Vurla Jean Birnie-Lefcovitch

December 30, 1947 to October 16, 2018


It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Vurla Jean Birnie-Lefcovitch, on October 16, 2018. Vurla was born in 1947 in New Liskeard, Ontario, to Hope and Pat Birnie who predeceased her. She was one of eight children, Arnold (Janet), Gordon (Carolyn), John (Brenda) and Peter (Lynne), two brothers who also predeceased her, Kathryn (John), Doug (Cheryl who predeceased her) and Robert (Helena). Vurla married her partner in life, Shelly, close to 45 years ago and they had two children, Anna (Zaid) and Simon (Jennifer). Vurla was blessed with four grandchildren (Laila, Madeleine, Lily and Emil) whom she adored. Vurla also was loved by the Lefcovitch side of the family, especially her in-laws, Leah and Louis Lefcovitch and her sister-in-law Alanna (Farley).  Also mourning her loss are many nieces, nephews, and cousins on both sides of the family. Vurla’s passion for life and love of people meant she developed many close, intimate and lasting friendships wherever she lived and worked: St. John’s, Chance Cove, Guelph, Burlington, and Northern Ontario.

Vurla was a professional social worker who earned a BA from Queen’s University and an MSW from Wilfrid Laurier University. Before she retired in 2016, she was the clinical lead for social work at the Miller Centre. At various times in her career, she contributed to other fields of practice including, community-based health care, school social work and child protection. Vurla had a unique capacity to connect with people. She was highly respected by her professional colleagues in multiple disciplines and was seen as a mentor, guide and friend.

We would like to thank the many care providers who assisted Vurla in her journey with cancer in St. John’s and Halifax. In particular, we are grateful to Dr. Ean Parsons (family physician and colleague), Dr. Dawn Armstrong (medical oncologist), Dr. Alex Mathieson (surgeon) and Dr. Carman Giacomantonio (surgeon) and their capable staff. We give thanks to Corinne Humby (patient navigator), Lana Mah (ostomy nurse), the Family Practice Unit, the Cancer Centre, 4 North A – all at the Health Sciences Centre – as well as Community Health nurses who worked on Vurla’s behalf. Vurla’s colleagues at the Miller Centre in Nutrition, Speech Therapy and Physiotherapy also made important post-surgical contributions to her well-being. The staff of the Palliative Care Team and, again, Community Health, provided the care and support that enabled Vurla to die in the comfort and peace of her home, enjoying the people she loved and who loved her. We are especially grateful for the care, compassion and expertise shown by Carmel Collins, our palliative care consultant and Vurla’s colleague and friend, and by Kim Collins and Kelly Ralph, community health nurses. Finally, we also want to recognize Vurla’s sister, Kathryn, for the love, companionship and support she provided over Vurla’s lifetime and particularly through the weeks before her death.

Events celebrating Vurla’s life will be held in St. John’s and Guelph, Ontario. Details about the celebration in Guelph are to be determined. In St. John’s, a gathering will be held on Monday, October 22 from 4-6pm at the Rocket Room on the third floor of Rocket Bakery (272 Water Street; also accessible from Duckworth St.).  Donations to the Stella Bury Foundation, an organization that embodies Vurla’s values and works with some of the most vulnerable and marginalized people in our community, are appreciated in lieu of flowers.




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Dear Shelly and Anna,
My sincere condolences to you and your family. It has been a long time since we shared dinners together. Vurla was such a bright spirit!
Hugs Prem

Shelly, I have just heard about Vurla and her illness in the past couple of years and now her passing. So very sad. Please know that I am holding you and your family close in my heart and wishing you whatever it takes to soothe your spirits and comfort your souls.
Sending hugs and I will see you on Nov 17th.

Dear Shelly and family,
Although I never had the pleasure of meeting Vurla, the obituary contents, condolences and my colleagues remembrances speak to her warmth, compassion and commitments to social justice. I am so sorry for your loss. .

I only met Vurla a few times, but she was always a delight! I am very sorry for your loss.

Dear Shelly,

I’m deeply sorry for your loss. My heart is with you and your family during this time.

I am so sorry to hear the sad news of Vurla’s passing. She was an incredible woman and my first contact when I began working with Eastern Health.. she made me feel so welcome and guided me for many years . We shared many good times at work and outside… my heart is very sad today… sending you and your family warm hugs

Dearest Shelly,
We are so sorry to hear about Vurla. Vurla was a bright light and will be greatly missed. Vurla always made us and our children feel so welcomed, with her warm smile, her generous spirit and her wonderful sense of humour.
You and your family are in our thoughts and our prayers.

So sorry for your loss. Our thoughts & prayers are with you.

Shelly, I was very sorry to learn of your wife’s recent passing. I want to express my deepest condolences to you and your family for your loss. Take care, my thoughts are with you.

Best regards. Gerard.

Dear Shelly and family,
We are so saddened to hear this news. Please accept our sincere sympathy. We had many good chats with Vurla and yourself in Chance Cove. She was a pleasure to have known. Please take care.
Derek & Brenda

I am so sorry to learn of your loss. I did not have the pleasure of meeting your wife and I believe this is my loss. May your find strength in each other and in your cherished memories.

