Gwen was the baby sister of my mother-in-law and the sister I knew the best. Her daughter, Catherine, a cousin by marriage, is a cousin I am absolutely delighted to have acquired when I married Ted. Together these two women demonstrated loving family values and warmly embraced my little family at all times. Gwen, you will be missed. Catherine, we must hold you closer now that your sweet MOM has passed.

Gwen welcomed my tiny granddaughter, Calli, a fellow preemie, with the firm knowlegde that she would survive her precarious birth at one pound thirteen ounces. She always found some way to forge a special bond with each person, finding common ground. I only realize that now. Gwen, you really knew how to make people feel at ease.

Gwen was born on August 23rd, 1924 in Drinkwater, Saskatchewan, premature and at that time an unlikely survivor. But with her fighting spirit she continued on for over 85 years, caring for others as a mother, nurse and humanitarian. Like her sisters, she was a gracious hostess and clever conversationalist. I had the privilege of reading these, her daughter’s words, at Gwen’s memorial service held on February 13th, Betty’s birthday! In addition, there I met and had a delightful conversation with the presiding United Church Minister from Port Moody, Julie Lebrun. Thank you, Gwen, for that connection!

Mom

My mother, my best friend.

The person I am today is directly attributable to her love and care
and guidance throughout my life.  A better role model could not be
found.

She was the original Pollyanna!  She looked for the good in people and
surely found it.  She accepted everyone… well… almost everyone…  warts
and all!   She knew that people had foibles but she chose to
concentrate on their goodness.

Her credo was “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

She was one of the original “pay it forward” people.  Whenever she did
something for someone and they thanked her she would often say,
“you’ll do this for someone else one day”, or “pass it on to someone
else”.

I say to each of you today what Mom would say – don’t put off to
tomorrow what you can do for someone else today.

Mom was a wise woman to whom people looked for advice and guidance.  I
want to be just like her when I grow up.

Thank you.

The following are some of Malcolm McColl’s words. It was lovely to listen again to bits of Gwen’s story – the pioneering spirit of her journeys through what must have seemed a very wild west coast of British Columbia. And, although I have not spent much time with Malcom, getting to know him since Gwen’s passing has been a privilege. What a lovely man.

Mom touched so many
people’s lives in so many ways and your attendance here today is
heartwarming and demonstrates the affection that you felt for Gwen.

I’ve been struggling with what to offer in celebration, and after
consideration, I thought Mom would be happier with us sharing some
anecdotes from her life that capture her spirit and personality. Many
of these stories are from her early life as I never considered Mom
“funny” when I was growing up

Gwen was always a fighter and trailblazer. Born 2 months prematurely
in 1924, she survived by being incubated in a box on the oven door and
fed Eagle Brand milk thru an eyedropper. Although others always said
she was a survivor, she always liked to say she was just Half Baked.

At the age of 23, she crossed the country and travelled up the west
coast to Bella Bella (now Waglisla ) into what was the wilderness
where she worked at United Church Hospital for 2 years. Travelling on
a hospital ship she became well known by residents of the various
communities they served. Serving communities from Butedale to Rivers
Inlet the hospital ship served it was nevertheless a fairly small
community and individuals become known to all.

Gwen bonded with members of the Waglisla community and was invited to
different homes on special occasions. At the first party she attended,
she was continually presented with trays of sandwiches and, not
wanting to be rude, she accepted something off every tray, making a
noble effort to eat it all. After an hour or so she noticed while
others were also taking sandwiches, they all had a napkin on the floor
where they were saving the sandwiches to take home!

Another indication of her belief in innocence was the time one
of her patients, a character in his own right, said he
had something for her, and presented her with 2 dice. She thanked him
and put them in her pocket. A few months later while talking to Sgt
MacAlpine off the RCMP MV Tofino, she said “Sergeant, I was given
these dice but there’s something wrong with them. Every time I roll
them the same number comes up.” Sgt MacAlpine told her to pick up the
dice and come with him. He took her down to the pier where he
instructed her to throw them in 2 different directions, 1 over here
and the other over there. This she did, and when finished the Sgt
informed that those were loaded dice, very illegal and that he could
have arrested her for possessing them.

After Mom and Dad married, they moved to Butedale, a small cannery
town. There mom began her culinary career. She literally could not
boil water as her mother had trained 3 older sisters in the kitchen
and had decided that that was enough. My Dad bought her a cookbook
which she read diligently. They were living on a float house where my
dad often said that more food went out the window into the salt chuck
than went to the table. On one occasion, my dad was given a couple of
“illegally obtained” ducks. He informed Mom that she had to be
discreet in her handling of the birds. The float house having been
beached, she crawled underneath, where, uncertain as to how to handle
the ducks, called on her medical training, and carefully skinned them
(NOT plucked).  Reading the cookbook, it said an apple should be
inserted into the cavity. This she did and put them in the oven. My
Dad said when he got home, his mouth started watering because the
aroma was so amazing. Then he opened the oven a saw “2 Cannonballs”
awaiting him. More food for the fish. Dan Schuetze a family friend,
used to joke that when he saw the seagulls flying low, it meant Gwen
was cooking again. This was not our experience growing up as mom
turned into a first rate cook.

Before I close, I’d like to add a personal note. After my father died,
I caused my mom a lot of grief on several occasions. During this time,
she never judged me and never stopped loving me. This was her nature
not only with family, but everyone she met friends, workmates and
clients.

She loved life and people, and even as she struggled with physical
infirmities, her positive, optimistic nature never changed.

We will all miss Gwen, but we can all be grateful the time she shared
with us and the myriad ways she touched us. She is with her beloved
Grant, her siblings and parents, and watching over us all. As long as
we share her memory, she will never really leave us as she has left a
personal heartprint on us all.
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Comments
  1. Catherine says:

    Thank you so much, Cousin Elaine, for these lovely words about Mom (and me). You are so very much appreciated for all the care you have provided to both of us over these past few years. You have given much good advice and guidance as we maneuvered through the health care system. Then, you took me under your wing to help me take better care of myself. You read my words for me at Mom’s service when I was not able to. And you have been a loving and caring friend since Mom’s passing, checking in on me and letting me know you are there if I need you. Bless you, and Thank You. Love, Catherine

  2. Pooh says:

    To live in the hearts of those we leave behind, is not to die. ❤

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