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Obituary of Gladys McCONNELL
Gladys (Bobbie) Amy Eva Green McConnell, 92, died May 25, 2012 at Selkirk Place in Victoria, B.C. Bobbie was born on January 27, 1920 in Kilburn, London, England to parents John William Green and Amy Susan Edwards. ‘Bobbie’ was a nickname coined by her much-loved father to describe her bobbed hair-cut, a popular style in the early ‘20’s. It also described her effervescent personality and she was frequently called ‘Bobbie Dazzler’, which is a British expression for an amazing person. She was the quintessential Aquarius - outgoing, creative and inquisitive. Every home she lived in was decorated to make it as beautiful as her pocket book would allow. From spray painting tables to reupholstering couches to fine paintings when the money allowed, she created a beautiful space for her family to live in. During the war, she arrived home from work one day to find her mother had invited some Canadian soldiers, who were billeted down the street, over for cocoa. She looked over this group of young men and her eyes settled on Wilbert George McConnell and that was the beginning of a life-long love. In 1945, she immigrated with George to Canada to a farm in the Ituna area of Saskatchewan. The move from London to a small rural farming community was an incredible adjustment not to mention traumatic at times. She was used to having hired help in the home; a nanny and a housekeeper to look after her and her sister Doris while their single parent mother was working. From the conveniences of London to the absence of electricity, running water or indoor toilets was certainly a shock. It is certain that only the love she had for George stopped her from leaving on the next train. She stayed and set to work making a home out of a dilapidated farm house using all of her ingenuity and creativity, both of which she had in abundance. As she was raised in a large city, and had no farm experience, she decided when faced with the challenge of raising chickens, to get expert advice and so wrote to the Dept. of Agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan. Long afterwards she joked about how that year she had raised the best chickens, but they also proved to be the most expensive chickens in the area. Through this experience she learned what the locals already knew; that raising the ‘best’ chickens was not especially cost effective. During her years on the farm she was the family ‘go to’ person for wedding and bridesmaid dresses. She was an amazing seamstress. Once, during a 3-month convalescence she made a woman’s wool suit completely by hand. As fashionable clothes were hard to find in rural Saskatchewan she loved her Vogue patterns and continued to make her own clothes as well as her daughters’ special dresses for many years. She also baked and decorated the wedding cakes both for family weddings and local girls. She once spent hours making a cake for a woman in the community who was moving away. The cake was in the design of an open book and was spectacular. She finished it after hours of meticulous work and left it out on the table so the icing could dry and be ready for the party that evening. Everyone was out as it was a Saturday and when some of the kids arrived home they found the dog had half eaten the cake. There was an agonizing wait for her to return home from her errand to see the destruction that had occurred. When she walked in the door and saw the look on the kid’s faces she was sure someone had died or there was some other equally terrible occurrence. When she realized the only damage that occurred was to the cake, she was immensely relieved and merely set about making another one in the time remaining. Needless to say it wasn’t quite up to the standard of the first. They moved off the farm in 1952 when George became a grain buyer for the Saskatchewan Wheat Poole and over the next 19 years lived in Leross, Sovereign and Davin SK. Throughout her time in Saskatchewan Bobbie volunteered for numerous organizations, including leading a 4-H girls sewing group and the Explorers United Church girls group. She got the most satisfaction, however, from assisting the school district’s music teacher to raise funds for band instruments and put together a band for kids who had not previously played any instruments or had any music instruction. She was fortunate to do this with Bud Hafstein from Saskatoon, an immensely gifted musician and teacher. Music was important to her and she was thrilled to witness the excitement of the children as they rapidly learned how to make wonderful music. It was after a visit to her daughter in Vancouver in 1965 that she was determined to move to the Coast as soon as humanly possible. She was shocked that such a wonderful place as this existed in Canada because all she had experienced were the prairies with its extremes of hot and cold temperatures and the constant wind that she absolutely loathed. When George retired in 1971 they moved to Sidney, BC where Sandra was then living. This was the beginning of a very good period in her life. Her creativity came to the forefront, especially in the garden and in visual arts. She would suddenly rush out to garden, having just remembered the garden club meeting was a couple of hours hence, cut bunches of flowers, put together arrangements and come home with ribbons and awards with seemingly no effort. It was at this time she began painting, although her artistic talent was always obvious. She initially studied Chinese brush painting with Stephen Wan who became her friend and mentor. She eventually branched out to water colours and sold many of her works at local art shows as well as gifting them to members of the extended family. Bobbie loved adventure and travel. She made several trips to Britain to see family and numerous trips with George including one to Italy and a west coast cruise. One of the most memorable trips for her was with her daughter Ruth where they visited the capital cities of Europe in a seven day whirlwind. As Ruth had recently graduated from University where she studied art history she was able to give her mother a crash course in the best of European art. With her own children grown up she shifted her volunteering efforts to working for a political party, working at a library and becoming a peer grief counsellor helping people dealing with death and loss. She was also on the board of the Sidney Abbeyfield, a concept she wholeheartedly supported. In fact, she lived in the Victoria Abbeyfield for a number of years. Bobbie was predeceased by her beloved George in 1994 and her very special grandson Greg Siver in 2011. Left to mourn her loss are children Michael (Susan) Screech of Braunton, England, Bill McConnell of Kelowna, Sandra McConnell and David (Joanne) McConnell of Victoria and Ruth McConnell of Edmonton, much-loved sister-in-law Alice McConnell Ivey of Ituna, SK and long-time friend and fellow war bride Maggie Frey of Unity, SK, many grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews including the children of her sister Doris (Lorraine, Susie, Peter, Glen & Brian) all of Vancouver Island and the children of her brother Fred (Roger, Derek and Carol) all of the UK. A private family celebration of life was held on May 27th with a memorial and interment of ashes to take place Sept. 2012 at Royal Oak Cemetery.
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