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Publication: Globe and Mail, The
Issue: 3 March 2011, page L8
Title: Mary Pauline Thomas (Lives Lived)
Web Link: link
Great-great-grandmother, farmer, fashionista. Born March 22, 1909, in Holdfast, Sask. Died Feb. 1 in Kelowna, B.C., of old age, at 101.
In her 101 years, Mary Thomas lived a life full of love, faith, kindness, humour and grace.
She was the fifth of 15 children of German-Russian immigrants Frank and Rosina Anheliger, and spent her early years working on the family farm and looking after her younger siblings. Mary was the first of two people to complete Grade 8 in the town schoolhouse.
In 1930, Mary wed Frank Thomas. They had seven children: Al, Gene, Genevieve, Lydia, Louise, Fred and Debra. At 45, she was admitted to hospital for the first time in her life to give birth to their youngest child.
Mary and Frank farmed the family land until 1948, when they sought a better future for their children by moving to Kelowna, B.C. Mary worked at a local fruit-packing house until her retirement in 1972.
In 1970, Frank died of cancer. Near the end of her life, Mary reflected that she had spent 40 years married and 40 years a widow. After Frank?s death, she travelled to Europe and Israel and learned to drive a car ? she had only ever driven a horse and buggy. Her adventures in driving only lasted a couple of years though. After being involved in a car accident, Mary decided it was not for her. She spent her golden years travelling by bus throughout British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan to visit family.
Mary saw many firsts in her lifetime, but the most important to her was women?s right to vote. No matter the political party, if a woman was running for office she always had Mary?s vote.
Having lived through the Depression, Mary had a knack for tailoring clothes and altering them to create new outfits. In her later years, she complained about having to buy new underwear because it was a waste of money if she wasn?t going to be around to wear them out. She always took great care in how she looked, without being partial to makeup. Not a woman to mince words, she once politely told one of her teenage granddaughters, ?You may want to wash your face ? you don?t want to give a man a bad impression about you.?
Mary raised a large but close-knit family who gathered every five years for her last 25 years to celebrate her life. Six months before her death, she moved into a nursing home. She was adamant that a photo of her great-grandson serving in Afghanistan be put up. Suffering from memory loss, she said she couldn?t remember who he belonged to, but she was very proud.
Ten days before her death, Mary suffered a heart attack. She spent her last days with several of her grandchildren and her oldest and youngest daughters by her side. She leaves seven children, 17 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren, four great-great-grandchildren and her youngest sister Pauline to celebrate her life and her love.
By Alexis Carlson, Mary?s granddaughter.