Obituary of Mary McAmmond
Mary McAmmond passed away at Lloydminster Continuing Care Centre, Lloydminster, Alberta, October 9, 2022 at the age of 95 years.
Mary is survived by: son, Don (Fern) McAmmond; daughter, Dorothy (Knud) Sorensen; grandchildren, Elesha (Wade) Pinder, Amy (Jason) Steeves, Jenny (Andrew) MacDougall, Amanda McAmmond and Blaine (Maryann) McAmmond; great grandchildren, Henry and Murray Pinder, Danika, Ila, Gavin and Shelby Steeves, Gunnar and Kaia MacDougall, Hope and Hannah Glionna, Mark and Brit McAmmond; as well as numerous nieces, nephews and extended family.
Mary is predeceased by: her husband, John McAmmond; mother, Elizabeth Dunn; father, Joseph Cooper; sister, Jean (Rudy) Varchol; and eight brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law.
The Funeral Service for Mary will be conducted from Paradise Valley Memorial Hall, Paradise Valley, Alberta on Friday, October 14, 2022 at 2:00 PM. If you are unable to attend, the service will be recorded and posted on Mary's obituary.
Donations in memory of Mary may be made to Paradise Valley Fire Department.
May's funeral card can be viewed or downloaded from the link below.
~ Memories of Mom ~ by Dorothy Sorensen
Welcome, and thank you all for coming to celebrate mom’s life with us today.
Mom was born in Westborn, Manitoba on July 18th, 1927. When she was 5 years old her family traveled by covered wagon to Enderby, BC, where they had relatives. The trip took them three long months. Enderby, along with the Rocky Mountains, long held a special place in her heart, and she never turned down a chance to visit her childhood home.
When she was old enough to work she was employed in a restaurant, she picked fruit for the neighbouring farms, and for Davison Orchards. She also worked at a plant packing fruit to be shipped across the country.
She met John McAmmond in 1946 when he went out to work in a lumber camp. They were married on December 2nd, 1947, and started farming together in Paradise Valley. This would be her home for the next 74 years.
When the thrashers came, she couldn’t believe the amount of food they could eat. What an introduction to prairie life! Grandma McAmmond came out that first fall to help this mountain girl feed all of those prairie boys on the thrashing crew. All of this work was done on a wood stove, without running water or power.
She always had a garden and loved any kind of berry picking. She often had stained fingers all summer long, picking whatever was in season and preserving it for the winter. She passed this love of berry picking to myself and her granddaughters. She raised chickens and pigs and enjoyed milking cows. She quickly adapted to life on the farm and dove headlong into any job that needed to be done. A trait that stayed with her, all the days of her life.
Donald and I were born in 1955 and 1956. We never wanted for anything growing up. We had huge family gatherings on the McAmmond side at Christmas and New Year’s, with 30-40 people in our little home.
Later in life mom enjoyed having her grandchildren and great grandchildren close, so she could go to all of their activities.
She worked with me for 11 years in the hog barn, taking pride in what we produced. Winning the Top Grow-Finish award in 2005, was accomplished in a large part due to her. She was up at the crack of dawn to work, and was often the first one to arrive. I often think our oldest employee had the most fun. We used to laugh because she loved chasing pigs and hollering to get them loaded and unloaded. This was right up her alley. The novelty of a new job on the farm was just the type of challenge she looked forward to. This kept her young at heart.
We used to joke about her kids becoming senior citizens, she’d always reply with, “God, I’m getting too damn old.”
Dad passed away in August of 1982. How many people outlive their spouse by 40 years?
She always said, “Hard work never hurts anyone, if there’s something to do, get at it and let’s get it done.” That was her pioneer spirit, which she embodied right up until the end.
The last year and a half of mom’s life was difficult. Leaving her home after her fall and losing her independence was not how she had ever envisioned her final time with us. However, we celebrate and remember the 94 good years she had, living her life, her way.
She was independent, she was strong, she was our mom.
