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Oct 21, 2019

5 min. read

Retirement, resilience and raucous seniors deliver the laughs.

“We don't have a choice about aging. We all get old. We can cry about it…or we can laugh about it,” says Jerry Maryniuk, author and illustrator of SnowBird Sketches: Emil Goes South for the Winter. The cartoons chronicle Emil and Gladys, retirees who head south for winter, but they also contain universal truths about living life to its fullest. Because, as Maryniuk notes: “Laughing makes life a lot easier.”

The CAA member knew he had the artist’s touch as a kid, when he’d skillfully sketch pheasants and grain fields. This eye for realism led to a career in forensic arts; and his ability to connect with people propelled him to the post of primary police sketch artist for the Winnipeg Police Service.

For more than 25 years, Maryniuk’s aptitude for detecting human characteristics helped solve numerous crimes. But the emotional weight of the job took its toll. So he and his wife, Sharon, used travel as an emotional release. It became an escape they’d turn to throughout the ups and downs of life: a celebration when Sharon beat cervical cancer; a reprieve when they lost their son, Steve, to brain cancer.

This loss prompted Maryniuk to pick up a sketchbook again. “You have to live your life with a sense of humour and never waste a day,” he says. That theme is evident in SnowBird Sketches. The couple splits their time each winter between Texas and Arizona, where they encounter personalities that inspire Maryniuk’s caricatures.

“Snowbird seniors are such great subjects,” he laughs. “They’re quirky and funny and they’re kind of starting over again. It’s like starting high school: Everyone begins with great hope and anticipation.”

Maryniuk’s follow-up, SnowBird Sketches: The Rusty Years, will be released later this winter.

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