Obituary of Muriel Stanley
It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Muriel Gladys Lucy Stanley, a longtime resident of Dawson Creek, British Columbia, on Wednesday, May 3, 2023, at the age of 80 years.
Muriel Gladys Lucy Johnson was born July 30th, 1942, in Fairview, Alberta and passed peacefully with family by her side in the wee hours of the morning on May 3rd.
Muriel is predeceased by her parents, Alvin and Ann Johnson, her baby boy Clark Stanley and her husband, Edmund Stanley.
Muriel is survived by her gaggle of chicks: Daughters Jessie, Judy, June and Jaki; Sons in law Rod and Bob, Grandchildren Amy, Erin, Matthew and Taylor; Grandsons and Granddaughters in-law Ian, Kyle, Samantha and Alara; and finally, the lights of her life, her great grands: Dylan, Quin, Isla, Lucas and Poppy.
A week and a half ago, as Mom and I were on a plane down to Vancouver Island for some R & R, we visited about the book I was listening to on Audible. Mom had already read it in hardcover, so I was waxing and whining poetic about this specific author taking 25 minutes to describe something as insignificant as a cloud. Both mom and I loved authors who could sprinkle in enough imagery where we would become transported into the moment, but seriously folks, we both agreed that "Sometimes a cloud is just a cloud."
Well, folks, Mom was not just a Mom, so I will embellish to my heart's content. I will use hyperbole, and pepper metaphors and similes left and right; occasionally, I might end a sentence with a preposition. And when I am finished, we will have only scratched the surface of who Mom was and why her loss is heartbreaking to those who knew her. Sit back and relax – this could take a minute or two.
Mom was the only daughter of Alvin and Ann Johnson; and being an only child, had an extremely close relationship with her parents. My mom called Grandpa Johnson “Daddy" to his dying day. When we moved, they followed us to Vancouver Island and Dawson Creek. She worshipped her parents, lived for her parents, and cared for her parents — until they both passed away. That loving relationship became the model for her relationship with us and, consequently, the model we used with our children. Family is everything.
Perhaps it was because she was an only child that she curated special "sister" relationships with the women in her life. Evelyn Stanley might have been her sister-in-law via marriage, but mom considered her to be her blood-related sister and loved her fiercely. She felt the same about Rose Larson. About 6 weeks ago, Mom called me to tell me that she had received the loveliest gift in the mail from Rose. It was a necklace with a pendant of two little girls on a swing; representing best friends and sisterhood. That was their bond of friendship — one of sisterhood.
Her childhood was spent in Bluesky, Alberta, where she attended school and church and involved herself in every extracurricular activity possible. Her love for reading came early and quickly, and she had a voracious appetite for learning. As a daughter of a teacher, her mother took her to school long before it was mandatory to go.
Her love of learning was life-long. Mom attended the University of Alberta and studied education. She then started her career as a teacher in the small community of Worsley. It was at this point in her life that she met my dad.
I will read something Mom wrote in my father's 65th birthday book. These books are a tradition in our family, started by my Grandma, and passed down to mom, where a 'book' is made and given to the person of honour. Whether it was the wedding couple, the new mother, or the birthday girl or boy. The book comprises odds and sods magazine clippings, mostly ripped from the National Inquirer and occasionally porn magazines. For example, the first page would replicate a birth announcement with a headline clipping, "The baby was a medical mystery, baffling scientists," and then a photo of a newborn monkey. The book would be full of funny quips and witty captions and delight the reader.
Mom was already gathering clippings for a book she was making for Jessie’s 60th birthday. I guess I am going to have to take at stab at that Jess.
I digress. In this book, Mom wrote, "Almost 41 years ago (remember this was for my dad's 65th), I had the opportunity to meet the man of my dreams. He was handsome, funny and unlike any other person I had met. He liked to hunt and fish and eat all sorts of wild things. I had never been even close to a firearm, nor had I ever eaten wild meat. Until the night we met, that is. As we sat in his red international pickup on the banks of the Little Burnt, Edmund reached under the seat to show me something. I thought, "Oh yeah." Then he brought out a small handgun to show me. I figured that this was it; I was a goner. He was chuckling under his breath but immediately convinced me that I was in no danger. Whether it was pure gratitude to be alive or that he was so good-looking, I looked forward to seeing him again. The next time was the clincher: I had found my soul mate and the love of my life".