~ Eulogy: Our Grandma ~ By Elesha Pinder, Amy Steeves and Jenny MacDougall
As we prepared for this day, one of the questions McCaw’s asked, was if we wanted to have Grandma’s full name on her memorial card. We emphatically and very quickly said absolutely not. She downright hated her middle name, Mary Jane. She often said, “Mary Jane, Plain Jane, what a name.” We never knew if there was a story behind this passionate dislike about her name, but we can assume that there was one. Today, we hope you enjoy hearing a few of the lesser known stories about our Grandma, Mary McAmmond. Who lived her life, and left a legacy, as anything but a Plain Jane.
Our Grandma delighted in the simple pleasures of the everyday. She was content and fulfilled by her family, her pets and her country home that brought her joy throughout her life. She loved her little house in the coulee that she lived in for more than 70 years, and living just 2 miles away she was part of the daily fabric of our childhood. All of our happiest memories, and milestones in our lives, were experienced with her beside us.
Perhaps, not a lot of people gathered here today knew Grandma well, as she often preferred to spend time with her family, rather than the community at large. Her circle was small, but her influence immeasurable. To the three of us, she was the center of our world. We hope you enjoy a few of our memories today that show the grandmother we were blessed to have. We are so thankful to have had her loving guidance, encouraging words, and continual presence throughout our lives.
Our Grandma was a uniquely strong willed, independent woman. Widowed young in life, she lived 40 years without her husband John, or her Johnny as she often called him. Of that generation, she was the last remaining member of her family, with her sister Jean also living into her 90’s, and passing a few short years ago. She often referred to everyone else as those “old fogies or those old biddies” whether or not they were actually older than her. She thought it was funny that she was a few months too young to be invited to join the 65’s Club when it formed in Paradise. That was also for all those “old fogies and those old biddies” in PV. Again, she was clearly not in that category, and certainly did not want to be in a club where they all celebrated getting old together. That was not our Grandma. She was young at heart and always up for an adventure, and created a few misadventures of her own, much to her family's amusement. She took life as it came, often spoke her mind, and was known to tell off the occasional complete stranger when she felt they needed tuning in.
As we grew up, we spent nearly every weekend sleeping over at her house, eating ice cream and boxed fish and chips which she kept stocked for us, because mom never did. It was a treat just at her house. Sometimes we would drive into Paradise just for fun and candy, because she knew we liked it. She had a secret passageway in her house that led through her closet and this entertained us for hours, as did sitting on her old kitchen radiator in the winter to warm up, seeing how long we could sit there and not get burned by the hot metal. Which, funnily enough, she encouraged us to do.
As we grew, we visited as often as we could, to drink tea and coffee around her kitchen table and share the trials and tribulations of our lives to which she always listened and supported us. Her go to phrase when something went wrong was, “Well it’s always something,” or more colourfully she’d say, “Ahh, to hell with it and move on.” We thought it was funny that the person who swore the most in our family was our 85 year old grandma. She was unapologetically herself and we loved her for it.
In later years she bought Costco sized bags of Werther's Originals, chocolates and skittles for the great grandkids and told them to fill their pockets before they went home, because in her words, “I know what the young kids like,” and her blue eyes would twinkle mischievously. Our children could guess which birthday card was from great grandma because she always gave them a twenty dollar bill, held in place by a paperclip, because kids always like to get a little money. When the three of us were kids, and loonies were the new thing, she would fill a card with loonies taped on every side, and we would have to work to peel them free. We also knew which card was hers, because it weighed a pound and a half.
Our Grandma enjoyed her motorhome and going on vacations. When she bought the last one used, it already had a bumper sticker that said, “We’re not senior citizens, we’re recycled teenagers,” and on either side of that were two large bumper stickers of cobras. That’s right, a cobra as in a snake, with fangs out ready to strike in all of their glittering holographic glory. It was quite the image driving down the road. They did not bother her though, they added character, so they stayed.
Grandma called her motorhome the chuckwagon during harvest, because we might as well use it instead of sitting outside on a tailgate. She drove, in her usual breakneck speed, and the three of us tried to hold the food in the back as we bounced through the fields. Her own bumper sticker might as well have said, “Get in, sit down, and hold on.” She also liked to go on drives to Calgary when her parents were alive and thought it would be fun to take me when I turned 14 for a trip. She threw me in the driver's seat and we headed down the highway. I will never forget the feeling of navigating a motorhome as a first time driver, but Grandma said, “It’s just like a car, put it in drive, and let’s get going.” She was not known in our family for her patience, she figured I would learn as we drove, and low and behold everything was okay in the end.
