Mary was born on November 20, 1918 she died on March 9th, 2020. Within mere days of her leaving us, the COVID 19 Global Crisis hit Canada. In what we as a family view as a fascinating irony, it was 101 years earlier that Mary arrived in this world at the peak of another global crisis, the Spanish Flu. With the uncertain world health situation our family had decided to delay her interment to a small family event in Weyburn in August 2021.
Mary’s life was filled with unconditional love, caring, hard work and frugality, all traits demanded by the challenges of the rural Canadian prairie in the early twentieth century. She was quiet and shy, extremely courteous (perhaps to a fault), but beneath this quiet external peaceful persona was a fierce and quietly determined independence. Mary always believed in continuous learning, hard work, sharing and giving back to the community. Family members cannot recall her ever speaking unkindly of others.
Mary was born at home on the homestead farm near the no longer existing Worcester Sask. to her British trained nurse mother Ethel Symes, and her father, bank manager turned farmer, James McNeil. Both were staunch practitioners of the Presbyterian-United faith. Growing up Mary was a dedicated learner and she instilled into her sons the importance of education and training. She would ride her pony to her one room schoolhouse every day. After school she on her pony explored the natural prairie and the huge Buffalo rubbing stone on the edge of the farm. Mary became an accomplished horsewoman and rode regularly into her early adult life. At the age of 16, she lost her father in the midst of extreme drought and the Great Depression. Her mother, the matriarch of the family, Uncle Fred, her always close little brother Malcolm, and Mary were left to manage the family farm during a difficult time. It was then, helping to keep the family farm going after her father’s death that Mary came to understand and develop her belief that Canada and our world would only be strong when we kept family close, cared for each other and shared our good fortunes with others.
In 1940, Mary met and married Kasper Adam Wanner. At the beginning of W.W. II national origin, religious difference and limited income were challenges that Mary and Kasper faced…but love prevailed. They rented a small farm near McTaggart and then soon moved on to her beloved Uncle Fred’s small homestead farm, where sons “Jimmy” and “Bobbie” were born and raised. Mary and Kasper were very socially active contributing their time to school, community and church activities virtually all of their lives. She joined a women’s curling team (and won a battery lantern she used every day for the rest of her life) and nodding to her independence became a Cub Scout leader during a time when women were not normally doing ‘men’s work’. In 1975, Mary and Kasper retired from the farm and moved into Weyburn where they continued to be active volunteers in St. Vincent de Paul Parish, as many Weyburn community organizations.
In his later life Kasper developed dementia and so they relocated to Medicine Hat to be near Robert and Joan’s family. In 1993, Mary lost her love, Kasper. The quiet force that was Mary was determined to be independent so she got a bus pass, became friends with the drivers, and became a regular volunteer at the Medicine Hat Hospital and the Veiner Centre. In 2010, at the age of 91, Mary was recognized by the City of Medicine Hat with a ‘Golden Hero Award’ for what she called ‘…helping the old people…’
In addition to Kasper, her father James McNeil predeceased her in 1937; her mother, Ethel Symes in 1978; and her brother, Malcolm McNeil in 2012; as well as her numerous brother and sister-in-laws.
Mary leaves her two sons; James (Rita) and Robert (Bob) (Joan); four granddaughters, Shauna (Vincent Crowley) and their children, Maiah, Cian and Ella; Stephanie (Trent Bjorndahl) and children, Nathan and Joshua; Robyn (Shawn Lewis) and children, Xavier, Amelia and Mira; Nicoelle (Tyler Wiens) and children Zachary, Marinn and Gibson; grandson, Robert (Christine) Wanner and son Mathew; grandson, Denean Wanner; as well as sister-in-law, Janet McNeil; and numerous nephews and nieces.
For her 12 great grandchildren and numerous great grand nieces and nephews she leaves her endless love and a message of “…be happy, share, help others, and be the best that you can be.”
A Private Family Invite Graveside Service was held on Saturday, August 14, 2021 at 10:30 a.m. from Hillcrest Cemetery, Weyburn, SK with Fr. Francis Plaparampil, Celebrant. Prayers and eulogy was shared by the family members with interment of her ashes following.
For those wishing to join the family virtually, please follow the live stream video by opening Mary’s memorial page on RD Family Funeral Chapel’s website starting at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 14, 2021.
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