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Farmland Legacies
By Donald Sutherland

Multiple Legacies

Recently I was privileged to gain a glimpse into the incredible legacies a gifted husband and wife team are creating every day from the vantage point of their home studios. Virginia is a musician and church organist for neighbouring parishes — a teacher of piano and music theory, voice and personal discovery through music for 16 - 20 hours per week. Her students are children, teens and adults. The balance of her time is allocated to research, writing, history, parenting, nurturing and motivating. With a bachelor of arts in political science and an interest in advertising, Virginia frequently asks, “What makes something appealing and important to know? I like to get to the core of an idea, to distil, what is the real message? I do some editing for my husband, Robert. We often write the same text in English and in French, which helps us to get to the essence of an idea.”

When she is teaching, Virginia imagines her students further down the road, as individuals who have benefitted from her work, able to generate legacies at all stages of their lives that will ripple out for generations to come. Virginia is constantly fledging angels. “My hope is to make the world better by sharing the knowledge I have to bring beauty into the world. I take a purpose-driven approach to teaching, and parenting too, seeing the present as the active phase of life that enriches a person’s future with acquired skills and knowledge.”

Robert is a professional visual artist who studied in France. I met with him in his large studio, which is only a few steps away from their home. He and Virginia walk hand-in hand into long-term, complicated projects. He undertakes the sculpting and artwork with Virginia helping with the research and writing. I was able to absorb just a taste of their combined genius.

Three projects, at various stages of completion, stood out for me. First, I glanced through a stunning 64-page graphic novel of the life and place in the history of Louis Riel (Louis Riel, Patriot, soon to be launched in English, Plaines Book Publishers). Turning these pages is like pole-vaulting history into the present, complete with emotions, dress, furniture, places and narratives. Second, I witnessed the early stages of a remarkable proposed tourist attraction in the form of a geographical monument model to mark the centre of Canada ( Third, the restoration of four outdoor angel statues that have welcomed worshippers to Cook’s Creek Ukrainian Catholic Church for the past century.

“Restoring these 500-pound statues is a school where I learn the skills of the old masters. There is deep spirituality inherent in these works of art. I feel in communion with these great minds of artists of yesterday. I had never restored cement statues before — a lot of research and experimentation. I gained confidence as I worked.”

A talented family of four boys and three girls sprouted wings here. All are creating their own legacies (

Sutherland, MBA, is a personal coach and relationship builder in Winnipeg.