by Bette Yetman
It is with deep regret and sadness to announce that Maria Siegl passed away on November 6, 1997 after a heroic battle with cancer.
Maria was born and spent her early years in Austria. It was always her dream to come to Canada and in 1952, with her husband and two young children, immigrated to Edmonton. An astute business woman, she operated a successful photographic studio in the city until the mid 60's when she was in a horrendous car crash. It was feared that the severe spinal injuries might leave her a paraplegic, but within six months and great determination, Maria was out of the wheelchair. In the meantime, because of the accident she had to sell her thriving business.
It was at that time Maria was introduced to ostomates, when she joined Hollister Limited as sales representative for Alberta and Saskatchewan. Before too many years, she was Sales Manager for all of Canada, holding the position until she retired in 1980.
In the meantime, Maria had become very interested in the work of the United Ostomy Association and the recently formed International Ostomy Association (IOA) . After hearing Archie Vinitsky of the IOA at the Boston Conference in 1983, speaking on the plight of ostomates around the world and the gathering of unused ostomy supplies being sent to ostomates in under developed countries, she initiated the S.H.A.R.E. (Sending Help and Rehabilitation Everywhere) Program in Canada that same year. At the time she was the IOA Representative in Canada. Maria travelled extensively to countries around the world, often at her own expense, establishing contacts for FOW shipments of equipment and literature. Through her efforts she also helped organize ostomy groups in many of these countries.
She served as the first President of Friends of IOA Canada, later changed to Friends of Ostomates Worldwide Canada from 1986 until 1992. Maria was editor of the IOA magazine for many years until early 1997.
At the 1985 IOA Congress in Anaheim, California, she was presented with IOA's highest honor, the Archie Vinitsky Award in recognition of her volunteer work. She received the 1986 Canadian Association for Enterostomal Therapy President's Award at the CAET Annual Conference for outstanding contributions and/or service within the realm of Enterostomal Therapy. In 1993, Maria received the prestigious Sam Dubin Award from the United Ostomy Association, Inc. at the San Diego Conference.
Not an ostomate, Maria's compassion, empathy and unrelenting fierce devotion to the cause of people experiencing ostomy surgery and concern for their rehabilitation throughout the world will be long remembered.