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  Spotlight feature:
Roswitha Scharf-Dessureault

Winnipeg, Manitoba

A self-made woman and a selfless soul
Roswitha Scharf-Dessureault

When you see Roswitha Scharf-Dessureault with all her smiles and appreciation for life, you would never suspect the fear, hardship and injustices she endured in her early years, right from birth. When you learn about her achievements, you can’t help but wonder what shaped her into the success story she became. In fact, you would probably imagine a fairy-tale upbringing. But if you read her book, “Memories of a Life’s Journey” you will be amazed at her strength and survival skills, and it holds some answers as to why she is the person she is today.

The hard reality is that Roswitha learned, very young, how war can ruin lives and families, how adults can be shameless predators of children, and that to survive, you must endure, hope, dream, believe in yourself, and work, work, work. Despite the trauma and drama of her childhood, Roswitha survived and went on to thrive—with courage, faith in many things and perseverance at her side, never losing faith in humanity.

Being the owner/manager of the well-known Winnipeg restaurant (now only a fond memory), The Tea Cozy in Osborne Village, she proved to herself and everyone, that it doesn’t matter where you come from, or how you started, you can achieve your goals and succeed.

That is one of the reasons she decided to publish her life story in a self-written book called “Memories of a Life’s Journey.” She wanted to be an inspiration to her children and grandchildren, and give them an understanding of herself, and in turn, themselves.

After taking several life-writing courses and doing research in Germany, it took five years to write this first book.

Since launching her book in February, 2008, Roswitha has had many book signings in Winnipeg and beyond, even in Toronto, and continues to do so. “It’s going beyond my expectations,” says Roswitha, as the demand for her book continues to grow. It made McNally Robinson Bookseller’s top seller list. Since then, she has been very active in promoting and marketing her book, doing numerous in-store book signings, media interviews with CityTV (now Breakfast Television), CJOB Radio, Winnipeg Shaw TV, various magazines and speaking engagements. With her experience, she had been invited as a speaker and presenter on self-publishing at several events, helping other aspiring writers.

Though writing about her ‘journey’ was difficult at times, stirring up some of the painful memories, it also aided in the healing process for her and it made her appreciate life today all the more.

The night Roswitha was born, (Sept. 21, 1940), her mother, Mathilde, described how air raid sirens had gone off. So Roswitha’s life ‘started with a bang!’ It was the 2nd year of WWII in Köln-Lindenthal, Germany, not far from the Rhine River. Her parents parted ways and after the war, she spent many of her childhood years in a refugee camp with her mother, siblings and step-father.

At age 20, Roswitha married her husband, Johann. When she was 28, her family, which now included their two young children, Sonja and Volker, sailed to Canada on September 12, 1967, destined for Winnipeg, Manitoba. She didn’t speak a word of English, so the challenges of moving to a new country were magnified. They settled in various Canadian cities including Vancouver and Fort Nelson, B.C., and Montreal. They added another daughter, Ilona, who was born in Vancouver.

Later they divorced and Roswitha settled again in Winnipeg with her three children. In 1982, she purchased The Tea Cozy in Osborne Village and turned it into a thriving business, but not without a lot of perseverance and sweat equity. A local newspaper described it as, “a unique replica of an English tea house from the early part of the nineteen hundreds. It is warm and cozy and comfortable...” But it was mainly her warm personality and hospitality skills that made it work. It was her passion and that was reflected in the daily operation of her business for 20 years.

And it was rewarding. She received nine consecutive Food Merit Awards (a feat not achieved by any other restaurant), the Star of the City Award, and the Women Business Owners’ 2000 Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award, her proudest achievement, and well-deserved one.

You may recall seeing Roswitha on CKND-TV with her cooking demonstrations. She also taught healthy cooking for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and hosted many wine-tastings in the first wine lounge in Winnipeg called the Wine Stube which was opened up in The Tea Cozy. This establishment was a little ahead of the times so she closed it and concentrated solely on the restaurant. Roswitha also worked with youth and troubled teens, hiring them and teaching them cooking, as well as social skills. She also learned that sometimes, all these young people needed was for someone to trust them. In her book, Roswitha states, “...I am so glad I could provide the teaching, trust, and love and the right atmosphere for them to get a fresh start.”

Roswitha’s book, “Memories of a Life’s Journey,” is available at major bookstores in Winnipeg including McNally Robinson Booksellers - Grant Park, Chapters - Polo Park & St. Vital Center, and Coles - Kildonan Place & City Place. For other locations, online and libraries, visit her website at www.roswitha-scharf-dessureault.com. Upcoming book signings are Nov. 20, 1-5 p.m. at Chapters, Polo Park; Dec. 4, 1-5 p.m. at Coles, Kildonan Place; and Dec. 5, 1-5 p.m. at McNally’s, Grant Ave.

Her book is an awe-inspiring read and it even includes some of her favourite recipes from her restaurant.

Since selling The Tea Cozy, Roswitha educated herself at Red River College, Winnipeg, at age 66 and obtained her Assistant Teacher Certificate in Early Childhood Education (ECE). For several years she has been teaching German language and culture at the South Winnipeg Kinderschule.

She is the Grandmother of two and remains very active with her hobbies of cycling, cooking and reading, and volunteers for various things such as the Children’s Hospital Book Fare in St. Vital, as a Goldwing Ambassador for the Winnipeg Airports Authority (WAA), and for the German Canadian Congress. She has also volunteered for the past five years for the Cycling for MS, and continues to do so. At age 69, last year, Roswitha had participated in her 5th consecutive Cycling for the MS Ride from Stonewall to Gimli and back – a total of 185 kms.

She also is a tour director for Fehr-way Company and is known as the “Jolly” tour guide.

She enjoys cycling immensely and joined a seniors’ cycling club with her husband. She looks forward to their cycling trips to Walker, Minnesota. Their cycling group, called the Leisure Club, drives six hours to Walker, rests overnight at a hotel, and sets out early in the morning on bicycles all the way back to Winnipeg along converted railway lines. It’s a five-day trip, but well-worth every bum blister!

With her past behind her, Roswitha is starting a new journey towards old age. And with enthusiasm she wonders, “What’s next?”

Roswitha’s advice to others who are aging? “Stay strong. Look forward every day and don’t look back. And most importantly, write down your stories. Time can pass so quickly.”

Keep your head held high
and think of tomorrow,
there will be a new day.
Let sadness pass away
and keep happiness close
to you, it creates strength.

~ Roswitha

(Read more in the Sep 6-26/2010 issue of Senior Scope

 
 
2015
Good to hear from you - your book was very moving - thank you for the opportunity 
Linda

 
2013 
Liebe Frau,Roswitha
Sie kennen mich zwar nicht, aber ich moechte Ihnen doch gerne sagen, wie sehr ich Sie bewundere. Von Gitta und Frank hatte ich Ihr Buch Roswitha bekommen und war tief beeindruckt, wie freimuetig und sachlich Sie ueber diese schreckliche Zeit berichten. Ich war erstaunt, dass Sie - trotz Ihrer schweren Kindheit und Jugend und allen Entbehrungen und Eingriffen in Ihre empfindsame Seele -  immer wieder versucht haben, das beste aus allen Situationen zu machen. Sie haben nicht aufgegeben, sondern mit viel Energie und Lebensmut jede noch so kleine Chance ergriffen, um diese harten Kaempfe durchzustehen. Ich denke, dass Ihnen das weite Land Canada mit seiner endlosen Natur und seinen vielfaeltigen Kulturen dabei geholfen hat, das Gute im Menschen wiederzufinden und auch mal an sich selbst zu denken. Ihr Cafe muss wundervoll gewesen sein. Und ganz besonders grossartig ist, dass Sie nach langen Entbehrungen und einsamen Entscheidungen Ihren Mann getroffen haben. Gitta hat mir erzaehlt, dass Sie sehr gluecklich miteinander sind. Und gleichzeitig habe ich gelesen, dass Sie sich neuen Herausforderungen gewidmet haben. Sie muessen sehr viel Kraft haben und eine starke Persoenlichkeit sein. Es ist einfach grossartig, dass Sie jetzt fremden Menschen Ihr unglaublich schoenes Land praesentieren.
Alles Gute und weiterhin viel Freude und Energie für all Ihre Unternehmungen. Und - bleiben Sie allzeit fit.
Herzlichst gruesst ein Fan aus Wiesbaden
 
 My Review: Linda Maendel
Just looking at this book you can't but feel that the little girl is calling you to read her story! I got to know Roswitha a few years ago and consider her a friend. Reading her story is like listening to her tell it. I don’t get the chance to meet an author before reading his/her book very often. But for this one Roswitha’s distinct voice was a constant throughout, and is one of the things I really enjoyed about this book. As much as this is an often sad memoir, there’s a lot of joy intertwined as well. And all that Roswitha has gone through, only served to shape her into a strong and confident woman she is today. If you enjoy reading about trials and triumphs, I recommend this book. As Roswitha shares her story, what she wants most that readers take from it is the very things she herself has gleaned from her life’s up and downs, ‘Never stop learning and never be afraid to try something new. People are born with many strengths and talents, but if you don’t test yourself, you never find out what they are.’

