1442 Main Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Obituary of FRANCES DOROTHY MACDONALD
FRANCES DOROTHY MACDONALD
Frances Dorothy Macdonald (nee Waight) died peacefully on January 2, 2018 at her home. Her children, Mary Macdonald and Nancy Macdonald (Stephen Atkinson) and son in law Denis Mager miss her tremendously but know she is being held in the hug of all hugs by her late husband Harold G. Macdonald, daughter Susan M. Macdonald and son in law David W. Wood; And by her loving parents George Charles Waight, Ellen Olive Waight (nee Bradley) and Dorothy Audrey Waight (nee Thomas).
Frances’s grandchildren Olivia Macdonald Mager, Amory and Manlius Wood, Amelia and Abigail Atkinson adored their Grandma and cherish the memory of being so loved by her and always with such warmth. Frances also dearly loved Alexandra and Alastair Wood.
Frances’s nieces and nephews, the Mannings, George and Charlene, Cathy, Jane, Don and Peter, the Wests, Barb, Bob and Avril, the Macdonalds, Cathy, Caryn and David as well as her Bradley cousins, Graham, Gerri and sisters also deeply mourn her loss.
For Frances the currency of friendship was not about favours or gifts but rather, authenticity, acceptance, and humour; and so Frances made many great friendships with people of all ages throughout her life. Though Frances had said goodbye to many of those friends she is missed by those she shared her final years with.
Our mother was born in Winnipeg on Sept 19, 1929 to Dorothy and George Waight; Dorothy, second generation Welsh and George born in England. Both having endured the first war; her father on the front lines and gassed in the trenches, meant that Frances’s first home was one where the decision to live life to the fullest had long since been made. And in Winnipeg in the 20’s and 30s that included snowshoeing, taking the train to Minaki to camp and oil paint, and all the wonderful activities that came with the Winnipeg Sketch Club, the Little Theatre and the Canoe Club.
Frances’s mother Dorothy died when Frances was five, but despite the pressures of the time for a single father to give up his child, George refused to let her go and eventually began another very happy family life with his wife Ellen Bradley, Frances’s second loving mother.
George had met his match. Ellen was as hospitable and fun loving as he was and so Frances’s life could continue as it had begun. They settled into a house in the Riverview area, where Frances had a wonderful childhood in spite of the war. Rope swings and swimming in the Red on a hot prairie day, regular bike trips with her best friends to Lockport for ice cream and hot dogs, more snowshoeing, downhill skiing with the Winnipeg Ski Club on the riverbank; taking the trolley every Christmas day from Riverview to East Kildonan to be with family friends no matter what the weather; gatherings at their home for the WWII service men; her Dad teaching her to paddle at the Canoe Club. Guests for dinner, guests for lunch, guests for cards, out of town guests overnight. A time when three adults slept in one bed to make room and laughed themselves to sleep. As Mom said it was a Ton of Fun.
And there was the Bradley farm in Milestone, Sask. where her mother Ellen had grown up. This became one of Frances’s favorite places in the world. At the farm, Frances was embraced by her new grandparents Tottie (Susan) and Billy and by the whole Bradley clan. (Tottie had firm words for Ellen at the time of her betrothal to George, “Now you be good to that child!”). It’s where Frances got to know her larger than life uncles and aunts, marvel at her Uncle Jimmy’s inventions, swim in the dugout, and look in wonder, no less, at the eyelashes of a cow.
Frances studied piano completing her Grade 10 examinations. She excelled academically and eventually decided to attend Home Economics at the University of Manitoba where she received top marks for her lemon meringue pie which went on to became our family favorite! Mom was a fantastic cook. How many times over the years did we call to ask her “Mom? How many minutes per pound for the turkey (or roast) and at what temperature again?” or “Remind me Mom, how do I make gravy?”
Either we were really dense or we just loved talking to our Mom. It was a ritual. Frances always credited her cooking skill to her mother Ellen and Ellen said she got it from her mother Tottie. A lovely thread pulled through to Frances and with any luck, to the rest of us.
Frances was always independent and this spirit eventually led her to Toronto. But before leaving the U of M she acquired another skill that would be with her throughout life. Bridge. Fran enjoyed the mental rigors and the camaraderie of the bridge table her whole life and her last game was just a few days before she died.
Frances had a ball in Toronto. At her first job at the Toronto Star in advertising, she was offered $19.00/wk but thought she deserved more so demanded $25 and got $24. Fran finally settled and excelled at a job she loved with Trans Canada Airlines doing the cross continental bookings. Their policy of the day was women who were engaged or married could not work so Frances was forced to resign when she became engaged to Harold regardless of her boss’s accolades and intentions to promote her. That was in 1953.
