Beryl Paintin has been many things in life: a loving wife and mother, a passionate writer, an accomplished entrepreneur, and a staunch advocate of small business.
One thing she wasn’t, though, she was afraid to speak her mind. Regardless of who she spoke to or what the topic might have been, Paintin was as open as they come.
Paintin was 38 when she arrived in Winnipeg and quickly landed a job in the printing industry. She has worked for a handful of different printers including Hignell’s, Print It and Dave’s Quick Print. She started with layout and design work and later in her career worked her way up to Production Manager.
Paintin started in the printing industry shortly after leaving school in the UK. She was apprenticed to The Borough Press, where she learned all the ins and outs of her craft.
Paintin left the printing business in the early 1990s and soon after bought a women’s clothing store that had belonged to a friend.
Located in a mall on Portage Avenue off Shelley Street, Act 2 Fashions was one of the city’s first retail outlets to sell recycled women’s fashion. She owned the store for almost a decade before it closed its doors.
Jon Paintin says the shop was the perfect environment for his mother.
“She’s always loved shopping, so it suited her well,” he says, laughing. “She liked clothes and she liked deals.”
While she owned Act 2, Paintin became actively involved in the business community. She joined the local chamber of commerce and served several terms on the organization’s board. Her work with the Chamber helped her forge connections with numerous business and community leaders, including Nordman and former MLA Jim Rondeau.
Jon Paintin says his mother was delighted to make connections with members of the business community.
“She found it challenging and exciting, and it kind of pushed her,” he recalls. “Being able to collaborate with other people and give feedback and input was one of the best things for her. She really liked the networking aspect. She was always so outgoing.”
Nordman, who owned his own travel company, says Paintin was a shrewd businessman. But what really set her apart, he recalls, was the love she had for the local business community and her fellow small business owners, and her willingness to help them in any way possible.
“She was a real cheerleader for the business world. She always wanted to find a way to get things done. Her attitude was, if you’re going to complain about something, you better be prepared to do something about it,” he says.
“She loved business and the business world and especially helping young people get into business. She really burned for it and we were all the better for it.”
Paintin remained a small business cheerleader even after her store closed. She went on to publish her own café newsletter, Smalltalk Connectionswhich gave a voice to many small and domestic companies.
Around the same time, Paintin began freelance writing for a number of other publications, including the newspapers of the Transcontinental Community. She wrote a regular column for the weeklies entitled shades of greywhich focused on the needs and concerns of people aged 55 and over.
Claudine Gervais was a writer and editor for the community newspapers and worked for Paintin for several years from the late 1990s.
Gervais says what she remembers best about Paintin is how deeply she cared about the people whose stories she shared and how much energy she put into everything she did.
“I was always entertained when she was in the office. It was fun when she was around, even if she was a little tinny,” says Gervais, laughing.
That boldness was integral to who Paintin was, and she was never afraid to stand her ground, says her son.
One of his most lasting memories of his mother is the hundreds of letters she wrote expressing her concerns to politicians and other officials. These included former US First Lady Barbara Bush, who took the time to respond to one of those letters on official White House stationery in April 1992.
Family and friends knew something was wrong when Paintin’s razor-sharp mind wasn’t the same as of 2017. She was diagnosed with dementia soon after and moved into a nursing home the following year, where she lived until her death.
Luckily, she was able to reconnect with a piece of her past before her health took a turn for the worse. In the 1950s she gave up a young son, David, to an adoption agency in Britain. She spent most of her adult life trying to figure out what happened to him and was finally able to connect with him in 2014. He and his adoptive family traveled to Winnipeg in 2016 to visit Paintin, her husband and son.
“I have a photo of their meeting hanging in my classroom,” says Jon, an elementary school teacher in the Winnipeg School Division. “It was at the Perkins on Portage Avenue. We all met and it was a great time. They were a nice bunch.”