Gertrude Ethel Lawrie (nee Webber)

1915 – 2011

Her favourite song was ‘Both Sides Now’ by Joni Mitchell; and she would quit her job every spring because ‘…that way I could distinguish between the years’ she said. The 3rd of 8 children she was born in Rosenfeld, Man on Feb 13, 1915, back of a country store.

The early part of her life was spent bouncing between rental houses and towns often on the advice of her mother’s Ouija board. In the fall of 1923 the family settled in Calgary. They lost brother Joe in the War & sister Mildred to cancer but thanks to her Aunt Gertie’s generosity, my mother trained as a teacher and spent the last years of the Depression through the later 1940’s in one room school houses in farming hamlets. Not to be tied down by any man or board of education’s increasing attempt to rein in her creativity, she stopped teaching and began a series northern odysseys.

A fumble of events found my mother walking in summertime Toronto 1954; my father shot by her on a street car, several stops later he got off and ran back and begged to buy her a coffee. “In my life I had never met anyone like her” he said and they were married on Christmas Eve of that year. Soon they were buying a 20 room home filled with boarders to swing the 4 mortgages, 2 children, night schools and difficulties. Starting as a secretary, eventually becoming copy editor of the Observer magazine, she felt a part of the country getting its identity; pictures of Trudeau, Yorkville filling up with hippies, and reviews of the Canadian novelists all were noted on the galleys she brought home and scribbled on. In 1975 they retired to Pat Bay BC, buying a country cottage and a grocery store.

The community embraced her. Not since her teaching in the Peace River country had she felt such a sense of belonging. She began to write a family history and Juvenile fiction. When we lost my brother Dal in a car wreck 1991 a large light for her was extinguished, yet she continued her stream of letters to the editor in causes ranging from conservation to social justice. She lost our father Doug in 2009; she is survived by her son Rick (Barb), granddaughter Sarah d’Ambros-Lawrie, sister Edna Keene (nee Webber). She was, in a word, unique. My mother never failed to show us the way to the adventure. Heartfelt thanks to the staff at Resthaven Lodge and Dr. Cadger.


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