Margaret Millar



My mother, Margaret Agnes Millar (nee McLean), always said “I have had a wonderful life” and that was true. Mom had a large family who loved her and her friends were many. However, God, in His infinite love, saw her struggling and, on Sunday, October 4, 2020, at 10:40 pm, He took her home. Mom was 95 years, 1 month and 2 days.

Mom is lovingly remembered by daughter, Gail Bamber (David), two grandchildren, Robert Martyn (Carissa) and Michele Hardie (Barry) and five great grandchildren, Krista Arnold, Shanna Martyn, Sophie Martyn, Matthew Hardie, and Joshua Hardie. She is also survived by the last of her siblings, a younger brother, William (Bill) McLean and a sister-in-law, Beryl McLean.

Mom was predeceased by her husband, John Millar, in 2005 after 59 years of marriage and, by her sisters, Ruth, Ede, Dot, Mary, and Charl as well as her brothers Jim, Edwin Jr., and Ian.

Mary Jane (nee McFadzen) and Edwin Loughlin McLean brought Mom into the world on September 2, 1925. She was the 5th oldest in a family of 10 children. Times were tough back then but there was plenty of love. It was explained by her Gram (Edith Emma McLean) that she had been born under a lucky star, and that only good things would come to her. There wasn’t much money around but Gram told her she was as good as anyone and that she could be anything she put her mind to. That message carried Mom throughout her entire life.

Growing up Mom was called Mag by her family and close friends. Her dad had called her “Mag” because she talked a lot, just like a magpie. In later years, she referred to herself as “Marg”.

Mom completed Grade 11 and, at the age of 17, she worked for two years as a clerk with Metcalf Hamilton Kansas City Bridge, a company that was responsible for the building of the highway to Alaska. In 1944, when she was 19, Mom enlisted in the Navy with her girlfriend. She was stationed in Prince Edward Island. In 1945, at the end of her leave in Montreal, Mom met Dad, who was also in the Navy, at Rosie’s Bar. When Mom returned to Edmonton, Dad called her for a date and the rest is “history,” as they say.

Mom and Dad were married in Edmonton in 1946 but left shortly thereafter for Vancouver where Dad began working in the family jewelry store (Knowles Jewelry). On December 7, 1946, I was born. A year later we moved back to Edmonton for Dad to start a new job with Swift’s Canadian Meat Packing Plant. As a salesman, our family moved several times over the course of Dad’s working life. Mom took all of this in stride and she would get us settled and then proceed to become involved in the community.

We always know people who can sit on their hands when volunteers are needed but Mom wasn’t one of them. While in Calgary, Mom assisted in developing the Calgary Newcomers Club and was a charter member of the Cal-Nu-Grads. When we returned to Edmonton, Mom was instrumental in starting up the Edmonton Newcomers Club. The Shrine also became a large part of our life and, once again, Mom became active on various committees and was president of the Ladies Auxiliary.

Growing up, Mom’s family played cards for entertainment, but never for money. She loved the challenge of bridge and didn’t suffer fools gladly. She was an avid competitor and played to win. Mom was affectionately known to her family as the “Queen Mother” and was a force to be reckoned with; she had a mind of her own.

As an only child, she was my best friend. Mom taught me how to play all kinds of board games, cards, Yahtzee, puzzles, “jacks,” pick-up-sticks. You name it we played it. Mom always played to win and I had to win on my own. She said that you don’t always win in life and you might as well learn how to deal with it now.

Mom loved making crafts and could do them all day. She could get so excited about a new project and would work at it until it was done. Mom instilled in me that it should look “perfect” to others and, even if you have made a few mistakes, only you will know. Her talents were many: she taught herself how to crochet, she did quilting, knitting, crewel, decoupage, cross stitch, plastic canvas, just to name a few.

Mom was a wonderful cook and was always looking for new recipes. Her love for entertaining always earned her praise by many. There were always muffins, cookies, squares, and various cakes and loaves in the freezer. If you were lucky, she would prepare a special care package for you to take home.

Every house we lived in, Mom would put in a small garden so that we could enjoy fresh lettuce, green beans, carrots, tomatoes and onions. In the fall she would put up jars of pickles, raspberry jam with the berries that Mom and Grandma would have picked, and, from green tomatoes, she made mincemeat. Grandma and Mom would make Garden Delight, a relish, which was the most delicious relish I have ever tasted! For days, the house would be permeated with the smell of vinegar and pickling spices. Quart sealers of carrot pudding, a Christmas staple, would also be canned during this time.

Mom never learned to drive a car. She did take a driving test in Camrose but went through a stop sign. After that, she never tried again, but then, she didn’t have to as Dad would drive her to wherever she wanted to go. She had wonderful friends who would volunteer to drive her even before she asked. Mom’s ETS bus pass took her all over the city; it gave her the independence she needed.

As a young child, she took lessons to play the piano. I’m not certain how far she got with lessons, however, the one song that she could play and remember was “Little Brown Jug” and could she really belt it out. Michele and Robert would beg her to play it and then would laugh like crazy when she did. A little known fact about Mom was that she loved the banjo and would have loved to have taken lessons, but never did.

I have such wonderful memories of Christmas. Dad would put the lights on the tree and Mom would decorate it. The icicles had to be placed one by one on each branch. Needless to say, Dad and I were not asked to participate in this task. Mom’s enthusiasm was contagious -- she could get so excited, like a child. One Christmas morning, for example, she had organized a scavenger hunt for me and had hid a beautiful 24” doll under their bed. As I got older and to keep the spirit alive, she would wrap one present and leave it under the tree for me to guess before Christmas day.

Mom made beautiful clothes for me as a child growing up. My graduation dresses for Grade 9 and 12 were a testament of her beautiful handiwork. She made dress suits for herself and had taken a course on how to make hats and shoes covered with the same material.

As a child, she loved dolls and when she got older she bought a curio cabinet and filled it with dolls that she had collected. Shanna, her Great Granddaughter, now has the collection.

Mom didn’t “do” sports but that didn’t stop her from watching the Edmonton Oilers, the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Edmonton Eskimos. However, one sport she especially loved was curling and she loved to have someone to watch it with. Charl, her youngest sibling, loved it too. They would talk on the phone to discuss the various “shots” while the game was on. Charl and Mom were very close and, when Charl passed away in 2016, it left a large void in Mom’s life. Charl was like the older sister that I never had.

Both Mom and Dad were very civic minded and loved politics; it could always generate a spirited discussion. There was never an election that they didn’t exercise their right to vote. My love for politics came from them and for every election (whether it was municipal, provincial, federal or even the US election) David and I would go over to Mom’s for supper to watch the returns come in.

In closing, I can’t talk about Mom without including my Dad. They were a team. God blessed me with the most wonderful mom and dad that a daughter could ask. My life with them and the memories I have are many. I was loved unconditionally and I loved them dearly.

Due to covid-19, there will not be a funeral service. Cremation has taken place and my children and their families will bury Mom in a private service.

I would like express my sincere gratitude to the nursing staff at Rutherford Heights Retirement Residence where Mom resided for 3 years and to St. Joseph’s Auxiliary Hospital (4 months) for their kindness, support and care shown Mom during her stay.

For three years, Mom suffered from dementia, which became progressively worse every year. Dementia is an insidious disease and, if you feel as strongly as I do and as an expression of sympathy, I urge you send memorial contributions in Mom’s name to: Alzheimer Society, 20 Eglinton Avenue West, 16th Floor, Toronto, ON M4R1K8.

In Loving Memory of
Margaret Millar
(Maiden: McLean)
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