NB Naturalist Feature: The Woman behind the Mary Majka Scholarships
By Jim Wilson
APRIL 29, 2022 — Mary Majka was one of very few famous people that I ever met and the only one I can say was a personal friend. Aside from being a remarkable naturalist, teacher, and visionary she was also a warm humanitarian who knew first-hand what it was like to be displaced by war, much the same as the people of Ukraine are experiencing now.
Mary’s life story is superbly chronicled in the book Sanctuary, written by author Deborah Carr, and published by Goose Lane Editions of Fredericton in 2010. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. The book is still available for purchase online through Amazon.
Two paragraphs on the book’s cover summarize Mary, although her life was far richer and more complex than just a few words can convey:
“Mary Majka … one of Canada’s great pioneering environmentalists. She is best known as a television host, a conservationist, and driving force behind the internationally acclaimed Mary’s Point Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve on the Bay of Fundy.
Sanctuary gives full expression to the intensely personal story of Mary’s life. A daughter of privilege, a survivor of World War II Poland, an architect of dreams, Mary Majka became a passionate environmentalist intent on protecting fragile spaces and species for generations to come. In this amazing story of determination and foresight, Deborah Carr reveals a complex, thoroughly human being – flawed yet feisty, inspired and inspiring.”
I was introduced to Mary and her family – pathologist husband Mike, and sons Chris and Mark – by David Christie after the Majkas came to New Brunswick from Ontario and settled on Caledonia Mountain, south of Moncton, in the early 1960s. Because of a shared interest in the natural world David eventually evolved to become a third “son” of the Majka family and, later, the primary support system behind Mary’s many successful conservation projects over the years.
Mary passed away in early 2014 at the age of 90, having lived a full life filled with friends, family, caring for orphaned and injured people and animals, creating awareness of the richness and importance of nature, protecting natural and historic sites and always – always! – taking the opportunity to point out what a special place New Brunswick is.
Inspired by her influence and to honour Mary’s legacy, Nature NB created the Mary Majka Scholarships in 2014, available through the Mary Majka Scholarship Fund. The Fund’s purpose is to further youth engagement with nature and our natural heritage, one of Mary’s primary interests.
Three scholarship categories are offered:
Category 1 is open to high school graduates about to start post-secondary studies in the field of natural sciences with an interest in nature and the environment. This would be conveyed as a study scholarship.
Category 2 is available to post-secondary students already enrolled in the field of natural sciences with an interest in nature and the environment. This would also be conveyed as a study scholarship.
Category 3 could be awarded to students in middle or high school wanting to further their knowledge in the natural sciences and would be given as a contribution to cover specific expenses such as a special project, study course, or participation in a workshop.
Knowing Mary and her family has been a special privilege for Jean and me and we feel very lucky to have been in the right place at the right time. She was a very special person, and the world and New Brunswick are much richer because of her influence.