‘You felt like you were their therapist’: Bank mainstay caps off long career

Mary Dwernichuk rose from her table, the once-towering stack of cheques in front of her diminished.

It had been a visually intensive day of ensuring each of those written bank orders carried the proper date and dollar amount, and was otherwise aboveboard.

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Now Dwernichuk was questioning herself – not over whether she made an error on her first day of work at Flin Flon’s Royal Bank branch, but whether this was her true calling.

“I thought, did I really make the right career choice?” she recalls.

Forty-one years later, the answer to that question was apparent as Dwernichuk marked her bittersweet retirement from the bank last week.

Her career – surely one of the lengthiest ever in the local banking sector – began in 1975, when most married women, especially in Flin Flon, stayed home to raise children and tend to the household.

Dwernichuk had been in Flin Flon for seven years at that point, having relocated from her native Humboldt SK with her future husband. She had three children between the ages of 1 and 6, and as much as she loved them, she couldn’t picture herself being at home all day.

“Most women at that time didn’t work. They would kind of go from house to house and have coffee and stuff like that, and that wasn’t my thing,” she says.

Dwernichuk was hired by the Royal Bank on a Wednesday and told she would start as a cheque-verifying DDA clerk the following Monday.

It was a fast-paced job given that the Royal was the official bank of Flin Flon’s main employer, HBM&S, now Hudbay.

“All the cheques off their payroll would come to us,” Dwernichuk says.

By the mid-1980s, Dwernichuk graduated to lending and investments, where she helped a generation of Flin Flon area residents realize their financial (and life) goals.

A trim, affable woman with dark-rimmed glasses, she built a strong rapport with many clients and was often humbled by how much trust they placed in her.

“Sometimes you felt like you were their therapist,” Dwernichuk says. “They would tell you their most inner issues and lots…would be financial issues. So you had to put them at ease because you know what, they aren’t alone.”

Her ambitious nature came through in her role. When credit cards began rising to prominence in Flin Flon, she ordered a slew of Visa applications and placed them at local businesses.

Soon Dwernichuk was putting through an average of 20 credit cards a week, prompting a call from a Visa higher-up who had her fly to BC for a wine-and-dine thank-you of sorts.

“I was overwhelmed that someone of such magnitude would recognize a small contribution that I would make,” she says.

Dwernichuk happily remained in lending and investments until her retirement.

With her career now in the rear-view mirror, she plans to travel and spend more time with her family, including retired husband Larry and their three grandchildren.

Like many long-time Flin Flonners, the Dwernichuks came to the community planning to stay for just a couple of years. Likewise, Mary expected to work at what is now called RBC Royal Bank for only two years.

Then she had a change of heart.

“You became involved with the bank. It was one big happy family,” Dwernichuk says. “With 30-some employees we had numerous social gatherings and you felt part of this gigantic family, and they embraced you so well, and I just couldn’t leave.”

All these years later she has now left, but will she return from time to time to check up on the place? You can bank on it.

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