Mom was living in a teacherage, and she taught at Worsley School when she and Dad married in April of 1963. In this tiny teacherage, they lived and brought home their first daughter Jessie in September 1963. The teacherage was cold and overrun with mice. My mom was absolutely terrified of mice. We heard stories about when wee Jessie would lay with Dad on the bed as he picked off mice left and right with his 22. I wonder what my citified mom thought of that 'adventure'; she was now an active participant. I'll bet she never imagined where her life would lead.
I was born in December of 1964, and at time, Mom and Dad were already building our new home on the Stanley Homestead site directly across from the log home where Dad had grown up.
I believe it was in 1965 that they moved themselves, Jessie, and me into the new house. That house is the one we lived in until leaving Worsley in 1978.
Not long after they moved into their new home, Dad's brother lost his wife, leaving him alone with his three children Ross, Tracy and Kelly. They all moved into the new house with Mom and Dad and lived with us for a time. I can only imagine how difficult that would be, managing a new household with a toddler, a baby and another complete family. Mom took it in stride, and I am confident that my mom was loving, caring and kind with the new chicks in her henhouse. I am unsure if Ross, Tracy or Kelly remember this time in their lives, but recently I came upon a picture of my Grandma Johnson with her arms around Kelly. They were certainly loved.
In my father's eulogy, I said that Mom and Dad were the original power couple: farming and building their business. It was a partnership with many discussions around the dinner table regarding purchases and contracts. Dad looked to Mom for advice and guidance. We have penned our own phrase WWMD, which means "What Would Mom Do" or "What Would Muriel Do." She becomes that little voice of reason on our shoulder, whispering to you, "Okay, kick and scream if you want to for a minute, but then we have to be smart about this."
In the early years on the farm, Mom and Dad had pigs. I remember stories about this giant ol' mamma pig that took a run at Mom in the pen with her barely escaping intact over the wood fence. I recall baby pigs in a roaster in the kitchen under a warming light. Jessie talks about helping Mom load the burn barrels from the yard into the truck and taking them to the dump, where we would be entertained by the black bears. That is what you did for entertainment in the late 60s and early 70s — you went to the dump to watch the black bears.
Between the kids, the farm and Stanley's Trucking, Mom only had a little time to devote to teaching full-time. She occasionally taught as a substitute, but never went back full-time. That didn't mean that she quit being a teacher. Here comes some hyperbole: Mom was the best teacher, mentor, and coach. No one listened to you like my mom did — her entire body leaning forward to catch every nuance of the conversation, perfectly placed empathetic gestures, her eyes following you with kindness, worry, or love. We laughed the other night when we said mom was the original life coach and, until very recently, her phone was a lifeline for many of us in this room — we would call because we knew she would listen without judgment.
June, or "Noonie" as she was referred to, was born on Mom and Dad's anniversary, April 15th in 1969, and now there were three of us chicks. Dad was away working all winter, and the warm months were spent tending to the farm. My mom had a HUGE garden with row upon row of potatoes, peas, cabbage, lettuce, beets and more. This HUGE garden had to be weeded on an endless loop starting at one end, and by the time you got to the other end, you needed to begin again. The harvest of that garden was a team project, and Auntie Evelyn was often involved with shelling peas, blanching, and bagging. Jessie, June, and I would eat more peas than we shelled. Grandma Johnson was also there helping inside the kitchen while Grandpa fixed everything that needed to be fixed on the farm. My father was not a carpenter, so it fell on my Grandpa Johnson's shoulders to be the Mr. Fix It.
I recall the rainbow of water spray when all the veggies were laid out on the grass and hosed off before drying in the sun. I can still smell the scent of souring cabbage in the kitchen as it sat in the crock and gurgled and fermented its way into the sour cabbage heads that Mom would then can in glass jars and have on hand for cabbage rolls. It’s funny — the smell of sauerkraut and sour heads fermenting is the perfume of our youth! Others may find it offensive, but to us, it was comforting. That and the smell of bleach! My mom used bleach as if she had shares in the company. I love the smell of hot, bleachy, soapy water — it reminds me of when mom would be cleaning. She had the whitest whites hanging on the clothesline as they became crisp in the sun. Even in the winter, diapers were hung on the clothesline in the winter sun until they froze, and then they would go into the dryer to soften.
