By Sue Tiffin
The community is mourning the loss of two caring Minden residents who died in a three-car collision last week.
On April 6, Victor Disik, 79, and Sonya Holliday-Rhodes, 77, were transported from the collision that occurred just before 5 p.m. on County Road 121, south of Gelert Road to a local area hospital where both were pronounced deceased. The driver of the other vehicle was transported to a trauma centre with serious injuries. The driver and passenger in a third car did not report any injuries to first responders.
Friends and family of the couple responded with great sorrow, when they learned that Victor and Sonya had died. The pair had been together for 25 years.
Victor was a realtor when he sold Sheila and Rick Mason the home they’ve lived in for more than 40 years.
“He knew what he was doing when he sold it to us,” she said.
Mason remembers Vic being a gentle person, going out of his way to entertain her kids.
“My kids were just young then,” she said. “We were sitting in the real estate office and they were getting bored, so he told them the story of Green Eggs and Ham. They thought it was just great.”
Rick and Sheila became friends with Vic and Sonya, meeting them for trivia nights at the Dominion, or spending time with them both at Sonya’s brother’s bookstore downtown. If they asked Rick to fix something at their home, like their fireplace, they’d all end up sitting together for hours talking.
“They were really good people,” said Mason. “If they had it, they would give you the shirt off their back.”
Vic was later a longtime bus driver, and then worked for years as an attendant at Ingoldsby, Iron Mine and Maple Lake landfills.
“He was a great man,” said Michelle Watson, who co-owns Watson General Contracting with her husband and was close friends with the couple. “The public loved him at each and every one of those sites.”
She laughed about the bickering Vic and Sonya would engage in, noting what many friends did: they were deeply in love and also loved to argue over trivial things.
John Hicks, Vic’s friend of more than 40 years, said he was, “very much a sportsman. He loved to go fishing, and just being on the water.”
“That was our thing,” said Hicks. “If we could get out, we would. If not, we’d just sit and talk on the phone about the last time we went.”
Hicks said Vic was a “very reserved man, a very patient gentleman, with a very kindly heart. Certainly, he was there – if there was any way he could help you, he’d be there with bells on, and just a good all-around friend, really.”
He said they chatted together frequently, every other day on the phone.
“They were the kind of people who were always around, you’d see Vic or you’d see Sonya, over the years with Paul’s store, she spent many a day in town at Paul’s store, they become part of the public face,” he said. “And you do expect to see them there.”
Beverly Budz cared for Sonya when she was ill with cancer.
“The doctors said she only had six months to live,” said Budz. “That was 10 years ago.”
While Sonya recovered, Budz would visit her on a regular basis after that, noting “she was a lot of fun.”
“She liked to laugh and joke around,” said Budz. “She was really into the music scene so she met a lot of famous musicians. Rod Stewart asked her out. She had a lot of crazy adventures.”
Budz said the couple were generous, loved to socialize and have friends over, and no matter where they were, would come if called.
Julie Gray met Sonya through the medical centre Sonya helped run alongside her former husband, Dr. Anthony Holliday-Rhodes, and then had a close relationship with her after Sonya supported her as a PSW for several months after Gray’s car accident more than 20 years ago.
“I got to know her and I just thought, this woman is very unique, she’s very loving and caring,” said Gray. “It’s not just that she did a good job of caring, but she did a good job of loving.”
Sonya was caregiver to her parents, caring for each of them full-time as well as a devoted older sister to her younger brother, and lived through the grief of their loss, as well as the tragic loss of her son, Christopher, and grandson, Dan.
“She was always looking after all of her friends, always worried about other people and caring for them and doing things for them, even though she herself needed care,” said Gray.
Sonya cared for nature, and was quite intelligent, having a knack for research and an interest in the human body.
“She was the most genuine person I know,” said Gray. “She had an ability to connect on that level, where you knew she was going to respect everything you said, and she was respectful of everybody. She was always contributing, whether it was to her family, causes, to other people, her friends.”
Vic, she said, was “very, very gentle.”
“He adored Sonya,” said Gray. “He did everything as she asked, and she depended on him. She couldn’t have lived without him.”
Gray laughs remembering that Sonya would call Vic to have him run an errand for her if she thought it might help Gray in her recovery.
“He would do anything to help,” she said. “He was caring as well. He wouldn’t even think twice because he knew she needed it, and I needed it, so he went and got it. He knew she was doing good things, he loved that and respected that, and he would accommodate that in any way he could.”
Don Kerr of Minden Cat Angels, said Sonya and Vic were feeding Minden’s stray cats before Minden Cat Angels was even formed.
“Likely before 2011 Sonya and Vic were going downtown on cold winter nights to feed stray cats,” wrote Kerr. “After MCA was formed and we had our shelter, Vic helped me to trap many of our cats, and a number of our original meetings were hosted by Sonya and Vic.”
Monika Melichar at Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary, said she first met Sonya when she needed help with an ill fox in her yard.
“Instantly, I knew she was a kindred spirit,” said Melichar. “Sonya was well-spoken and rather witty, but it was her love and compassion for all animals that cemented our friendship. She cared deeply for their well-being and would go the distance to alleviate any suffering and make them well again.”
Beyond animals, Sonya was an environmental activist as well, organizing the Park Royal Anti-Pollution Committee in the ‘70s to put pressure on the province’s environment ministry to halt burnings of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). In part as a result of her efforts, Tricil Ltd., a waste disposal plant, closed its incinerator. Her work led to a meeting with Pierre Trudeau.
“She made you believe in great things, whatever they were,” said her daughter, Julia Moore, who said her mom led her life with her heart, and called Vic one of the “kindest men on the planet.”
“My family loves Vic very much, we’re so grateful he came into her life,” said Moore. “Vic made her laugh, and they enjoyed the same things, cooking, they did enjoy a drink together, and I think he was just a breath of fresh air that she needed,” she said.
She remembers camping in their backyard in Minden with her granddaughters and seeing Sonya and Vic share their love as great-grandparents.
“They’re making mudpies, in my mom’s garden that she treasures. And what does she do? She goes in and gets a baking pan, and Vic is out making the mud pies and getting the hose rigged up. They were those kind of grandparents.”
Nick Holliday-Rhodes remembers his mom as being an influencer in her environmental efforts, and also within the household, supporting her kids to pursue their natural passions for the arts to further their education or employment opportunities. He remembers her work as an educational assistant, and that she brought video games to students who had challenges with hand-eye co-ordination, not a common practice at the time, though now a concept used regularly.
“I’m just trying to hold on to all of the great things I learned about relationships, fighting for what you believe in, picking your battles,” said Moore. “Now we’re missing her here, but we have all these gifts left behind.”
A joint service for Vic and Sonya will be held next week and all are welcome.
“She would want everyone to be at peace, and know that they’re OK,” said Watson.
A service will be held at Gordon A. Monk funeral home on April 23, with visitation at 11 a.m. and a service at noon followed by internment at Minden cemetery.