Irene Eloise Stewart was born on September 4th, 1930 in Forestburg, AB and passed away in the Killam Long Term Care Centre on September 15, 2023. She was predeceased by her husband, Gordon… her parents, Gerald and Anna Oberg, brothers Wilmer, Everett, Irwin (Perk) and a sister Doreen. She is survived by two sisters… Alaire (Detert) and Jean (Grainger)… a son Jack (Penny) and a daughter Marilyn Melnyk (Bob)… two granddaughters, Sara Langton (Jesse), Jamie Rolf (Andrew), and three great grandchildren… Ben and Julia Rolf, Maisie Langton… as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
I have heard it said that neither the date of your birth or the date of your death, are important… it is that line that connects the two that makes all the difference. If that is the case… Irene’s line was both long and full. She grew up at a time when horsepower was used both for field work, and transportation. She rode 6 miles each way to school in a home-made van drawn by a team of horses. You carried in wood and coal to keep your house warm in the winter and hauled the ashes out. Running water meant that you ran out to the pump to get another pail. You learned to be self-sufficient simply because there was no other choice. And yet through it all… she often remarked that she wouldn’t change a thing. She was nine years old before the second world war even began.
When she was 15, she met the love of her life… my father… Gordon Stewart, at a baseball tournament. Three years later (1948) they were married and moved onto the Stewart family farm. Theirs’ must have been a marriage made in heaven as I can honestly say… I never heard a cross word between them. In short order the family grew to four with first me and then Marilyn coming along.
Mom was a doer, and because she grew up during the great depression, she was especially adept at “doing” with next to nothing. She was a whiz with a sewing machine. I believe I was in high school before I ever saw her buy clothing for herself from a store. She made everything. It was nothing to come home from school and find the entire living room floor covered with cutouts of the latest Vogue pattern. When we were kids, you could always count on a new pair of flannelette pajamas from “Santa Claus” at Christmas. (Apparently, Santa knew how to run a Singer sewing machine as well).
It was also common place to walk into the house only to find the living room furniture completely dismantled simply because she felt it needed a “fresh look”. Now the fact that she had never upholstered before, was simply not relevant. It needed to be done… so it got done… and it would be done beautifully.
She had an artistic flare. Whether it was sitting down to produce one of her many oil paintings, or simply decorating a cake for the annual church tea and bake sale. (She was by the way… an exceptional cook).
Mom was also an active member of the Presbyterian church and held every possible position in the W.A…. numerous times. She was also an early member of the Hospital Auxiliary and was President during the fund raising and subsequent acquisition of the Centre’s first Handi Van. Something she was deeply proud of.
Despite suffering Rheumatic fever at an early age, she remained active throughout her life, enjoying skiing, bowling, golfing and ballroom dancing.
In later years she took to travelling and enjoyed many cruises with her family and sisters. She didn’t particularly care where she was going… she just enjoyed the company and a glass of wine while sitting on her balcony… watching another ocean sunset.
And while this idyllic life may lead some to believe Mom was always tranquil and serene… that would be a mischaracterization. She could be fiery if the situation warranted. One particular incident happened many years ago at a high school track meet where an official responsible for tallying the results at the end of the meet, did so incorrectly, costing a local student a well deserved medal. When the error was pointed out, the official inexplicably refused to correct the mistake. It was at this point that “Captain Justice” flew into action. Suffice it to say that when the smoke cleared… the error had been corrected… the deserving student had their gold medal and I’m sure that in time with a little therapy the offending official was able to resume most of his normal activities.
In 2019, Mom suffered a stroke which exacerbated her dementia. Now… if you know anything about dementia patients it is that they have a penchant for packing. They pack clothes, books, toiletries, pictures and just about anything else they can find. That is why I have no doubt that when the Lord came to take her home, she was ready. Packed and ready.
Growing up… she was the best Mom anyone could hope for. She knew when to offer encouragement with a pat on the back, and when to aim a little lower if the occasion warranted.
As adults she simply became a friend… a very good friend who will be sorely missed. And oh yes… that line between her birth date and the time of her passing… we should all do so well. A life well lived.
The family would like to thank Dr. Hanton, Dr Rami and the entire staff of the Killam Long Term Care Centre for the outstanding care Mom received over the past four years. It is much appreciated.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the Killam Long Term Care or a charity of the donor's choice.
A graveside service celebrating Irene’s life will be held at 2:00 pm on Saturday, September the 23rd at the Galahad Cemetery.