Jessie recalls Mom and Dad floating around the dugout in a little boat, pouring bottles of Perfex into the water. Mom would put a capful of bleach into our bath water, and I remember how quickly it cleared the rusty minerals from the water. Until we moved to Vancouver Island, I thought I had auburn hair – apparently, it was just the bleach!
When we lived in Worsley, Mom involved herself in the community. She and Auntie Evelyn were instrumental in creating Worsley's first harvest fair. Mom was actively involved in the Junior Forest Wardens, and Jessie, June and I were a part of the club. June tells me that she once got left behind at Worsley School on Forest Wardens night. She was playing with the Janitor's children, and we plumb forgot!
Because Dad worked away from home, Mom took on so much herself. She always said, "Drive it like you own it," whether it is a grain truck loaded with kids and supplies travelling up the barely there road to Running Lake or operating the combine. Speaking of Running Lake, that was a place where many happy memories were made. Auntie Evelyn and Mom, with kids in tow, headed up the road to Running Lake to camp. They just packed up and went! No husbands are required – just do it.
Unbeknownst to myself, because I was young and oblivious, my mom got pregnant in the summer of 1973 with Jaki. I had no clue she was pregnant, so imagine the surprise on November 22nd when my sisters and I were called into the office at school to be told that mom had given birth to a preemie baby, and they were headed to the University Hospital. 2-pound, 5 ounce Jaki stayed in the University of Alberta hospital until she reached the 5-pound goal. She came home on a frigid February night, and my sisters and I finally got to greet her. I thought they had brought home a cat because of the sound she was making.
A year or so later, mom gave birth prematurely to a baby boy who they named Clark. He did not survive and is buried in Worsley Cemetery.
On a crisp September morning in 1977, while mom drove Jessie, June and me to school, my 39-year-old father decided to have a heart attack. Mom returned from depositing us at school to find Dad lying on the floor in the living room with wee Jaki nearby. Long story short (because you all know I could make this even longer), Dad had a massive heart attack and needed open heart surgery. The doctors did not want to offer him surgery — they said he wouldn't survive it. He had a doctor who advocated for him and said, "Hey guys (docs were all men), " this man is 39 years old — let's throw everything at this, including the kitchen sink."
During this transition between heart attack and heart surgery, the decision was made to sell the family farm and relocate to Vancouver Island, because Dad wanted Mom and us girls to live somewhere nice and he didn’t think he had long to live.
Mom and her parents worked themselves numb getting ready for the farm sale. She stood strong and capable and was the NORTH STAR my sisters and I always refer to her as being.
In April 1978, the farm sale took place, and we moved to Vancouver Island in May.
I have to stop momentarily and share something that doesn't really fit anywhere but needs to be said. We called mom Muriel Andretti, because no one could drive as fast or aggressively on loose gravel as she could. The girls and I remember trips to Fairview in our large car as we 'surfed' the loose gravel — whoosh, whoosh. She always drove fast, and even two weeks ago, she drove past my house, a playground zone, going above the limit. If you ever drove with Mom, you can relate.
Mom loved Vancouver Island. Everything about it, from the salty air to the incredible growing conditions, to yes, even the rain. She embraced her new life! She made friends, and when we purchased our second boat, the Kapai, she got her captain's license so she could take the boat out herself on day and overnight trips. June and Jaki have some very precious memories of going out on the boat with Mom. Where was Dad? Well, after he figured out he might actually live a little longer, he headed to Calgary and got a job as a consultant engineer with most of his contracts in the Peace Country. He would return home after weeks away and think he was the boss, but in reality, Mom was our boss, and a rebuke from him would be met with, "Mom said we could."
Mom loved the Island, whereas Dad loved the thought of the Island but not the reality.
We moved back to the Peace Country in 1980 and lived on 113th Avenue right beside Helen and Percy Bumstead who became dear friends.
