Mar 19, 2024

Back in the mid-1980s, after the dissolution of the University of Saskatchewan Campus Radio station, a few dedicated and hardworking individuals got together with the goal of forming a non-Campus, non-profit, Community Radio Station. They formed the Community Radio Society of Saskatoon, and would go on to create CFCR 90.5FM. One of these passionate volunteers was Sigrid Kirmse, who passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 91.

Sigrid emmigrated from Germany, and found her way to Saskatoon, where she made an indelible mark on our community, not just on the radio airwaves of CFCR (and before that at CJUS/CHSK and CFMC), but with the Saskatoon Symphony, the German cultural community, and more. Her distinct German-inflected on-air delivery made her one of the most recognizable voices at CFCR, and coupled with her immense behind-the-scenes contributions, she became one of the most important figures in the station's history and lore.

We've compiled a few thoughts & memories and from CFCR folks past & present, to commemorate the passing of this instrumental member of the CFCR family. 

Ron Spizziri (CRSS Founding Member, Former CFCR Manager & Longtime Volunteer Host): As a fellow founding member of the Community Radio Society of Saskatoon, I first met Sigrid in the mid-80s when five of us met in someone’s home to complete an application to form the Society. I noticed early on that Sigrid was extremely passionate about having a Community Radio station in Saskatoon. She certainly kept us on the straight and narrow during the public meetings being held to attract volunteers to the project. But it was obvious that Sigrid’s “by the book” operating style was fueled by her longing to get us broadcasting.

Once we were on the air, Sigrid devoted countless hours in perfecting the two programs in which she was involved – the German and Classical shows.

During my stint as Station Manager, I had occasion to see Sigrid at least once a week. My favorite memory of her is a routine she developed each time she came down to the station, where she’d stand in the doorway to my office and, with one hand on her hip, voice a concern or complaint about something (or someone) at the station. We’d then have a polite conversation about the matter, and, satisfied, she’d then proceed to host the Classical program. Far from being bothered by this ritual, I realized that it was yet another sign of Sigrid’s ardent devotion to CFCR.

To say that she will be sorely missed is an unqualified understatement.

Ted Stensrud (Former CFCR Manager): My involvement with Community Radio started in 1986, the spring after the U of S radio station, CJUS, signed off for good.

At first, I sat in on some public meetings, knowing Jeff Lee and Ron Spizziri. Someone I didn't know was an outspoken “older” woman (at that time she was younger than I am now… scary) with an accent. It was Sigrid Kirmse. She was a founding member and I believe the first to hold the Secretary position on the initial Board of Directors. As we moved along the road to finally achieve the goal of signing on as an FM broadcaster, Sigrid was a stalwart. Whether it was sitting through the dreariness of Board Meetings, where at times we just seemed to be spinning our wheels, to moving into our first real home in the basement of 103 3rd Ave N (aka: The Dungeon), or showing up to broadcast both her weekly programs, Treffpunkt Deutschland and the Classical Connection. She was a consummate broadcast professional, being prepared and never ever needing assistance in the studio. She was also a conduit between little old Saskatoon Community Radio and Germany's national broadcaster, Radio Deutsche Welle, providing hours of taped English language, European-based current affairs programming. 

Over the years, I got to know Sigrid on a personal basis. I learned that she had escaped war-torn Europe as a young teen, having been an eyewitness to some of the worst of history, including -- watching from a distance -- the firebombing of Dresden. She had moved half a world away to start again, raising a family and becoming a significant contributor to the culture of her new home.   

As anyone who got to know her could attest, Sigrid could be obstinate, standing her ground when she thought she was right. She was a strong woman. She was also a good and loyal person. In the early years of CFCR there were times when it felt like I was fighting the fight on my own, often surrounded by teens who couldn't understand the challenges and fragility of the enterprise. Having an adult come through the door who would take the time to ask how I was and how she could help was a gesture for which I was grateful. She was a person with whom I was fortunate to have crossed paths. Rest in Peace Sigrid. 

Patricia Pavey (Longtime Volunteer Host): My first experience with Sigrid was in 1995 or '96 when volunteering for FM-Phasis (CFCR's annual Fundraising Drive) during the German show. My phone wasn't ringing, so I "got creative" with a way to encourage donations. However, that wasn't the way Sigrid wanted things done, so I went home before my shift was over.