In the back of this book there’s a small collection of yummy recipes from Roswitha’s ‘Tea Cozy Restaurant’ days. These include, Tea Cozy Trifle Pudding and just in time for the holidays Honey Gingerbread for Christmastime.

You can buy the book at:

online at: http://www.mcnallyrobinson.com/online-ordering


 
Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass...
its about learning how to dance in the rain.

I would like to thankx for the time you have put in composing this blogpost. In fact your creative writing skill has inspired me to begin my own blog now. Truly the blogging is spreading its wings quickly. Your write up is a good example of it.

  Roswitha: I just loved your book. I couldn't put it down once I started reading it. What a story you have and what an inspiration you are to women. I think this should be a movie. Stephen Spielberg's company is Dreamworks. Good luck.
Carolyn


What a powerful book.  Wow! Darlene 
 

Dear Roswitha,
You have a beautiful book and I enjoyed reading it.  The picture on the cover is so compelling.  I just wanted to tell you to keep plugging away.  You have had an extraordinary life and are a woman of great courage.  Many could use a story like that!
Kindest regards,
Mary-Ann Kirkby

The Author of the Book, “I AM Hutterite“

I have finished reading your book and I feel blessed and inspired by you. Your life is filled with pain, betrayal, triumph, love and overall beauty. Your story and significant events that occurred over time in your life, let's me know there is a beautiful rainbow at the end of every struggle. We must first find our strength within, to see it!  

Belkis, New York
Dear Roswitha,
I finally went out and bought your book, I'm sorry it took me so long.  I just wanted to let you know that I think you are an amazing women! You gave me a lot to think about and made me realize that I take a lot of the people and blessings in my life for granted.  The fact that you have such a great positive attitude toward life after everything that you had to endure is inspirational.  You make anything seem possible! I sometimes feel like with the path that I've chosen in life it's too late to back to school and learn something new but you sure proved that it's not too late. 
I feel blessed to have been able to say that I have met such an inspirational woman like yourself! I wish you all the happiness in the world! I hope we will meet again next summer if not earlier!

Sincerely,
Sherisse Brandt
 Hi Roswitha
I am still reading your book with great interest and enjoyment, even though it reflects so much suffering and heartbreak, it is inspiring at the same time. I especially like all the details.
 Imagine my surprise as I begin reading about your trip here from Europe on the SS Masdamm and realize that that was the boat my mother and sister and I travelled from Halifax to South Hampton on 11 years earlier. I was seven or eight and that nursery is where I first heard the music of Peter and the Wolf .
As a child I was thrilled by this experience even though we were seasick for the first couple of days. For a long time my most prized possession was a pen knife my mother let me have that had a picture of the boat on it.
Your book is a wonderful record of an amazing life, and it brings back many stories my parents told about England during and just after the war and what it was like then.
Warmest regards
Colette,  Toronto

 Your book is a very easy read , so well put together . I hope my next book will be as good . We share many of the same experiences in life. I commend you for your strength and courage . You have much to be proud of. I hope that i have the same courage and strength as you to be able to write my next book. I was told i would have to make it a book of fiction rather than a true story. Thank you for reading my book , Crevasses of the mind .    Lois Walters- (Maxwell)

This book transcends one woman story. I really loved reading it as a Canadian, a Winnipegger, as a woman, as a granddaughter, as a mother. It spoke to me on many different levels.
Roswitha’s story made me grateful for everything I usually take for granted.
Thank you, Roswitha.

Sandra, B.Mus. B.Ed. ( U of M )

“Roswitha - Memories of a Life’s Journey”, eine Autobiografie einer Frau, die von ihrem Schicksal als Lagerflüchtling, Immigrantin, Geschäftsfrau und nicht zuletzt als Mutter und Mensch berichtet.

Ein Schicksal der in die Vorjahre des Zweiten Weltkrieges Hineingeborenen und in den Strudel der politischen Entwicklungen Mitgerissenen.Was diese Lebensbeschreibung zur Besonderheit hervor hebt, ist dies menschlich-herzenswarme, fast entwaffnende Schlichtheit und Aufrichtigkeit. Ein Buch, das man nicht aus der Hand legen kann und dem man bis zur letzten Seite Glauben schenkt.

