Mai Agnes Kreem
Sept 6, 1923 – July 20, 2022
Mai (Sõrra) Kreem passed away peacefully on July 20th at Ehatare Nursing Home, after a decline with dementia in her later years. She had a life full of energy and achievements, of which her motto was “move more, eat less”! Her life was abundant with family happiness, but in particular she dedicated many decades to sports, in particular teaching swimming to many within the Estonian-Canadian community, but also at several City of Toronto parks and recreation pools.
Mai was born in Tartu, Estonia the daughter of August and Lonni Sõrra, and she had one dear brother, Jaak, who was killed in Latvia in 1945. Mai also spent much time at her cherished Prosta family farm on the “Emajõgi”. Her father was an accomplished lawyer and officer, who sadly was unable to resume that career after he returned from deportation during the years of Soviet occupation in Estonia. Mai completed the Tartu “Tütarlaste Gümnaasium” in 1942, where beside studies, she was also active with sports like volleyball, gymnastics, singing, dance, and playing music in the school’s mandolin group. During 1943-1944 she studied physicial and health education at Tartu University and provided first aid to many soldiers. While attending a sports leadership course in Germany in 1944 she remained there rather than returning to occupied Estonia, and continued helping first aid to soldiers in Poland and Germany, even after the war’s end in the military hospital in Hoft and Amberg until 1947.
Mai met and and married Robert Kreem in 1947 at Amberg, Germany, and continued her physical health and education studies in Erlangen University until 1948. Their first child, Viiu, was born and later in 1948 they emigrated to Edmonton, Alberta. She worked in hospitals there, and also in Toronto’s Sick Children’s hospital during the 1950s, while also studying nursing. In the meantime her second child, Madis was born and also Piret in 1960.
The passion for swimming found a place for Mai at Jõekääru (Bending River) summer camp where she and her staff taught thousands of campers to swim, proficiently enough to also receive Red Cross badges, many to also later become Instructors and successful competitive swimmers. She was also the camp nurse for some years and in later years actively did fundraising to build a swimming pool at the camp, needed since the river was no longer acceptable for swimming. Volleyball was another passion for her, playing for the Kalev women’s team who won Canadian championships in 1957 and 1958. Mai was for many years a member of the Kalev sports club, and was the North American Baltic organization’s vice president and swim organizer for many meets. She also followed sports times worldwide and kept records for many Olympic events, knowing from memory many record times and their holders. She actively participated for many years at the women’s academic organization korp! Amicitia.
Mai was recognized in the Estonian Canadian and North American community for many of her achievements with several awards between 1970 and 1995. She is survived by her son Madis (Marlene) and daughter Piret (Bill), and predeceased by her husband Robert and daughter Viiu. She is also survived by her grandchildren Marika, Lukas, Katrina, Erik, Daniel, Bryan, great-grandchildren Harlyn and Zaylee, and cousins John and Jaan.
In lieu of flowers donations in Mai Kreem’s memory can be made to Jõekääru Children’s Camp (joekaaru.com) or Ehatare Retirement Home (ehatare.com).
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