Advocate columnist Treena Mielke, who wrote heartfelt weekly vignettes of family life, tinged with humour and life lessons, died on New Year’s Day of cancer. She was 73.
Having confessed to not feeling “up to snuff” for the last few weeks, Mielke wrote in her second last column on Dec. 6 about family members donning “elf suits” to decorate her home.
“As for me, I sat in the big chair in the living room and soaked in all the love and laughter that was going on around me and felt most humbled, indeed. And, really, not even that sick.”
These words were pure Treena.
As her readers can attest, Mielke generally looked for the bright spots in life, even when she was dealt a short hand. “She has the uncanny ability to find the light in even the darkest situations,” said her daughter Jill Turnbull.
The columnist, a non-smoker, had been diagnosed with lung cancer only 40 days before her death.
Born in Eckville as the second youngest of seven children, Mielke was raised in Condor. In 1969, she married Peter Mielke and became a mother of three children, and eventually a grandmother to six kids. “She really, really loved her grandkids,” said Turnbull — and this devotion shone through in her columns.
The life-long central Albertan started her newspaper career as a typesetter after a brief work stint as a Michener Centre aide, following her high school graduation,
But writing was Mielke’s real passion.
After submitting a column she wrote to her boss at the Rimbey Review, she was hired as a reporter in 1986.
Over her 36-year career in media, Mielke covered community news for the former Red Deer Express, Lacombe Globe, Eckville Echo, and Sylvan Lake News before returning again to Rimbey.
Turnbull recalled her mom most enjoyed meeting people and hearing about their lives. “She liked writing human interest stories,” and was particularly keen about crafting her columns, which gave her a chance to voice personal thoughts and feelings.
Turnbull knows Mielke inspired countless Central Albertans, who connected to her positive and funny messages about working, raising children, enjoying grandchildren and generally living every moment to the fullest.
She also won many awards over the years from the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association. Her 2019 Gordon Scott Memorial Award for Best Feature Column showed Mielke did not shy away from difficult topics: That column was about a little boy she once knew, who died of a drug overdose at age 23.
Mark Weber, one of Mielke’s co-workers at the former Red Deer Express, recalled her kindness, humility, generosity and enthusiasm for chatting about her family in a tribute he wrote this week for several central Alberta papers.
Turnbull said, “She always tried to make us feel everything would be positive and she was always focusing on gratitude.”
A funeral service for Treena Mielke will be held at 2 p.m. on Jan. 8 at St. Leonard’s Church in Red Deer.