Updated: Aug 9
December 12th 1942 - August 1st 2023
So it's been 80 years, I made it, and I know I'm in the right place because I can see Marianne, and Mom and Daddy, waving me on to the other side of this garden-gate. And while I sit here and wait for the Gate Keeper (on July 27th), sorting huckleberries, I'll tell you a little bit about myself:
I was born on December 12th, 1942 in Turner Valley, Alberta, to Margaret and James Rowley, and raised alongside my older sister and brother, Mary and Bill, my younger brother Ian, and even younger brother Stuart (by 17 years). The six of us lived on a farm south of Turner Valley with an outdoor biffy until I was 10 years old when we moved into town. I was an average student and much preferred gardening with my granny, climbing trees, or fishing, but I prevailed and eventually managed a high school diploma.
Until high school I had always thought my career would be as a homemaker, like the Rowley women before me, but in grade 12 a counsellor pulled me aside asked me what I wanted to "do with my life" and suggested nursing, so I went to nursing college in Calgary and a few months later found myself working in Grande Prairie at The General Hospital.
It was in Grande Prairie where I met the handsome Corporal Carmen Merrill, and we were married on September 29th, 1963, in Turner Valley. Carmen and I have two children together, Steven James was born in Alberta in 1965, and Marianne Elizabeth was born in Montreal in 1967. Following Marianne, we moved from Montreal (St Hubert) to Chatham, NB, and then to Kansas City MO and Syracuse NY, before landing back in the Peace Country in 1971, where Carmen was stationed at the USAF's northern most radar base. It was in Beaverlodge that Carmen and I agreed to part ways; he kept moving and the kids I found ourselves back in Grande Prairie, where I went back to the hospital as a unit clerk. At The "Queen E II" I made some great friends, had a ton of laughs, and have many fond memories.
Grande Prairie was a roller coaster in the 70's and I was out of work at the hospital many times, and in love with Ron Hawryluk sometimes. Ron and I parted in 1978 and with just a few pennies to spare I did my first "barter" deal, arranging to manage a small apartment block in exchange for the caretakers suite and a utility closet for myself and the kids. Steven mowed the lawns and Marianne vacuumed the hallways at The Pines, and the three of us hung on here together until the kids entered high school.
In 1983 I married another handsome fellow, Ken Unger, and together with his son Wade we left the city for a small farm south of town. I have the very best of memories from that dusty ranch with the rickety barn and stinky septic, especially with the grandkids who would visit their Nanny and Grandpa Ken during the long weekends and summers. It was also here that I left the hospital for my best job ever at the Grovedale Dump, picking up many treasures on the side.
A few pics of the farm ..
By 2006 the workload on the farm started to wear thin, so Ken and I swapped it for a new truck and travel trailer and spent the next three summers as campground managers at the Interlakes campsite in Kananaskis. Those three summer in Alberta were very special, being closer to my siblings and the girls was pure joy, and those hikes in the Rockies often seemed like pure heaven!
Ken and I wrote our last few chapters from the West Kootenays, where we bought a small property just a block from the Kettle River in Midway, BC. After Ken passed in 2018, he sent me the most beautiful female border collie, who fell from the sky and right into my lap. With "Magic" on my heels I discovered a new network of trails, and a wonderful group of quirky and kindred old folks like me at our amazing community garden, who I know will miss me dearly!
As I begin my new journey, I leave behind my son and daughter in law, Steven and Vicki Merrill, my two beautiful grandchildren Reid & Marly Merrill, who is carrying my first great-grandchild, my big sister and best friend Moriah Field (and John), my three brothers from Alberta, Bill Rowley (and Dot in heaven), Ian Rowley (and Alma), and Stuart Rowley (Charlene), my nephews Clint and Will, Jimmy, and Scotty (in Heaven), my nieces Valerie, Colleen and Kaeden, Nancy and Laura, Randi-Lee, Sarah and Anna, my daughter in law Brigitte Edwards, Danielle, Jenna, and Troy Blackburn, and their parents Janine and Terry, Brett, Wade and Christopher Unger, Valerie Shyiak and my god daughter Lauren, and of course my bike-riding and bottle-sorting sidekick from Midway, Jacob Cook.
Here I come sugar ...
Our dear "Dody" passed at home on August 1st, surrounded by her closest family, under a very bright & full Harvest Moon.
The life of this amazing woman with an oversized heart will be celebrated in the community garden in Midway BC, on Friday September 15th, at 11:00 AM.