Mom went back to work when June was in high school. She started working at Dare's Fashions and, after that, another clothing/fabric store. Mom loved to quilt, so being amongst the fabrics was like a coyote guarding the sheep. Mom involved herself in as many community activities as possible. She could be counted on to go door-to-door fundraising for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Red Shield Appeal. She was an avid volunteer during provincial and municipal elections, and I inherited her love of politics.
June and Jaki didn't make it any easier on Mom than Jessie and I did. Jaki tells of a story where she and her friends had a (cough) sleepover in her playhouse (I think she was 14) and ended up getting drunk on lemon gin and wandering down to the neighbor’s. Mom came to her rescue and took (poured) Jaki home. That was Mom — she would be there when you needed her, and it wasn't ‘til the following day that the debrief would happen. You were safe ‘til then.
It was during the mid-1980s that Grandma Johnson was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and Mom's life truly was set on its path. Mom was on a mission to learn everything she could about the disease. Mom was instrumental in starting the first Alzheimer's support group in Dawson Creek; to assist caregivers in coping with the disease. She supported her father in his struggle to cope with the constant reminder of losing his life mate. Mom sat on the board at Peace River Haven and worked alongside others for almost 10 years to make the Intermediate Care Facility one of the best in the area. Mom would bring Amy, Erin and Matthew to the facility to visit Grandma Johnson and other seniors, teaching them to not fear the aged and the sick. Many people have commented on their tenderness to the residents and the positive impact it had on their lives. It was her intent to provide positive, loving stimulus to those residents who may not have families nearby and her unwavering belief that it made a dramatic difference in their experience.
After Grandma Johnson passed, Mom continued to work with the Alzheimer’s Society and eventually became the Northern BC Regional Alzheimer’s Society representative until her retirement.
In 2009, Mom was awarded the BRITISH COLUMBIA ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING SERVICE and travelled to Victoria to receive her award. Finally, some public recognition for a life committed to the service of others.
I have to mention Mom's special relationship with two of our Japanese Exchange Students. Reiko came to live with us for a time as part of an initiative of Northern Lights College. The idea was to immerse our exchange students into our way of life and culture. We immersed Reiki right into becoming our adopted sister, which continued when Reiko's sister Mari came to live with Mom and Dad. We are proud to call Reiko and Mari our sisters, and I know they are heartbroken to lose Mom. Reiko and Mari, I know you are watching this — Mom loved you and was so looking forward to seeing Mari this summer.
Did you know that Mom was a Star Wars fan? Yup! It was a tradition that when a new Star Wars movie was released, she and Jaki went to the theatre to see the show. Jaki also talks about her and Mom celebrating 'Un-valentines' on February 15th each year. Jaki explains it like this: "Well, mom and I both decided that we didn't like Valentine's Day — mostly because I was single and she was being supportive, so we celebrated Un-valentine's Day on the 15th and gave each other gifts (everything was marked down the next day) and if we sent flowers we wouldn’t pick valentines colours.”
When Jaki told me this, I had no clue that they did this each year. That is the essence of who Mom was . . . she was special and unique to each of us and had a special bond that didn't need to be shared, or shouted from the rooftops. She kept our secrets, listened to our stories, and unconditionally loved us.
After Mom passed away, we sat around her kitchen table and shared some memorable moments we had experienced with Mom. Let's admit it — every moment with Mom was special. I shared how Mom and I would have deep conversations that bloomed from a simple statement like, "Mom, I am fairly certain the downfall of civilization began when people stopped ironing". Jaki shared that she called Mom every day at 5 pm just to talk.
Jessie and Mom had a very special bond that one can only have with the eldest child. Mom knew Jessie as being the most capable of the family — ready and able to shoulder any crisis that would befall them. While saying that, Mom worried about how much burden Jessie could carry.
June and Mom shared a love of big words, reading, and deep thoughts. Mom and June would talk for hours about life, often with June finding out the answer to What would Mom Do.
Mom's green eyes crinkled when she smiled, and she laughed easily. She appreciated SMART, FUNNY, WITTY people, and even if the comment was borderline inappropriate (like it sometimes was), Mom would laugh.
Friends have said that sitting at our table was like entering the lightning round of a game show — you must lean in to keep up. Fast conversation, peppered with witty retorts and commentary — no one was safe, especially a newbie. If you survived the ‘table talks’ without running scared, you were welcome to enter the family.