Our Grandma always kept a bottle of Royal Red wine in her house and a bottle of rum. She did not often drink, but would not turn down a rum and coke if we were celebrating a special occasion, or if it was needed to settle a few nerves. The plow wind that came through our community in 2011 was actually on her birthday, and in true do it yourself pioneer fashion she braced her door with a butcher knife to wedge it shut, just as the living room window blew out, taking several of her belongings with it. She was scratched and battered and bruised, but not really hurt enough that she thought she needed help. It was too late to clean up the mess that night so she made herself a really stiff rum and coke and went to bed early. She would tackle that mess in the daylight and try to make heads or tails of it. The next morning she was telling us about the, “Hell of a storm,” that went through. We were happy she was not blown out of the house herself, because she was not going to take cover in her basement with something like that going on outside. Grandma liked to be where the action was, and now she had a new story to share over tea and coffee.
Our Grandma lived a long and happy life, living at home until just 18 months ago. She believed in a good walk for exercise, being outdoors and being active. To wake up with a job to do kept her young, whether it was berry picking in the summer, helping our mom with whatever was going on at our house, babysitting the three of us, or working in her yard, she could not abide sitting still.
She started, very reluctantly, using a cane a few years ago, which she called her stick. This, stick often did a lot of jobs other than helping her to keep her balance. It was used for scaring animals away from her yard, waving it at people driving through parking lots too fast, and shaking it at her great grandkids when they needed to, quiet down a bit.
Our Grandma loved to walk to her mailbox which, round trip, was 2 miles, through the coulee and past a home of badgers that occupied it. She did this regularly until she was 89 or so when she made it to the mailbox one day and realized she no longer had the endurance to make it all the way home again. Along came Mads Merrild who offered her a ride. Afterwards, she remarked how embarrassing it was to need a buggy ride home, but good thing he stopped to pick her up, she had fun hitchhiking with him in his truck. Another story to tell around the kitchen table and have a good laugh.
After that he was one of her favourite “young fellas” in the neighbourhood. He came to her rescue again in the winter when she got her car stuck in her own driveway and he stopped to ask if she wanted a push or a pull. From then on the sun rose and set on Mads, he could do no wrong in her eyes. She even defended him, when in her opinion he still drove too fast down her road. However, I think after the mailbox incident, Mads learned to keep his eye out for Grandma, because you never knew where you might come across her.
Grandma drove until into her 90’s, and often faster than she should have, she was always in a hurry and sometimes there was gravel flying behind her as she tore off back up the hill from our house to hers. Grandma always had something on her mind and something to do, it kept her young throughout the years. She was really proud when she got her license renewed until the age 93. She only drove to moms, but when she finally gave up driving it was on her own terms. She had a few cars in her lifetime, she loved the freedom of going where she wanted, when she wanted. Her dream car was a Ford Ranchero, because as she put it, it was a car in the front and a truck in the back, and wouldn’t that be fun to haul things in. We were never really certain if she meant fence posts, chop pails or her own grandkids, but she talked about that car for years.
Our Grandma had a lot of typical hobbies that most seniors would enjoy. She loved passing time in the winter by knitting and crocheting. She would crochet blankets with the wildest colours of yarn and everything usually clashed, but she thought they were great. “Who cares about how something looks,” she would say, “it has to be warm.” It was her pioneer spirit to use every scrap piece of yarn to make her next project. She made socks and mittens the same way, you never knew what you were going to get. In her final months her hands would still do the motion of crocheting, as she knotted her fingers through her afghans on her lap, so ingrained the movements were for her. She enjoyed collecting spoons from her various holidays, baking and making soups so thick they could be mistaken for a stew.
Then there were the interests that made our Grandma the woman that she was. She had a fierce independent streak and loved to take care of problems in her own way. She was often seen drowning moles and gophers in her front yard, hooking up the garden hose to her hydrant and waiting by the hole with her shovel or hoe to finish them off. This was about as patient as you would ever find our Grandma. She hated deer in her yard, as they would sneak in and eat her garden and trees, she kept a gun hanging by her basement steps and threatened to, “Blast them full of buckshot,” on a regular basis during the winter.