Dear Shelly and family,
I am sending our sincere condolences. I was saddened to hear of this news. I am thinking about you and your family. I had the pleasure of knowing Vurla both through collaborations in client care and of course through you and our many chats at community events. I always enjoyed speaking with Vurla. Take care of yourselves. Rob & Costa

Please accept my sincere condolences, your family will be in our prayers and God my bless her soul and give you the strength to go on.

Please know I am thinking about you at this sad time. I’ve not had the pleasure to meet Vurla but I do know she had to be a most special person as I remember you speaking so fondly of her. Please share my sincerest condolences with your family.

Sincere condolences to the family on Vurla’s passing.

Shelly … thinking of you and your family during these difficult days. My sincere condolences.

Shelly and family,

I was very saddened to hear of Vurla’s passing. Our paths crossed during her work at Eastern Health, and I considered her a mentor. She taught me so much, and was a true advocate for her clients. I am so thankful for the opportunity to work with and learn from Vurla.

I know you have many beautiful memories as a family. My thoughts are with you at this time.

Sarah Burt

So sorry to hear of Vurla’s passing. Please accept my deepest sympathy to you and your family.

Dears Shelly, Simon, Anna and Family,
We are so saddened by Vurla passing, we loved and respected her from the first time we met her, she was good and decent friend, a great mother, we all can see her positive reflection on Simon & Anna; how they were raised to be as good as she was. Vurla’s grandchildren will always remember her kindness and love.
Please accept our sincere condolences for your great loss, we pray for you to have strength and patience to go through this difficult time, we are sure that with your family & friends around you and supporting you it will help a lot, we will miss Vurla dearly.
Hana & Bassim

Hello Shelly,
Thinking of you, your family and Vurla. She was such a lovely women. Vurla will live on in your hearts forever.
Godspeed Vurla,
Brenda A. Lacey

Hello Shelly,
Thinking of you, your family and Vurla. She was such a ovely women. Vurla will live on in your hearts forever.
Godspeed Vurla,
Brenda A. Lacey

Dear Shelly, Anna, Simon and Family,

I am so very sad and sorry to hear this news. A wonderful lady who I know will be terribly missed by all of you and the extended families. She was always so thoughtful and kind to me whenever I was in her presence. Anna / Simon I share in your emotional roller coaster of losing your Dear Mom for I too have just lost mine last month. She lives on in you both, in your children and forever in your hearts. In our thoughts and prayers at this most difficult time.
Christie Cawker, Chelsea & Samantha Birnie

To Vurla,s Family:
I am so sorry for your loss.Vurla and I worked together for several years in the Rehabilitation Program at the Miller Center.She was a strong leader whose experience helped us work through many challenging situations. I have many fond memories of the chats and laughs that transpired during our time at work.

I am so sorry to hear about Vurla.
She was a wonderful person and so especially kind to our family.
My thoughts & prayers are with you at this sad time.
Brenda McClellan

Shelly, I was so saddened to hear of Vurla’s passing. I remember you teaching our class the first year that you guys moved here and you saying that your wife was also a social worker and working in health care. I had the fortune of meeting and working with her when I went to the Miller Centre between 2006 and 2009. She took me under her wing, as she did with so many social workers and other health care professionals. The warmth and nurturance that she exuded was amazing! She gave the best hugs! I’d always get one when I’d see her years after I left the Miller Centre! I still have the beautiful mug she gave me as a thank you for having covered her caseload during one of her vacations back to Ontario. She was a tireless advocate for her patients/clients, always going above and beyond! My thoughts are with you, Anna and Simon and their families as you move through this profound loss. Take care,

Shelly and family,
I am so sorry to hear about Vurla and you are in in my thoughts. Vurla will be remembered by me for being a compassionate social worker who loved her chosen profession and a wonderful person who loved life and her family. Thinking of you all.
Joan Davis Whelan

Shelly and family
I was so sorry to hear of Vurla,s passing. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
Your in our thoughts

Shelly and family,
We were so sorry to hear of Vurla’s passing. We fondly remember the lovely meals and lively conversations about art, food, life and work that we shared. Vurla was just a lovely person. Our sincerest condolences. You are in our thoughts.

Shelly and family,
So very sorrow to hear of Vurla’s passing. My deepest and most sincere condolences to you all. Whenever I ran into Vurla over the years we always had nice little chats. It is a true blessing in life to have someone who we truly love. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Bless you all.

Dear Shelly, sending caring thoughts and sincere condolences to you, your children, grandchildren and all who love Vurla. May she Rest In Peace.

Shelly and family,
Please accept our deepest and heartfelt condolences. You are in our thoughts and prayers during this time of mourning. We all have such fond memories of Vurla, which we celebrate as we process the sadness of her passing. May she rest in peace, and may you find some peace, hope and comfort amidst the sorrow of this tremendous loss.
Jean-Marc, Brenda, Juliette & Adèle

Shelly, Anna, Simon, and families. Sheila and I are so sorry for your loss. Please accept our condolences and support as you mourn your loss and celebrate Vurla’s life.
Sending love and hugs.
Sheri and Sheila

Martha and I send our deepest condolence for the passing away of Vurla. Our hearts go to you and the rest of the family and continue to hold you in our prayers. We pray that the good Lord receive the Soul of Vurla. May her Soul rest in perfect peace

Shelly, Anna and Simon
So sorry to hear of Vurla’s passing. May you find comfort in knowing that you are in the thoughts and prayers of others during this very difficult time.

I share your sorrow.