The love of witty humour has been passed along to the grandchildren. They knew Mom loved the value of the quick interjection of pithy comments into a conversation. Amy, Erin, Matthew, and Tayler have all got the magic — smart & funny!
Because Mom was such a young grandmother, the lines sometimes got blurry between parenting and grandparenting. The kids knew that Grandma loved them unconditionally, but she also wasn't afraid to assert her authority and orchestrate a time-out. Of course, after the time out, there were fresh buns to eat or peanut butter cookies warm out of the oven, so take that with a grain of salt. Speaking of peanut butter cookies — I can't eat a perfectly cooked peanut butter cookie — I prefer a burnt-on-the-bottom cookie. I am not saying that I developed that from mom's cookie-making, but I am not saying that I didn't.
This was also about the age when my children began referring to Mom as Grandma Lucy. It started as a joke because Mom disliked the name Lucy — one of her middle names, but it stuck, and that was her name. They were called Grandpa Stanley and Grandma Lucy.
The Grandchildren were mom’s everything, and she always spoke to them at the level where they were in life, whether it be struggling with school work, boyfriend or girlfriend trouble, marriage difficulties or life issues. Mom was so incredibly proud of her grandchildren! When the kids were little, she would pack the troupe up and go out camping for a couple of weeks. A big bucket or bowl of hot soapy water on the camping table for washcloth baths washed away dirty feet before bedtime. Then the kids would climb into the motorhome beds beneath the crispest sheets that smelled like sunshine. If you were ever lucky enough to stay at moms, you would know that her sheets were unlike any you would lay on at a five-star hotel. In fact, a couple of years ago, Tayler said that he and Alara were going to buy new sheets, and Alara suggested jersey sheets. Tayler said nope! "They needed to get the crispy style sheets, almost hard sheets, because they reminded him of grandma." Don't get me wrong — they were not uncomfortable. At first, they were crisp, but when your body warmed, they became soft and comforting. Oh, and the pillowcases would be ironed!
Those same grandchildren got married and had children of their own — mom and dad became great-grandparents!!! I would love to show the video of Mom's birthday in 2014, where Matthew and Samm gave her a card with baby booties inside. Mom opened the card, saw the booties and then exclaimed with an expletive and tears and hugs and more expletives as she realized she was going to be a great-grandmother.
Not long after that, Erin and Kyle were able to share the excitement of pregnancy, and Mom was over the moon! Two Great Grands! Dylan Jack was born on March 29th, 2015, and Quin Muriel was born on June 23rd, 2015.
Both Dylan and Quin had an extremely close relationship with Mom. Quin called her GG, and Dylan called her Grandma. Mom loved that Dylan and Quin made themselves at home when they came over — helping themselves to food in the fridge or grabbing the hot chocolate from the cupboard. Sometimes fresh cookies too! Their visits always included some inappropriate television like Dr. Phil or the National Geographic channel that showed things like volcanoes erupting or tornadoes. Throw in the odd 48 hours with a true crime murder mystery and the kids were well on their way to needing therapy.
Isla Rose was born on November 20th, 2017, and Lucas George was born on November 30th, 2018. The cherry on top was Poppy James, born September 9th, 2021.
I need to chat for a moment about the other chicks in Mom's life. The ones who weren't born to her but were very much her children. Rod and Bob were very important to my mom. Rod and Bob would do anything for Mom — they loved her so much, and she loved them. June's husband Pat, who passed away, was also important to Mom. Mom moved to Calgary for months to be with June after Pat died and was the rock June needed to carry on. Ian was extremely helpful to both Mom and Dad. Ian hired Bjorn, a videographer, to come up to Dawson Creek and film Mom and Dad speaking about their lives. Priceless memory — thank you, Ian.
Mom loved that Tayler had found Alara — who is loyal and committed to him. Mom was looking forward to seeing where their life was going and being alongside them on their journey. She was so happy at their wedding.
Samantha had a very unique relationship with Mom. First, Samm’s last name was Johnson, so they shared that. Secondly, they were both only children, which bonded them on a level that others could not comprehend. Mom told me only last week that Samantha had grown on her like a second heart and couldn't imagine life without her — Samantha, she truly loved you like her own.
