The Murals of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: Murals
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Displaying Locations 479-483 of 626

         

635 Sargent Avenue    Location Map
  

Walter Zielke-Reusch was a well known kindhearted and much loved mentally challenged WestEnder. He loved to retrieve items from dumpsters, repair them, and then give them away to people in the neighbourhood. He could fix almost anything.


Location: NW corner Sargent & McGee; East Face

Occupant: Zoohky Memorial Hall (Winnserv Bingo Hall)

District: West End

Neighbourhood: Daniel McIntyre

Artist(s): Jill Sellers (Jill Sellers Design)

Year: 2004

Sponsors: West End BIZ, Neighbourhoods Alive! (Manitoba), Winnserv, Take Pride Winnipeg!

Painters: Additional Funding: In Memory of John Hjaltason

 

In 2003, West End BIZ and Winnserv partnered in a noble project that has resulted in a beautiful Mural and the renaming of the Winnserv bingo hall to the "Zoohky Memorial Hall." The Mural is one of a growing number in the West End BIZ series of Murals on "Local Heroes and Famous People", and is an acknowledgment of a true West End local hero: an eccentric individual who nevertheless contributed immensely to his community. Walter Zielke Ruesch (Zoohky) was born on April 2, 1928.

Trudy Turner (Executive Director, West End BIZ): "Anyone who grew up in Winnipeg's West End knew Zoohky. For most of his life, Zoohky spent his days cycling through the area: taking broken toys, stereos and bicycles out of local dumpsters; fixing them up and providing them to youngsters who needed them. He had great mechanical skills and would often assist people with their cars, furnaces and other projects- not asking for payment but simply the reward of being of service. He was also local a 'poet laureate' who took great delight in reciting his verse to local residents."

Erika Wiebe (Editor, West Central STREETS community newspaper): "Walter was the skinny, gnarly, grizzled guy with a beard, big blue eyes, toothy smile and a voice like no other. You had to really listen to understand him. His voice was half whispers and half singing, except for very occasionally, when out would come a sentence of complete clarity."

"If you were child growing up in the West End you would remember Walter doling out candy and making trades- maybe a pencil for some gum. He'd be riding his bike around, checking for good garbage, jumping off old mattresses as if each were a trampoline. If you were honest, you might admit that you were one of the kids that tormented him. Walter got more harassment than anybody deserves in a lifetime. But there was also a wide circle of kids who stood up for him and loved him. He was, after all, part kid, so they had a lot in common."

Trudy: "He never walked anywhere- he was always on his bike; 24-7, winter, summer. It had the big butterfly handlebars and the big steel basket. There were various things in the basket, but the one constant would be a copy of the West End Streets, which had published his Blue Danube poem and was his pride and joy! Anyone he met for the first time he would pull out his copy of West End Streets and show his poem to them. And that's why we had to show him in the Mural clutching his poem (Photo 2)."

Erika: "Walter loved poetry. He is the author of many poems, written neatly on scraps of paper, pulled out of his pants pockets, shown to anyone vaguely interested. And he was happy to recite them, delivering them in his usual sing-songy voice. There were common themes running through his poetry: nature, the seasons, the River Danube, the beach, mosquitoes, being at home with family and welcoming strangers."

Trudy: "The community loves the Zoohky Mural. It is probably the best community project we've ever done in the whole West End. The local people in the community were out at the wall, literally in tears. This was just a normal guy; he wasn't a big shot; he wasn't a doctor or lawyer or anything fancy. He was just an ordinary guy; and here we are as a community honouring him. It made them feel like we really appreciate our assets in the community. Canada Safeway for years and years donated pet food to Zoohky because he kept some fifteen odd cats in his house and he adopted any stray cat he found. Zoohky couldn't really afford to feed them because he had no visible means of support."

Erika: "Since Walter died, the stories about him just keep coming out, with everyone speculating about the details of his life, such as where he was born and who was in his family. Most of all, now that he is no longer here, we're realizing how Central he was to the life of the community."

Walter Zielke Ruesch passed away on February 25, 2002 of a heart attack at age 73. The Zoohky Mural and rededication of the Zoohky Memorial hall has touched the hearts of many in the West End. It is a perfect way for Winnserv to acknowledge this exceptional human being who added so much to the lives of so many (Winnserv is a local West End organization whose mission statement is" to offer a variety of residential services for men and women with a metal handicap through all stages of their life."). Local artist Jill Sellers was commissioned to re-create Zoohky on the McGee side of the hall. She required the use of a large hydraulic power lift to complete this towering piece of artwork. Zoohky now stands some 35 feet tall and is shown proudly holding his poem, "The Blue Danube".

The original 2003 Mural of Zoohky can be seen in photo 3.

Trudy: "Everybody loved the Mural, but the phone rang off the hook with 'well where's Zoohky's bike?' Zoohky's bike was like his trademark: you never saw one without the other. So the community was feeling bad that Zoohky didn't have his bike. After the article in the Free Press appeared we started hearing from people sending in cheques and saying let's help pay for Zoohky's bike. And so individuals and groups realized how much it meant to the community and offered to contribute the rest of the funds that were needed."