Es ist die Geschichte einer Frau voller Entschlossenheit und Lebenswillen,ohne Bitterkeit und Resignation.Das Schicksal fuehrt das deutsche Ehepaares 1967 nach Kanada und nach Monaten harten Lebens im Norden British Colombia,kehrt die Familie nach
Winnipeg
zurück und ein neuer der unzähligen Abschnitte in Roswitha’s Leben beginnt.
Sie lernt die Schönheiten Kanadas lieben und schlägt
Wurzeln, die sie so lange vermissen musste.


 
Nach harter Arbeit baut Roswitha das Café und Restaurant “Tea Cozy” in Winnipeg auf, bietet gute Weine und Gerichte aus eigener Küche, die Auszeichnungen erhalten und in 2000 “The Woman Entrepreneur of the Year - Lifetime Achievement Award”.

Inzwischen hat Roswitha dieses Etablissement verkauft, sich aber nicht zu einem ruhigen Leben entschieden. Mit der ihr eigenen Tatkraft steht sie Winnipeg’s deutschsprachiger Kinderschule vor, leitet provinziale Bustouren, nimmt an Radtouren teil und vor allem widmet sie sich ihrer Familie.

Roswitha nimmt den Leser bei der Hand und führt ihn durch ihr Leben. Dabei übt sie einen entscheidenden Einfluss aus. Das Leben ist nicht immer so, wie man sich
es wünscht, sondern wie man es gestaltet.

 

 

To ROSWITHA. November .09
        
           I finally read your book.  I am not a reader so for me to read a book is an accomplishment.   I am very impressed by all the  possitive achievements in your life story.  You DID have a story  to tell.  There also were a lot of hardships in your life, and i am very sorry to hear about them, but they  made you a stronger and more determined person.
     That was something to receive those awards.  You have had a remarkable life.  keep it up, and I wish you all the best, in all your future endeavors.   Donna

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
 
Roswitha, 09
I'm so glad that I met you and got to know you before reading your remarkable story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, even though it's heartbreaking at times. Through all the heartache you didn't give up, but bravely persevered, which speaks volumes of your inner strength, determination and faith. It's wonderful that you are now at a happy place in life and can look back and be proud of your accomplishments.
Blessings,
Linda
__________________________________________________________

 First thank you so much for the book! I have not been able to put it down and have read it over the past 2 days! Your story is poignant and incredible- your perservance and determination is most inspiring. You certainly have come a long way on your life's journey- I can't wait to see what happens in your next trek...
 Love Ella

 

   2009-06-05

You were in the Chapters store in Winnipeg on May 17th 2009 at your book signing and I needed a book to read. Now that I have read your book I am honored and humbled by having met you. I will cherish this book forever. Once I started reading your story I couldn't put it down. I'm so glad you are having a happy ending.

Thank you so much for sharing your life with me and signing my book.

Sincerely,

Sherry Skippen

 


February 2009  Hello, I'm not sure if you remember me, but I volunteered as a silver wing in the spring of 2008. You told me about the book you had wrote about your life, one afternoon while we were having coffee in the observation deck. I was very interested in reading it, so last Saturday I finally had the chance to buy it. I didn't put it down until I was finished! It was absolutely amazing. It made me cry, laugh, and feel privileged to meet you. It has given me a new outlook on life, reading about all you have had to overcome and how successful you were. Congratulations on all your successes including your wonderful book! 
Tiffany


Roswitha,  A Life's Journey is a story that is heartwarming and at times heartbreaking, but ultimately triumphant. Roswitha Dessureault's indominable spirit and optimism shine through on every page, reminding readers to embrace their own life's journey.

-Brenda Fehr
Freelance writer, Canstar/The Prime Times newspaper, Winnipeg

 

Hello Roswitha,November 2008.

 I wanted to let you know that the book club I belong to met last night to discuss your book.  The consensus was we all enjoyed reading about your life journey’s.  We sincerely congratulate you Roswitha on this tremendous accomplishment.  You truly have left a remarkable legacy for not only your friends and family but to the city of Winnipeg itself.  It was a pleasure to have met you. Diane

 


I've read your book.   What an inspiring and enlighting testimony!  Despite all the hardships you experienced ,it certainly reveals your faith, courage and strength to pursue so many accomplishments in your life .May you be blessed with more successes in the future.
Take Care,
Blessings, Gloria


I just wanted to tell you how much fun I had meeting you. I have checked out your website - I might have to try your trifle recipe - now I'll have to get your book and get you to sign it for me. You are a dynamic person with a great sense of humour. I love the quote on the bottom on your web page. You have obviously had to be strong in your life and we are lucky  that you share your positive outlook with everyone you meet. All the best with your upcoming book signing, and hopefully I'll see you again soon!

And congrats on the WBOM award!

Very impressive!   Lynn


 
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