Frances and Harold were married in Winnipeg at St Albans Anglican Church. It was on their honeymoon that Frances took her first lessons in golf, and to her surprise she loved it and so throughout her life, golf would be another way for Fran to spend wonderful times with family and friends. Fran and Harold began their life together in Edmonton where Harold’s parents lived and his siblings were beginning their families. There, Frances had her first taste of being the rector’s wife and she knew immediately that role was never going to be her thing. Frances was a straight shooter; a very intelligent person who instinctively sought out the latest thoughts and ideas, and so despite having been denied equality in the workplace, she had the self-confidence to expect autonomy at home. Bravo, as our Dad would eventually say. Harold and Fran’s marriage, challenged at times by church, gender inequality and raising four children, survived the test of time. The activities, the two of them shared over the years, including daily happy hour and debrief, backgammon and cribbage games, listening to their favorite music, sharing a hilarious story or playing golf together, saw them through their 55 years together.
Frances carried on and created a home for her husband and eventually four children. She was a wonderful mother. In the early years she recalled mostly a blur of coping and caring. But as her children grew she became our friend and a day didn’t go by when one of us, and usually more, had a nice long chat with her over the phone. Our mother made everyone feel welcome in our home no matter what his or her age and all of our friends gravitated toward her. In fact one of her children’s marriages just might have got its start as a result of Fran’s popularity! And no guest in our house ever saw themselves to the door. It was “Thank you so much for coming” or we heard about it. Frances had a flair for creating beautiful spaces and so in all the places she lived, no matter how awkward or small, Frances transformed them, with her artistic eye, into a beautiful home. For Mom decorating was all about how a place “felt”.
Frances was raised in a home brimming with culture. George and Dorothy were painters and Ellen and George shared the love of theatre acting. Inspired by her parents, Frances joined an Art Group in the 70s and developed her talent and love of painting. Frances eventually gave up her painting to return to work first as the Volunteer Coordinator for Meals on Wheels (often getting her children to volunteer when they were short) And then after great encouragement Frances wrote her real estate exams and began a very fulfilling career in selling houses. Her success, in many ways due to her authenticity but finding the perfect match between client and home was where Fran found her real love of the job.
Our mother also developed a tremendous appreciation of history from her parents. Surrounded by beloved objects, each telling an important story, Frances garnered a broad understanding of the present day informed by what had gone before. She was thrilled to be on the Antiques Roadshow when her father’s roll top desk, which was given to him by his employer, the great philanthropist Bill Alloway, was featured. But Frances never let nostalgia get in her way. She was a “with it person” staying up with the latest in fashion, décor, politics and social change.
Before there was the notion of political correctness or inclusivity our mother treated everyone she met with respect, warmth and kindness. A real estate colleague remembered from years ago, a time when they were driving in Fran’s car on one of those brutally cold Winnipeg winter days, and Fran suddenly stopped the car and got out. They watched her walk across traffic to a homeless gentleman and give him her gloves.
We saw this same innate compassion with each person she encountered when she was in the hospital. Frances got to know everyone’s name; the aides, nurses, doctors and all the cleaning staff and she always had a kind word for her many and often-noisy hospital roommates, male and female. Despite her own suffering, she took the time to get to know them all. But to be to be fair, Frances didn’t love everyone. She couldn’t abide a snob though it’s likely the snobs she met, never knew. Kill it with kindness was one of her favorite bits of advice.
Our beautiful mother knew how to live life. Frances lived in awe of the natural world, whether in her home on the shores of Lake Winnipeg or on a drive with Harold in Whitehorse. A life full, with avid bird watching, doing the crossword, oil painting, gardening, cheering the Jets, and the Bombers, watching Jeopardy and beating everyone, listening to Sunday night Jazz, listening to her husband, kids and friends, consoling her kids, following the figure skating, applauding her grandkids. Our Mom was someone one who could always find the interest and the marvels in what each day had to offer. She was a wonderfully warm and authentic person and an absolute ton of fun; she had a dazzling smile that would warm you to the core. As one of her friends recently said, Frances Was Spectacular. How lucky we all have been, to have known her.
There has been a Burial Service with family and there will be a Celebration Service for Frances in the coming months to be announced.
In lieu of flowers please make donations in Frances’s memory to
Sanctuary North c/o Tony Boston, 530 Indian Grove, Unit 516, Toronto, Ontario, M6P 0B3
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