Now, We Remember Marjorie

In mid-April, Mom learned that her remaining time
was likely measured in weeks, not months.
She met this news head-on: with acceptance, humour,
and just a tinge of impatience to be getting on with it.
She celebrated her 95th birthday on May 29.
On June 10, Mom died as she wished:
at home, with family around her.
– Isabel Gibson

Marjorie’s Life

Born near Standard on 29 May 1922 to Nels William Thompson (Niels Wilhelm Thomsen) and Belle Thompson (née Bamford),  Marjorie grew up on the farm, picking up strong ties to her Danish heritage along with a smattering of Danish, an abiding interest in farming, and a deep love of the prairies.

After graduating from Crescent Heights High School in Calgary, she studied Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Alberta, avoided classes in mathematics and French to the extent possible, and worked summers on the farm.  Graduating with a BA and a Gold Medal in May 1943, she worked as a social worker at the Provincial Guidance Clinic, a mental health clinic, until her marriage in May 1945 to Sheldon Gibson, another U of A graduate.

She and Sheldon moved frequently in the next seven years, as Sheldon’s work with Imperial Oil took them to small towns across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.  In 1952 they moved into a new home in Edmonton and joined Metropolitan United’s Young Couples Club, a group that became the wacky Coffee Crowd, lifelong committed friends.

Marjorie managed the household and began what would be an enduring commitment to adult education in Biblical scholarship, and to volunteer community service.  She founded Operation Friendship, an outreach program to seniors in Edmonton’s Boyle Street area, as well as a host-family program for international students at SAIT, after they moved to Calgary.

When Sheldon retired, he and Marjorie kept busy:

  • Travelling extensively, much of it in search of genealogical information about both their families as well as various Elder Hostel adventures
  • Participating in Canadian Club
  • Volunteering as drivers for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics
  • Attending CPO concerts, study groups at St. David’s United, and Esso Annuitant hikes and wine appreciation evenings
  • Enjoying their grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and wide circle of fabulous friends

Inheriting the family farm in 1975, she was an active member of a successful and satisfying farming partnership with old friends until 2008, when she sold the farm to her partners.

Sheldon died in December 2010; Marjorie moved to Vancouver in January 2012 to be close to family and to enjoy the flowers and the showers.  In her 90s, she started this blog and joined the Creative Writing Class at her seniors’ residence, making new friends and gaining much enjoyment from both.  She also found a new church home at Canadian Memorial United Church.

7 June 2017

Who Was Marjorie?

At home, church, and community organizations, people found in Marjorie a willing, empathetic, and yet sensible listener.  She enjoyed all kinds of people and was on friendly, first-name terms with almost everyone with whom she came into contact.

Her teaching success came from her talents for organizing and presenting material and for infecting others with her enthusiasm.

Her lifelong tendency to spoonerisms complemented a tendency to misquote poetry.

She couldn’t keep a telephone number in her head to save her life, but she made public speaking look easy.

When she took up serious amateur photography in her fifties, she exhibited an artistic eye and a complete inability to dispose of any photograph, ever.

Spelling was not her forte, but she loved writing and self-published a thoroughly researched 400-page book about her grandmother’s family and descendants: “Grandma Was a Davis.”

Her sense of family was not restricted to blood relationships: children of international students she and Sheldon befriended considered them to be their Canadian grandparents.

She loved classical music, books of all kinds, Bridge, Lake O’Hara, peaty Scotch, red wines with a good finish, and the first crocuses to appear in the spring.



Filed under This & That

31 Responses to Now, We Remember Marjorie

  1. Judith

    I love her so much and miss her. But she said not to feel sorry for her- she was very grateful for a happy and long life.

  2. Laurna Tallman

    Awe, admiration, appreciation — your mother gets straight As from me. I am grateful for the opportunity you have provided, Isabel, to meet her here.

    • Isabel Gibson

      Laurna – And she appreciated the ongoing engagement with her readers. So thanks to you for that.

  3. Alison

    Your mom will be remembered. Her voice was unforgettable, as was her laugh. I was always a little scared of her ( although ironically not of your dad?), but she was good for me, her directness taught me to stand up for myself. Through her I learned to drink skim milk, and to appreciate red cabbage. I admired her ability to talk about death, and to reflect upon her life. She will live on in her kids, and in her grandkids, and in all of us who knew her.

    • Isabel Gibson

      Alison – Your memories of her are as long as mine (Feel free to ditch the skim milk, but carry on with the red cabbage.) and she so appreciated your last letter to her. Her acceptance of death made a space for all of us to be with her on the last stretch of her path.

  4. Ian Hepher

    Lovely. Thank you for this final tribute. I will miss her insight and her perspective.

  5. Kate

    Thank you Isabel for making this blog a reality for Gram. She so loved the process of writing, and how everyone was struck differently by her words, and she loved hearing their comments and thoughts. I think the process of remembering and writing was really enjoyable for her, and we certainly all benefitted from reading her wonderful stories, memories and thoughts. We will miss Gram always, but I’m so glad to have all these wonderful posts to go back to and read again, and to share with our kids. May her sense of fun, curiosity, and caring live on in us.

