Released from this earth and called to be with his Lord, Michael Conrad Kovacs died in Victoria on May 9, 2020. He was 99 years of age, a compassionate psychiatrist with a listening heart, an avid gardener, a keen chess player, an astute participant in the financial markets, a determined poker player who was affectionately known to his family as “French”.

Beloved Husband of the late Margaret Blanche Kovacs, a loving and generous Father to Michael Leslie Kovacs, Robert William Kovacs (Kathleen Caldwell), Colin Matthew Kovacs (Max Reidel), Colleen Margaret Kovacs (Michael Peachey), Mark John Kovacs (Heather Hawthorne), Paul Conrad Kovacs (predeceased) and proud Grandfather of Jeffrey Alexander Reimer.

He served with the Royal Canadian Armoured Corp during the Second World War. He rarely spoke of his war time experience, yet the will, strength, and determination he evidenced to endure the hardships of the Italian Campaign and the horrors of war equipped him well for the balance of his life.

Albert Einstein once remarked that “only a life that is lived for others is a life worthwhile”. Dad’s whole life was one of service to others. He worked tirelessly as an advocate in mental health. A lifetime in mental health requires a heart of compassion, much courage and an ability to encounter the human condition in a multiplicity of forms.  He served as Medical Director of the Selkirk Mental Health Centre (in Manitoba) for years and played a pivotal role in guiding the Hospital in its fundamental reforms.

He championed a comprehensive Bill of Rights for patients which codified, for example, the right to privacy within a patient’s room, the ability to keep and display personal property, the right to communicate with people outside the Centre, and the right to exercise their vote and to have accessible polling stations during Federal and Provincial elections.  As the Hospital transitioned to community care he authored the following plaque on the original building with bars on the window. It read in part:

“This building was erected in 1886.It does not reflect current concepts in the care and treatment of the mentally ill…This relic of the past is destined to be demolished. May it be soon. May the crushing blows of the demolition hammer be symbolic of a victory for the rights of our mentally ill to be cared for and treated in settings commensurate with their needs.”  

 When Dad first travelled to Victoria for a richly deserved retirement, he soon found himself (but six weeks after the arrival) working at the Victoria Mental Health Centre (Out Patient) and the Swift Street Medical Clinic. On Monday mornings he volunteered and attended to the homeless population on downtown Victoria streets. Behind the wheel of his Oldsmobile he headed to the Johnson Street Bridge, Victoria Cool Aid Society, St. Andrew’s Cathedral Soup Kitchen and PEERS to make a “house call”.

At 88 years of age, he concluded his medical endeavors and he was then happiest plodding about the garden. Dad delighted in naming each of the hummingbirds (George or Georgina) that returned daily to the feeders. Often twice a week, up to the age of 93, he trundled to the Oak Bay Recreation Centre with a bright blue gym bag displaying the logo “Surfer Dude” for a personal training session followed by a swim and sauna. The night before he died, in a moment of cognition, he requested a beer, sought to play a hand of poker, and inquired as to the performance of the daily markets.

“Grief never ends…But it changes. It is a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith…It is the price of love.”

French, you are loved deeply and will be dearly missed.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at Holy Cross Parish, 4049 Gordon Head Road, Victoria, B.C. for the immediate family. Condolences may be offered to the family below.

McCall Gardens
www.mccallgardens.com

 

  • Peter Warren

    Simply put, a great human-being.

  • Peter F.

    My sincere condolences to the Kovacs family. I was a patient of Dr. Kovacs for several years in the early 1990’s at the Swift Street Clinic in Victoria. His compassion and insight enabled me to regain my own equilibrium. He was a good man.

  • Bill Schindeler

    The Kovacs Family:
    Please accept my sincere condolences on the passing of your dear father. He is sadly missed by all of his family and by all who knew him. He ws a dearly loved uncle of my late wife Peggy who passed away three years ago..

    Sincerely: Bill Schindeler and family.

  • Dorothy Green

    I am so sorry for your loss.May you find comfort,serenity and much shared love as you remember and grieve.I was privileged to know and work with Mike at USTAT for a number of years.I admired his wealth of knowledge and experience,his highly ethical standards,his integrity in always providing such depth of caring and compassion to his patients.His sense of humour was delightful.He had a style and presence which actively encouraged hope and the best of healing efforts in both his patients and coworkers.He was a truly dedicated,honourable clinician who will be remembered and missed by many!

  • Connie MacDonald

    I worked with Mike over a number of years, the late 80’s at Saanich Mental Health to the 2000’s at Urgent Short Term Assessment & Treatment. Staffs from both centers have been commiserating about him these past days. As I think of him, many affectionate & respectful memories come to mind..and I honour him with them. He was so respectful of and compassionate with people in their most vulnerable states, consistently. He had such a quick wit, and like to challenge & enlarge others thinking. He had so many strings on his bow. He never bragged about his many accomplishments. He used to say he was going to do psychiatry until he could get into dental school. Early one bleak, rainy November morning, I was driving to work and saw Mike outside St Andrew’s church speaking with someone..one of his house calls. Afterwards, I called him St. Mike. He was a man in full. The dentist has finished here. We will not forget him.

