Fernande “Fern” Marie Smith, our Mother and Grandmother, passed away suddenly on October 20, 2015, at the age of 82. She was born in Frenchville, Saskatchewan on February 20, 1933 to Maurice and Menadore Gerard.
Grandma’s father, Maurice Gerard was born in Sensenruth, Bouillon, Belgium and immigrated to Canada in 1920, arriving in New Brunswick. As with many at that time, he came to Canada twice, the first time in 1920 settling in Vanguard, Saskatchewan and returning to Belgium in 1923. They came a second time in 1925 returning to Vanguard, Saskatchewan, this time staying in Canada.
Grandma’s mother, Menadore Tessier was born in Orleans, Ontario. Maurice and Menadore married in 1930 and had two children, Julien and Grandma. In 1933, the family lived on a farm, where Grandma was born and delivered by a mid wife. The following year, her mother, Menadore, passed away at the age of 27. At that time Grandma was one year old and her older brother, Julien, was two.
In 1936, Maurice married Lucienne Auger in Frenchville, Saskatchewan uniting Grandma, her brother Julien and Lucienne’s three children Hank, Alec and Ray. Together, they had three more children Ernest, Rita and Lucien.
Maurice moved his family to Cadillac, Saskatchewan where he opened a welding shop.
At age 10, Grandma went to live at a Convent with her sister, Rita, where they resided for three years. There was a large Catholic population in Pontiex (and area) and so a Catholic School was opened which was run by the Catholic Church. It was like a boarding school and compared to the one room school house education, this would have been considered a very good education. There would have been many high quality teachers, who were nuns working there.
Even at the young age of ten, Grandma told us she and her sister Rita missed being around family, as family was always important. Grandma earned a gold medallion from the Province of Saskatchewan in the subject of reading, writing and speaking in French. She was so proud of this – she told us that she got 90% – the highest in the class at age 15. This medallion was still on her night stand when she passed away along with a picture of her sister Rita.
Around 1948, the Gerard family moved to St. Boniface, Winnipeg, Manitoba where Grandma found school to be quite different and eventually quit and went to work in the hospital kitchen.
In the early 1950s, Grandma moved to Calgary, Alberta to be closer to her brothers. It was in Calgary, where she met Grandpa – William (Bill) Dennis on a blind date and after a courting period they married in 1953.
Their first child, Sandra was born in Calgary, Alberta, and the family then moved to the Peace River Country in northern Alberta where Grandpa worked in the Oil Patch. The family grew to five children: Sandra, Bill, Richard, Monica and Rob. In 1964, the family settled on a homestead near Valleyview, Alberta. Farming life in northern Alberta was a challenge as it seemed to rain all the time. Despite this the family began doing all the things required to raise a family. Providing for the family was a lot of work and the entire family pitched in. Each year a large garden was grown, the root cellar was filled and the shelves were stocked with canned goods along with tending cattle and clearing and planting farm land.
In the fall, Grandpa would go out and hunt moose, resulting in a full freezer. This was part of the routine of sustaining life in a northern winter climate of the 50s and 60s.
In addition to the household chores of raising a family, Grandma worked in town waiting tables and cooking (often working the evening shift after being with the kids during the day). She continued in this profession until she retired.
In 1971, Grandma and Grandpa Bill went their separate ways and in 1973 Grandma met Grandpa Keith and moved to the Sicamous, BC. Grandpa Keith had a daughter Rachele who joined the family. Grandma and Grandpa Keith operated the Paradise Motel in Sicamous for a number of years. During this time, Grandma still worked outside the home waiting tables and cooking. Grandma was a hard worker and enjoyed working. She liked keeping busy. Grandma worked in the restaurant industry for about 35 years and worked in a lot of the restaurants in Sicamous and Salmon Arm.
Grandpa Keith and Grandma saved enough money to build their own home in Sicamous and lived there for many years until they moved to Salmon Arm in 1991. While living in Sicamous, Grandpa Keith’s Multiple Sclerosis deteriorated and Grandma cared for him until he passed away in 2003.
In early 2000, Grandma bought a home in Evergreen Trailer Park and lived there for about 13 years. Grandma loved having the grandkids over – there was never a time when Grandma wasn’t around one of her grandchildren as she loved them so very much.
When the grandkids were asked what they remember about growing up with Grandma – the responses were: going downtown, shopping, playing War or Uno, watching cartoons, Grandma cooking – the best pancakes, homemade macaroni and cheese, homemade cookies, the smell of her buns baking, playing legos, Christmas, playing the organ, playing video games, playing dolls, that is just to name a few of the things we did at Grandma’s. Grandma thought the world of us and she talked about us right up to the end. Every phone call she made to our parents she asked about us. Even the staff at Mt. Ida Mews knew our names because she was so proud of us and spoke of us – Don’t worry Grandma we will do you proud.
Grandma did a lot of volunteer work in the community – she was very handy at mending clothing and did so for the Salmon Arm Thrift Shop on a regular basis for many years. She also worked in the kitchen at Senior’s Branch 109 and was known for her borscht soup. She also made her borscht soup for various church functions. She was a hard worker and very efficient. She could really stretch a dollar. Grandma loved to read, crochet and knit. She made many doilies (which were beautiful), slippers, table clothes and afghans and shared them with her family. Grandma was a very social person and enjoyed working with other people.
Grandma also loved going to church although she was very timid about going once she became wheelchair dependent.
Grandma moved into Piccadilly Terrace in 2012 – where she broke her arm and then her hip in 2013 which prompted her move to Mt. Ida Mews in 2014. Grandma made friends with all of the staff, who loved her sense of humour. They have referred to her as their favorite resident and their friend. Grandma was a bit of a rebel though – she was prohibited from certain foods which she would smuggle in anyway and hide in her room. Popcorn, cookies, chocolate – she absolutely loved that sweet and salty popcorn!!!
Grandma loved to talk on the phone and called all of us on a regular basis. Her calls will be missed. We are not saying good bye to Grandma as we know our paths will cross again and when they do we share stories and laughs together again. Love you Grandma! Till we meet again!
Grandma is predeceased by her parents Maurice and Menadore Gerard, step mother, Lucienne, sister Rita, brother Hank and husband Keith Smith.
Grandma is loving remembered by her children; Sandra (Dale) Whittaker, Bill (Wanda) Dennis, Richard (Bonny) Dennis, Monica (Rick) Dalziel and Rob (Toni) Dennis. Grandchildren: Greg (Christie) Whittaker, Barb (Dennis) Dean, David Dennis, Jennifer (Mike) Bellamy, Cody Dalziel, Alyson (Rob) Smith, Courtenay (Alan) Dennis and Megan Dennis. Great Grandchildren: Landon, Griffin and Nate Dean, Rylan and Kason Whittaker, Jayce Bellamy and Noah Dalziel. Siblings: Brothers: Julien (Joanne) Gerard, Alex (Connie) DeGagne, Ray (Shirley) DeGagne, Lucien Gerard, Ernest (Barb) Gerard and sister-in-law Thelma DeGagne.
A Memorial Service was held at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Salmon Arm on Saturday, October 24, 2015.
Memorial contributions in Fern’s name may be made to Mt. Ida Mews “Recreation Program” 100 – 5th Ave SE Salmon Arm, BC V1E 4H4.
Those we love don’t go away – They walk beside us everyday.
Arrangements entrusted to Fischer’s Funeral Services & Crematorium Ltd., Salmon Arm (250) 833-1129. Email condolences and share memories of Fern through her obituary at www.fischersfuneralservices.com.