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Obituary

SHIRLEY GERALDINE WATT (published on April 22, 2006)



SHIRLEY GERALDINE WATT (nee TOMSIC) Tragically and yet peacefully, our beautiful wife, mother, grandma ( Nannie ) and sister was called home to be with her Lord and Saviour on Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 68 years of age. Left to cherish her memory are her beloved husband Patrick William Bill ; son William (Catherine) and grandchildren, Nicholas, Georgina and Margrett; daughter Jamie and grandchildren, Joshua and Jacob; son Allan; son Kristopher (Jennifer) and grandchildren, Reece and Flora; sister Lydia Chegwin; brothers, Jerry (the late Sandra), Nelson, Murray (Darlene), and Leonard Tomsic; youngest sister Marlene Burden (Spencer); and her many nieces and nephews, Patricia and Geraldine; Cara, Corey and Cari; Gregory and Lisa; and Thomas. She was predeceased by her father Cyril and mother Bozena Tomsic, whose pioneering spirit helped conceive our family on Canadian soil. We are at a loss for words to describe the many skills, talents and gifts that Shirley had, and the unique character and personality with which she delivered them. Born January 13, 1938 to emigrant parents from Czechoslovakia, our Mom was birthed into tremendous hardship but learned to make do with what she had and to always be happy with it. As the second child in a large family growing up during the Second World War, she lived on Alexander Avenue in the heart of downtown Winnipeg, where she was often sent on food-finding missions for her family around the docks and rail lines. She learned the art of living frugally and developed impeccable cooking, cleaning, decorating, sewing, gardening, horticulture, arts and crafts, and countless other wonderful homemaking abilities that would later make her homes on Strathcona Street and Thompson Drive a special gem within the neighbourhood. Martha Stewart truly could have been her apprentice, as her many skills simply could not be surpassed. As a child, Shirley loved visiting and helping out at her Dad's bee-farms near the present-day St. Boniface Industrial Park and at Dugald, MB, swimming in the muddy water-hole there, and spending time with friends and family in the rumble seat of her dad's old Nash. With great fondness, Nannie always remembered the times huddled around the hot water pipes for warmth at the home on Alexander, saving her pennies for lime rickeys at the corner-store, and rejoiced when the family finally received electricity in the early 1950s! As a student, Shirley attended Dufferin, Victoria Albert, Hugh John MacDonald and Daniel McIntyre schools, and volunteered for and recalled with special appreciation her time with Canadian Girls in Training (CGIT) at the old St. Andrew's United Church on Elgin and Ellen. She often sang for audiences at the Lodge of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles as well as on the radio, and at the tender age of 17 years old, was crowned as the Manitoba Bee Queen in 1956 - winning a beauty and talent pageant that gained her continent-wide recognition as one of the most beautiful and talented young pin-ups that we have ever seen. Mom then entered the workforce at a very early age, starting as a supply order clerk with the J. H. Ashdown Hardware Company, where she met and fell in love with her lifelong husband and partner Bill. She then moved on to the International Harvester Company and, knowing that he could not let a good thing get away, Dad scooped up his beautiful treasure and married her in 1958. They recently celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary on March 29. As a wife, mother, grandmother and sister, Shirley brought great love, devotion and the special touch that only a mother has. Her family will always recall sumptuous feasts, special Czech delicacies, and creations which revealed her special talent (and style!) using whatever materials or remnants were available. From moosehide moccasins, vests and mitts to cotton and woolen dresses, blankets, costumes and curtains, each was sewn and crafted together in song, sung with a voice that was truly unforgettable, touching the spirit and blessing the lives of all who had an opportunity to hear it. As a teen, she was given permission by the Rev. Fred Douglas and eagerly joined the choir at St. Andrews United Church on Elgin and Ellen. Shirley was always an active part of her congregation and, in her deep love for Christ, she returned the gift that God gave to her in her voice by sharing her singing with anyone who asked. Needless to say, she was always in demand for weddings and funerals. She volunteered for the church and its thrift store throughout most of the years of her life, and continued her benevolence during her attendance at Sturgeon Creek United Church thereafter. Outside of church, the Watt family had many interests and were active in many parts of the community. As avid boat enthusiasts throughout the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, Shirley and her family were very active at Buchanan Marine Ltd., a boatyard on Higgins Avenue near the Louise Bridge, where Mom was bookkeeper and right hand man. She loved spending time around the boats, journeying to lakeside towns and villages in Manitoba, and going for drives along the stretch from Winnipeg Beach to Hecla, even helping at one time to lay the first electrical cables to Gull Harbour by boat back in the early 1970s. Mom always enjoyed an occasional weekend out in Sundown and Piney, MB visiting her brother Jerry and his family. Whether it was gutting geese, trekking through the bush blueberry picking or exploring abandoned houses, she always closed the evening in a spirit of camaraderie and sing-song with her Sundown-Piney folk. We will also always remember how Mom packed us all up every summer to head off for camping trips at Brereton Lake with her brothers and sisters in Dad's Ford Zodiac, and later, in his old Plymouth station wagon to our secluded retreat at Hnausa. After the boatyard years, Shirley focused her love and attention increasingly on her children, grandchildren and her community. Being ever the devoted parent, she volunteered at Isaac Brock School, where 40 years later the teachers still remained in contact with her because of her gracious and generous heart. When the family moved to St. James, she took up volunteering at Athlone and Bannatyne Schools in the St. James area, where she not only taught the kids how to make dolls with dried-apple heads, but helped children to read and offered words of support to those who needed that extra boost. She was a voice of comfort and a source of encouragement and friendship to those who knew her as the cheerful face at the Grace Hospital Muffin Stop from 1990 until 2000 and, after her duties raising the kids were finished, she took up guitar lessons with Sister Dorothy in the St. James-Assiniboia School Division and continued sewing, knitting and decorating the most gorgeous Easter eggs that one could behold. It was with great sadness and regret therefore, that her family assembled in the wake of the tragic fall that took her life. Yet even at the twilight of her life, our beautiful Shirley fought hard to remain with us and peacefully succumbed to her injuries at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, surrounded by her family, the songs that brought her years of joyful happiness and recollections about the beautiful person that we had the privilege of calling wife , Mom , Nannie and sister. Throughout all the years, right to the end, as a woman acquainted with grief and sorrows - and having earned her degrees from the school of hard knocks - Mom never forgot her roots, always trying to instill an appreciation for lessons borne of the harsh realities and truths in life, while at the same time showing us that beauty was all around us, if only we wanted to see it. Above all, she was a friend to the friendless, a lover of the underdog and the disenfranchised, and a caregiver to those who filled her with compassion. She will always remain a part of our hearts. As much as we would have liked to honour her, in accordance with Shirley's wishes, no formal funeral service will be held. The family wishes to thank the Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Service Response Team, Dr. Berrington for his valiant efforts to save Shirley's life, and the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, particularly Dr. McDonald, Dr. Neufeld and Dr. Stimpson, staff members, Cheryl, Donna, Ellen, Kent, Mark and Tegan and Health Sciences Centre Chaplain Ruth, all of whose heartfelt sympathy and compassion helped to lessen the burden we all felt in losing Mom. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Shirley's memory to a charity of one's choice. A Mispah; Nechas Hospodin hledi na mne a na tebe, kdyz se rozejdeme od sebe Mamitschka. Mizpah: May the Lord watch between You and I when we are absent one from another Mamitschka. Shirley's arrangements have been entrusted to the Family Owned Funeral Chapel of: WOJCIK'S ALL BELIEFS FAITHS FUNERAL CHAPEL CREMATORIUM 897 4665


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