Mary Crowell lived through a lifetime of changes, but never strayed from her guiding principles: Family before all else and show grace in all you do.
Mum left us Wednesday after suffering a range of illnesses. She was 96. She had lived in her own home, with the support of family and caregivers, until last March. After a bout of pneumonia she was no longer able to live independently. Her end was not nearly as remarkable as other parts of her life.
She grew up on a farm in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, the youngest of 6 children - spoiled by her father. When she was ready to start school, they placed her in Grade 3 because her father had already taught her how to read. For high school she boarded at Holy Angels Academy in Sydney, and graduated in spite of homesickness.
After high school, Mary decided to attend Normal School, (teacher’s college) in Truro, Nova Scotia. In her early years she taught in one and two-room school houses as well as at a school in Halifax. At one time she had a class of 42 grade 7 students. “Oh, but they were so good,” she recalled.
When she met Lloyd on a blind date, she wasn't sure what would come of the relationship. It turned out nothing-- for six months. Then he called to ask her to his office Christmas party. She accepted and within 2 years they married. She had to give up teaching when she became pregnant, because in those days, pregnant women didn't teach. Mum embraced her new role as a mother. It wasn't without its trials, but she always said the best years of her life were spent raising her children. Dad had joined the Air Force which meant moves from Halifax, to Labrador, New Brunswick, and Manitoba. At 42 she suffered a brain hemorrhage eight days after her fifth child was born. Everyone in the small town of Beausejour prayed for her. About 10 days later, mum woke up and made a complete recovery.
Among her valuable teachings were, don't step off the mat until you're invited in, don't fight at the relatives’ houses, as a visitor, never ask for anything to eat, drink, or do,never share our business with anyone outside the family and never, ever reveal her age to anyone.
As the children grew up mum got into teaching again. When the province decided to start offering junior kindergarten, the principal at mum’s school asked her to take it on. She truly enjoyed her time leading the youngest learners in the school.
Her first grandchild offered her just the incentive she needed to retire and she never looked back. From then on the focus was on family. Sunday dinner was a meal you wanted to be home for. Mum made everyone feel welcome.
As she and dad adjusted to retirement, they joined a euchre club, enjoyed travelling in their motorhome and embraced each new grandchild with affection. They continued summer visits to Nova Scotia maintaining the connection with family.
When dad passed away, Mum was bereft. But with the help of family she carried on. In recent months she suffered infections and indignities without complaint. She lived with grace, right to the end.