A
couple of weeks before her passing, she told one of the Home Care
people that she had fulfilled her life's objectives.
Her family wishes to publicly express its appreciation to the Bahá'í
community of The Pas, and to the Home Care staff, for all the help
they provided at this time.
Mary was predeceased by her parents, her brother Walter, and her
grandson Shawn. She is survived by her husband, Ken, her daughter
Laura, son-in-law Robin Nablo, and grandchildren Curtis and Sumerlyn.
I will conclude with these words, written by the Custodians of the
Faith in 1958.
Words of the Custodians, read at the Bahá'í World Congress, London,
England, 1963 (at which we were present):
"The work of Bahá'u'lláh lies before us to be completed. No one
generation will do this; a thousand years at least are required to
carry out and mature the specific provisions of His Dispensation. But
to each man his opportunity, to each generation its tasks. ... Great
moments in history require great deeds; great men are not necessarily
those best qualified to be great, but rather those who see their
chance and seize it, with love and courage, when it offers itself. The
records of our Faith show that its heroes and heroines, its saints and
martyrs, sprang mostly from the rank and file, but what they
possessed, which raised them to the summits of fame and glory, were
vision and faith." - Ministry of the Custodians, pp. 104, 106.