I often listened to her Classical Connection (I think she had her own name for this program) on Friday afternoons, and enjoyed her occasional "bloopers." The one I enjoyed most was when Sigrid played obviously a vinyl record at the wrong speed. She'd introduced it as "...fairies in the woods" and the voices that came on were VERY high and VERY fast. It went on for some time before the speed was changed to a lower one. I was driving at the time and had to pull off the road as I couldn't see through my tears of laughter (Don't we all make some "bloopers"?  I once said "wind children" instead of "wind chill," and probably more).

After meeting her at AGMs and get-togethers at Amigos, I got to know and understand her better and eventually, after she'd suffered some health issues, we shared her Friday Classical Connection. Some of her regular listeners 'phoned to ask about her and when she was coming back, so she certainly had her own listening audience. She invited me for visits and I discovered that not only did we share a love for classical music, but also for the tortes and cheesecake that she baked. When she could no longer manage to do this show, she gave me some of her many CDs.

At her funeral, her grandson mentioned the fact that her driving had deteriorated in her last years. I remember coming in to the studio one Friday to fill in for the Swing Shift that followed the Classical Connection. Sigrid was just leaving with her guest, (then SSO conductor) Eric Paetkau. It was a cold winter day and she was offering him a ride home. He was insisting he would walk home and I sensed the awkwardness of the situation, so distracted her in order that he could sneak away. Perhaps he'd experienced her driving before?

I'm glad I got to know Sigrid and will miss seeing her at CFCR events, the Symphony concerts, Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan plays and Folkfest (where she was made an honorary Ambassador). She made a large contribution to Saskatoon's cultural life and will be missed by many.

Neil Bergen (CFCR Station Manager): Sigrid was a dedicated Community Radio Volunteer. She started her classical program at FM 103 before Community Radio existed. She was one of the first volunteers at Community Radio and continued her program at CFCR for over 30 years. She also started and hosted the German Program for many years at Community Radio. Sigrid never missed a Community Radio AGM and was instrumental in counting ballots and keeping the meetings running according to Roberts Rules of order. She attended many volunteer events and was always keen to talk about the station and the people involved in volunteering to keep things running smoothly. Sigrid was one-of-a-kind and will be greatly missed.

Jay Allen (CFCR Program Director): I always thought of Sigrid as kind of a "work grandma." In the years when she was hosting her Friday Classical Connection every week, I would see her nearly as frequently as my own grandmother! And like a grandma, we shared many conversations -- and had many disagreements. Whether it was “Everyone should be playing Christmas music starting on the first day of Advent!” or “Why aren’t these new, young Hosts of the German program playing the same old classical music I used to play?,” I had many conversations with Sigrid where I know she wasn’t necessarily “overjoyed” with my answers, but I always felt like we had an understanding and she supported what we had to do to keep moving foward as a station & organization. As a founding member of CFCR, I can absolutely understand why Sigrid was so passionate about the station, and why it was difficult for her to accept certain things as they changed over the years.

I had the chance to have several visits to Sigrid’s at her home, where we’d share tea and desserts while discussing music, CFCR, family and other topics, and on every visit she would send me home with more and more classical music CDs, LPs and even cassettes from her personal collection, which I was supposed to take back to CFCR to be added to the library.

She was always a staple at CFCR events, from AGMs to FM-Phasis wrap-up parties, typically held in the back room of Amigos Cantina. One of the last of these events was during our 2023 Membership Drive. Even though Sigrid had stopped hosting by this time, she was still invited to all CFCR functions. We always offer Hosts some food and beverages at these events, and Sigrid’s email response to this one was “No beer for me, but I am looking forward to the nachos.”

Sigrid will be missed by all of us here at CFCR.

If you'd like to read Sigrid's obituary, please find it here. Those wishing to share their own memories of Sigrid are encouraged to do so there, as well as to email them (and any pictures of her, particularly at CFCR functions) to us at 

RIP Sigrid.

[Thanks to Patricia Pavey for some contributed photos.]


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CFCR acknowledges that we broadcast from Treaty 6 Territory, the homeland of the Cree and Métis Nations, and the traditional territories of the Dene, Saulteaux, Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota. We pay our gratitude to the First Nations and Métis people who have called this ancestral land home for generations, and whose histories, languages, and cultures continue to influence our community. On a foundation of reconciliation, recognition, and respect, CFCR is committed to reaffirming relationships with one another, and to establishing new ones.  

Community Radio would like to thank the following organizations for their support: