If ever there was a sign of just how profoundly Andrée Janyk impacted the people in her life, it could be found on Sunday, July 16 in a spacious ballroom in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.
It was a standing-room-only crowd as hundreds came to pay tribute to one of Whistler’s most beloved public figures and tireless advocates. The city councillor, volunteer, sports coach, fitness guru and matriarch of Canada’s “first family of skiing” died June 16. She was 68.
More than a half-dozen friends and loved ones stepped up to the lectern to share their memories of Janyk. Chris and Stephen Vajda reflected on a happy childhood with their older sister, painting a loving portrait of a woman who seemed imbued with an inexhaustible energy and a fierce commitment to family from a young age.
“One of the first stories I remember of Andrée was from my parents,” Chris recalled. “I had colic and was crying all night, and my parents would tell the story that after putting me to bed at 2 a.m., Andrée would wake up at 4 a.m. and be standing at the edge of the bed, shaking my crib to get going. That energy she had started at a very early age and was always with her.”
Janyk’s youngest daughter Stephanie poignantly remembered her mother as a staunch feminist, someone who “never apologized” for pursuing her many passions.
“She showed me that you could be flawed and you could be someone who wasn’t quite in line with what everyone wanted from you or what society wants from you. I just think that there was no one like her. I’ll miss her everyday and I can’t believe I have to say goodbye.”
Lifelong friend Colleen Filler spoke to the deep sense of servitude Janyk had for her community, emboldened to give back even up until her final days.
“Andrée didn’t just show up, she gave us so much more than that,” she said. “Through her inspiration, we will be reminded to offer a little more, to dig a little deeper, to make our communities and this world a better place.”
Councillors Jack Crompton and John Grills added a bit of levity to the proceedings, recalling the first time the group went skiing together after being elected in 2011. Crompton, keen to impress his fellow council members, vowed to make it down the hill as fast as he could, but soon found out just how hard it would be to keep up with the former national-level skier.
“I should have read Andrée’s bio because I learned a lesson that she … (had) a much deeper desire to ski fast than I do,” Crompton said. “I followed her into some trees, and it didn’t end well.”
Olympic skier Michael Janyk took a page from his mother’s book, highlighting the positives that came out of her two-year-long battle with cancer.
“I know what cancer can take, and if we can put that aside briefly, I’d like to share what it gave me. It gave me an opportunity to see a deeper side of life, an opportunity to see how powerful love can be,” he said.
“Cancer really opened me up to see how much beauty there is in this world. That when we’re at our best, the outcome is secondary and the moments we spend together are primary.”
Janyk’s friend and yoga instructor for the past five years, Loka Yoga’s Tina James, came to the stage last to reflect on “the most dedicated student I’ve ever had.
“She was one of these unstoppable forces,” James said. “I called her a supernova, and she was. One of those (people) where her light just radiated the entire room.”
James also revealed Janyk’s desire to establish an “eco-village” dedicated to First Nations teachings, yoga, meditation and cancer treatment, a promise James said she intends to keep.
Finally, James brought family and fellow yoga students onstage to join in a series of Vedic prayers that Janyk had mastered in a fraction of the time most yogis do. With a crowded room chanting in unison, it was a powerful reminder of Janyk’s unifying powers.
“She is singing with us. I can feel it,” James said.
For more on this story, pick up this Thursday’s issue of Pique.