A few years ago she spotted a skunk near her house and decided to chase after it and scare it away with a broom. Well, it had other ideas and it turned around and sprayed her square on. Grandma had a sinus infection at the time and could not really smell the problem, but my mother sure could. You could not get near her house, or for that matter Grandma, without getting a headache, and she had to move to moms for a few weeks until the smell dissipated at home. Mom had quite a challenge trying to get Grandma, her clothing and her house smelling tolerable. When we told our kids the story they all said, “Well that sounds like something Great Grandma would do.” At a young age, they knew her antics quite well and they grew to expect the unexpected. You never knew what she would do next.
Our Grandma was also known in her 80’s for getting on the roof of her house and pushing the snow off because it was drifting too high and she didn’t like it up there. She would stand on chairs to hang Christmas cards around her house, even when she suffered from vertigo, because she wasn't up there too long, and that is where she had always put them, and that is where they were going for another year.
Grandma’s other favourite Christmas activity was making Christmas pudding, which she did for her whole life. Mom had tried on several occasions to get her to buy the United Church Women's Christmas pudding, because it was their fundraiser. Perhaps many of you here today are familiar with this. However, Grandma would have absolutely nothing to do with my mother’s convincing sales pitch of: you don’t need to make it yourself anymore, the jars are only 10 dollars and for crying out loud mom it’s a fundraiser. This was because Grandma had tried their Christmas pudding once and determined that, “It was no damn good,” a phrase you often heard come out of her mouth, because it didn’t have enough dried fruit and who on earth makes Christmas pudding without any rum in it? She was wondering if Dorothy should take the church ladies her recipe, then maybe their jars might start selling better.
You can imagine some of the conversations that we had around her kitchen table, and how entertaining they could be. And do not get her started on the apple pie fundraisers, either, also from the United Church Women. Trust me, she had an opinion on that as well. Sorry church ladies. Although, I think you may have gotten the last laugh, when mom asked you to cater her funeral today.
Grandma tried to retire and move to Lloydminster on two occasions, but she always returned to her home in Paradise Valley. She was a country woman at heart and the city was too busy, too loud and too boring. In that order. There was not enough action for her, watching the comings and goings of her fellow neighbours. At one point Amy, Jenny and I, all lived in her seniors condo more than she did, much to the consternation of her neighbours. She soon moved permanently home again to live her final years surrounded by the land and people she loved. She kept busy every day puttering in her yard or with a project she wanted to do, retirement was not a word she believed in. You had to keep moving forward in this life and see what tomorrow would bring, and you could not do that by sitting still.
Our Grandma really only went to a church if there was a wedding or a funeral, but she kept a beer mug for years in her kitchen that she liked sitting on a shelf. It had part of an Irish toast on it and the only reference to Heaven we ever noted in her home. It read, “I hope you’re in Heaven a half hour before the Devil knows you’re dead.” I think she liked it because it reminded her of her Irish roots, we always giggled when we saw it. Whose grandma would have that sitting in their kitchen? Prominently displayed. That was our Grandma. That was Mary.
Well Grandma, we hope you snuck into Heaven, and we hope those Irish eyes are smiling down on us today as we celebrate a remarkable life well lived.
Finally, I recall a story she told me a few years ago. Her sister Jean had just passed and she said that Jean talked about her life and death as a child, and that she wanted to live until she was 95, (she made it to 94), and then die of old age. Grandma commented on how she thought that was absolutely ridiculous. She said, “Can you imagine a young kid thinking about dying?” She told me she never thought about dying, she had too much living left to do. Life was too short to worry about things like that.
May we all be so blessed to watch our family grow, to enjoy good health into our 90’s, to play with our great grandchildren and make memories that last a lifetime in those that we love and hold dear. The best things in her life were the simple pleasures that Grandma enjoyed. The love of her family, the satisfaction of a job well done, a pot of tea shared with a grandchild, and a stiff drink when you need one to pick yourself up and carry on.
May we all live our lives a little bit like Mary.
And may we all, not think about dying, because we have too much living left to do.
Forever in our hearts,