  • Vicki Wong

    Rob and Kathleen,

    My heartfelt sympathies to you and your family on the loss of your father. May you find peace and strength during this difficult time.

  • Nanci Rivard

    Colleen, Michael and Family

    We were so sorry to hear of the passing of your Father. He sounded like a wonderful man. Our deepest sympathies to you at this sad time.

    Roger and Nanci Rivard

  • Jim and Jeannette Hounsome

    Dear Colleen
    A sad time for you and all the Kovac family. Jim and I always enjoyed our visits with Mike and Marguerite after masses. They were always so pleasant and cheerful.

    With our love and sympathies. Our prayers and thoughts will be with you on the day of the funeral mass.

    Jim and Jeannette

  • Graham Lamb

    On behalf of the fitness staff and your friends at Recreation Oak Bay, my condolences go out to the Kovacs family. Many years ago I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Mike. Mike was a real gentleman and always worked out with purpose and a smile. Rest In Peace, my friend.

  • Randy Wong

    My deepest sympathies to the Kovacs family on the loss of your father and grandfather. I met Mike in 1993 when I was fresh out of grad school and starting my career as a mental health counsellor. Mike was the psychiatrist on the very small ASTAT team at Victoria Mental Health Centre and I considered him as a teacher, mentor, and I feel honoured to have been one of his colleagues/coworkers. Mike set the highest of standards for caring, compassion, and work ethic -he was highly respected by his colleagues and his patients. I will miss the twinkle in his eye, his subtle sense of humour and his grandfatherly presence. I would like to think that I learned well from Mike as I strive to exhibit the qualities that I learned from him in my work with mental health services.

  • Carl Stovel

    Dear Colleen,

    I had the privilege and pleasure of meeting your dad when I was at medical school in Winnipeg in the 1960s and later when he and your mom “retired” to Victoria. As you mentioned, he loved his career as a psychiatrist and ended up practicing until his late 80s!

    To me, 25 years his junior, Mike was an inspiration as everything a good psychiatrist should be. He exuded empathy for everyone and tirelessly worked to help mentally ill patients and their families. He gave all of them hope and, in my opinion, provided them with the necessary combination of “actual listening” psychotherapy and extensive experience with medications.

    It was because of Mike and a few other compassionate and competent psychiatrists at the University of Manitoba that 10% of our medical school class were inspired to pursue careers in their field. We crossed paths fairly often in Victoria and on one occasion even shared the stage for a public education effort. He was such a gentleman and I always thoroughly enjoyed our meetings.

    You have every reason to be extremely proud of your dad as he led an exemplary life. Well done, Mike.

    Fondly and respectfully, Carl Stovel

  • Gail Pierangeli

    I met Mike when I worked at the Victoria Mental Health Centre way, way, way back in 1993. In my eyes, he appeared to always have a calm and caring demeanor. I always respected him for who he was and what he stood for.

    To Rob, Kathleen and the entire Kovacs family, I offer my sincerest condolences.

    Gail Pierangeli

  • Marshall Wordie

    Very sorry for your loss. A long and remarkable life and a hard act to follow.

  • Gayle Millbank

    Mike, thank you so much for your service and support when I was working at Saanich and Victoria Mental Health Centres. We could always count on you. Thanks for being such an excellent doctor and human being. Love to your family.

  • Ken Kovacs

    It is with great sadness that we read about Uncle Mike’s passing. The obit was very accurate and well written. Our deepest sympathy and sorrow goes out to the family.
    Ken and Christine
    Winnipeg

  • Dr Bruce W Chenoweth

    Bruce Chenoweth, Community Psychiatrist (ret) Sydney NSW

    I spent but a day with Mike doing the rounds of soup kitchens and shelters. That day changed my practice for ever. I hope that I have been able to impart some of Mike’s legacy to my own trainees.
    With great respect, gratitude, and condolences to the family

  • Joel Martin

    Dear Rob, Kathleen and the Kovacs family.

    Our heartfelt condolences on the passing of your father. I have a feeling that based upon the above story, that he is already hard at work providing help to those that can use some extra support transitioning from this world. May the many wonderful memories that you have gathered over a lifetime help to ease your grief and see you through the days ahead.

    Hugs,

    Joel and Val Martin

  • William Heuman

    Robert, Kathleen and to the entire family, Sheena and I send our sincerest condolences. We grieve for your loss and trust that the memories of your father will surround you with love during this solemn time. We will miss your Dad’s presence at the annual Boxing Day open house at Robert and Kathleen’s. Hugs and love to you all.

  • Barb Hicke

    Oh Rob, I’m so sorry for your loss! I know how dedicated you have been to your parents, this must be such a challenging time for you. My sincerest thoughts, prayers and sympathies are with you and your family.

  • Denise Nelson

    Dear Rob and Kathleen,

    My heartfelt condolences go out to both of you and your family at this sad time. You spoke so highly of him and with so much love. He will truly be missed.

    Your friend, Denise

  • Susie Nute

    Dear Colleen and family
    We are so sorry for your loss. Take comfort in that he lived a great life and is now with our Lord.
    Susie & Ron

  • Lynne Johnstone

    My deepest sympathy Rob and Kathleen. May he Rest In Peace.

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