    • Isabel Gibson

      Kate – She certainly got into it, and the range of what she covered surprised me. We had thought she’d like to write stories about her childhood and young married life, but she went way beyond that. It’s a wonderful legacy, to be sure.

  6. Brenda Wallace

    Our lives will always be blessed from spending time with this amazing woman. We loved you, dear friend.

  7. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder

    Marjorie was a year younger than my mother. I got onto her blog through Wayne Holst, who featured it on his blog. I especially enjoyed her last post. Reading your post about her life, shows me that it was rich and full. Your mother was a wonderful person andn you were blest to have her!

    • Isabel Gibson

      Elfrieda – Thank you for joining Mom and travelling with her via her blog. She loved meeting new friends, even “virtually.”

  8. Yvonne Way

    How lovely, and fitting, that you posted one last entry on your mom’s blog! I eagerly opened it to hear Marjorie (through her daughter this time) one last time. I know Marjorie told us not to be sad, but I have to say, along with my smiles I was a little choked up reading this entry. It was good to know your mom, she will be missed, and her memory is cherished. xo

    • Isabel Gibson

      Yvonne – Yes, smiles and tears are the “new normal,” as Mom and Dad used to say about their physical condition. Next spring, watch for those early crocuses on the prairie and think of her.

      • Yvonne Way

        Oh I will, I already think of your Mom every time I drive past the farm, especially if there is a lovely sunset or flooded ditches!

  9. Cheyenne Steffen

    I’m the wife of one of the kids from an immigrant family who called Marjorie Grandma. She felt like Grandma to me from the first time we met. I loved to hear her stories about things from the past and memories of when she and Sheldon were starting out… I admired how strong and pragmatic she was and that her capacity for kindness and love for others was never ending. She was the type of person that I learned something new from every time I saw her. I could only hope to be like Grandma Gibson in some ways. I so admired and respected her.

  10. Isabel Gibson

    Cheyenne – One of our tasks after Mom died was to go through all her things – including her jewelry, which included a grandmother charm bracelet. She had charms for the nine related to her by blood, as well as for the eight from the three international students who went on to make Canada their home, and Mom and Dad part of their family. It was a good reminder of the power of love and connection.

  11. Judith Umbach

    Your mother was a warm person with a wicked sense of humour. While we have to accept her passing, we won’t forget her. She was a wonderful blog writer (with a great editor and publisher). Her memories have become memories for us, even if ours are in paler colours.

    • Isabel Gibson

      Judith – Yes, that sounds right – gone but not forgotten. And that sharing of memories is right on, also. Anais Nin said, “We write to taste life twice.” But by writing we let others have a taste, too.

  12. I am so grateful to have known Marjorie, and been a help and a friend to her for these last few years. And I am ridiculously pleased that my last memory of her was seeing her in her armchair, a brand new baby on her lap, and a grin as wide as a prairie sky on her face. She was a remarkable human being, who cared deeply about many people and always had something positive to contribute. I will miss her, while at the same time marvel at what I learned about life and how to be present in the world. Thank you for posting this final chapter, Isabel.

  13. Isabel Gibson

    Bruce – Good point – others might also like that memory, albeit only photographically. I’ve added it to the post. Thanks.

  14. Jean-Guy Dallaire

    I was hoping to see Marjorie again. Even at her advanced age, she took time to visit our sculpture exhibition (SSBC) at VanDusen Botanical Garden. I have a beautiful photograph of her and she will be remember.
    Jean-Guy Dallaire

    • Isabel Gibson

      Jean-Guy – Mom had a knack for making new friends, and counted you as one. Thanks for being part of her life – she was tickled that your encounters led to you reading her blog.

  15. Marnie Lewis

    So deeply saddened to learn of Marjorie’s passing. It is with a heavy heart full of regret that I didn’t get the chance to see her over the past few months to chat and say farewell. Such a wonderful woman she was, as is obvious by the amount of loved ones and friends who were fond of her. I am so full of gratitude that I had the chance to get to know her and spend some time with her over the past few years since we met. She always left such an impact on me when we chatted, so wise, such humour, just a pure joy to be around. I’ll miss her deeply and won’t forget the friendship we had and the impact she left on me. I can only hope that one day I can emulate the same kindness your mom has shown me and pass it on to others the way she did.
    -Marnie Lewis

  16. Norma Lendrum

    So sorry to hear of Marjorie’s passing. I got to know and appreciate Marjorie in the Monday night discussion groups at St David’s. She could always get to the nub of the discussion. Such a beautiful person and such a beautiful mind. I always enjoyed her blogs . She will be missed.

    • Isabel Gibson

      Norma – So good to hear from you. Mom & Dad loved that Monday night group, and Mom liked to stay in touch with what the group was doing even after she moved to Vancouver.

  17. Steve Finlay

    I was lucky enough to meet Marjorie in 2015, through Marshall Bray who lives in the same retirement home. I was leading a small non-profit that advocated for people with mental illnesses in Vancouver’s downtown east side. I soon learned that Marjorie had worked with homeless people in Edmonton in the 1970s, and I invited her to our office to talk to my staff. They hung on her every word, and eagerly absorbed her experience and wisdom. That type of work has not changed in 70 years, and neither has the timeless kindness, perception and love of Marjorie.