Alva Mabel (Pendergast) MacDonald April 22, 1922 - April 14, 2020
The little spitfire has flown her last sortie. In the early hours of Tuesday, April 14th, 2020, eight days shy of her 98th birthday, our tiny, amazing, lionhearted mum, Alva MacDonald died.
Alva and her non-identical twin sister Merle were born in Lipton, Saskatchewan, just after WWI and just in time for the Great Depression. (We do not believe they were to blame for either.) Daughters #3 & #4 of 6 and children #5 & #6 of 9. It’s uncertain what life skills the Pendergast children learned, other than Catholicism and how to make a penny go further than a penny has any right to go. (A penny was a small coin made of… Never mind.) Alva, like most of her siblings, couldn’t cook worth beans. Or cook beans, either, for that matter. (Picture lovely French beans that squeaked like rubber when you chewed them. And chewed and chewed…)
Alva was a shade over 5 feet tall but she never took guff from anyone. For example, early on in her working life she had a very brief stint as an elevator operator. (Yes, boys and girls, once upon a time that was a career option!) Lasted most of a morning. Until the moment a man stepped on and pressed the button for the floor he wanted all by himself. Mum took off her cap (There was a uniform!) and handed it to him, saying, “You seem to know what you’re doing, the job’s yours.”
Mum had a sweet singing voice and she loved to dance. Also smoking, she was keen on that. Toyed with turning professional but after almost 40 years of 2 packs a day she quit cold turkey. She remained a nonsmoker for her final 40 years. She was an avid bingo player (See: professional smoking.) and a sweet, generous, kind-hearted person.
My sister Heather reminds me that mum was unafraid of flying in the face of convention, whether that was marrying a man 10 years her junior (our father, Murdo) or walking her children, deliberately, through a crowd of white people at the front of the bus to sit with and converse with a black man at the back of the bus who was being shunned. Despite the catty remarks of the other passengers.
On top of being the primary caregiver to three children, mum worked most of her adult life, much of it in health care. She was an OR booking clerk at hospitals in Edmonton and the Vancouver area, the last 20 years or so of her working life at the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, BC.
She loved her family fiercely, once telling some vicious nuns with whom she was in trouble at school: “You leave my sister Illyene out of this!” All 3 of her children recall her sticking up for us in dealings with teachers and principals. Occasionally, we were innocent and had indeed been persecuted unjustly. (Rare, but it happened!)
She had a terrific sense of humour which was absolutely necessary for survival in a house full of Macs. All of us liked nothing better than making her laugh so hard she was forced to run to the bathroom. (See: Flying the Pendergast flag.)
Alva was predeceased by her husband Murdo and 7 of her 8 siblings: Edra, Ted, Jack, Illyene, Merle, Chuck, and, only a couple of weeks before her own death, her sister Pat. Alva is survived by her children Stu (Teri), Heather Taylor (Gord), and Murray (Dayle), her delightful granddaughters Jesica, Grace, Lesley, Fyve, and Emily, her great grandchildren Ross and Emma, and her two surrogate granddaughters Erinn and Teagan, as well as her loving sister Donni Walker, several lifelong friends, in particular Vi Kuntz, and more nieces and nephews and great-this and twice removed-that than you could shake a stick at. Though you’re certainly welcome to try.
We, Alva’s children, would like to thank the staffs at Clarendon Court Assisted Living and especially the Royal Arch Masonic Home for looking after mum so very well for so many years. The obvious love you had for our mother was a great comfort to us all as she drifted further from shore.
Due to COVID19 a Celebration of Life is at some mysterious future date. There may be bingo involved. There will be laughter and love.
One last story. Years before meeting Murdo, mum dated a Frenchman named Lionel. When she broke it off, Lionel said:
“Penny, if you ‘ad been nicer to me, you could ‘ave been my wife.”
To which she replied:
“Lionel, t’ank ‘eaven I was not nicer to you.”
Goodbye, mum. We shall miss you forever.