On April 26th, Mom and I embarked on what I now call the 2023 Kindness Tour. I call it the kindness tour because everyone we interacted with was incredibly kind. Everyone from the security folks at the Fort St John airport — who treated Mom with so much kindness and dignity — to the flight attendants we had on our flight to Vancouver Island. I had planned this quick trip in March when the snow was blowing, and we both 'needed to get out of Dodge.' Mom wasn't feeling super well, but we were committed to going. I said, "You don't need to do anything, Mom — I will get wheelchairs at the airport, pick up coffee and cream for our hotel condo and you can just sit and enjoy the ocean breeze." She was excited, too and looked forward to it so much.
We laughed hysterically when we ordered room service that first night. I was trying to order a light beer, and the hotel was telling me, "We have something-something with hints of grapefruit, or we have something-something brewed adjacent to a lavender field, etc." and I said, "Do you have a Coors Light?"
The following day at breakfast, we both ordered Eggs Benedict, and I said in a very snooty voice, "Mom, these eggs are from a local hen house and came from a hen called Bertie, who loves it when the owner sings her to sleep. The ham is locally sourced from a man named Joe, who burst into tears when he took his prized pig to auction" She laughed and laughed.
We made our way over to Mill Bay, spent the day looking around at our old house and our schools, and drove around Shawnigan Lake.
That night we got tucked into our condo unit in Cowichan Bay, and Mom was not feeling well. My cousins Marsha and David and I could not convince Mom to go to the hospital that night, but I convinced her to go on Friday morning. At Duncan Hospital, she received the devastating news that she had metastatic cancer, and the doctor felt she had perhaps 3 – 5 months to live. Again, the kindness continued with the most amazing nurses and doctors at the hospital.
We went back to Cowichan Bay and stopped ocean-side, where she made the call to Jessie. Next, we called June and Jaki. We decided to stay until Monday because now that we knew what was happening, she wanted to stay. We had no clue that things would deteriorate so rapidly.
The next day Mom was making lists and calling people. Jessie and I called our children. Mom was in 'need to make this happen' mode and wanted to start figuring things out.
By Sunday morning, I realized my mom was so weak that I could not get her home bymyself. I called Jessie to come down and help — we would work together to get her on our commercial flight Monday night. By that evening, I knew Mom would not be able to fly commercial, and I reached out on Facebook to see if one of my friends had access to a private aircraft to charter her home. Within minutes Cathy York had not only committed to helping us; but had pilots lined up with their charter aircraft to depart Victoria at 10:00 am.
Monday. We got Mom to the airport, and she was fading quickly. All Jessie and I were thinking about was GET MOM HOME. I pulled up next to the aircraft, and the pilots helped to get Mom onto the plane — they were incredibly kind and caring.
About 50 minutes from Dawson Creek, Mom was not doing well, and I asked the pilot to arrange for an ambulance. He called Cathy York, and she and Curtis arranged for the ambulance to meet the aircraft, and both of them were at the airport to assist when we landed. I will never ever forget the kindness and generosity of Curtis and Cathy York.
That was Monday afternoon, and Mom needed to get stabilized and figure out what exactly was happening. She wanted to go home — be in her own bed. Alas, that was not to be. Instead, our entire family gathered around her at the hospital, shared our love for her, told stories, laughed, and cried. Something we didn't get the opportunity to do with our father.
Mom passed peacefully, knowing that she was loved.
I want to end this with a poem we found tucked into one of Mom’s photo albums.
"A Mother's Day Wish"
The bluest of skies
The fairest of Mays
The best of good health and
The Gladdest of days
The dearest of blessing
That life can impart
And love to you, mother
Right straight from the heart."
A Funeral Service will be held on Tuesday, May 9, 2023 at 2:00pm from Reynars Funeral Chapel. Reverend Marilyn Carroll will officiate. Interment will be at a later date.
For friends so wishing, donations may be made in memory of Muriel to the South Peace Seniors Access Services Society, #117 10200 8th Street, Dawson Creek, BC, V1G 3P8.
Very Respectfully, Reynars Funeral Home and Crematorium
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