Peacefully at home on February 21, 2012.
Mom was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia on March 23, 1915, to Dr. Ralph E. Macdonald and Florence Anne (Bent) Macdonald. After the Halifax Explosion of 1917, which Mom always said “blew her family west”, the Macdonald Clan settled on Maple Street on Kits Point in Vancouver. Mom spent her early childhood there with her beloved sister, Ethel, and numerous cousins. When her father’s health deteriorated and he was advised to find a drier climate, the family moved to Rossland where she spent her school years. She became an accomplished dancer, particularly in ballet, and at school memorized an astonishing amount of poetry and Shakespeare which she was forever after able to recite at will.
She was taught to ski by Trygve Nora and toured extensively through the back country around Red and Granite Mountains long before they were developed as ski hills. She told many stories of those days, including toboggan rides down the road from Rossland to Trail and her friendship with a local character, BlackJack Macdonald (no relation) – she actually saw BlackJack’s gold, a local legend of a missing fortune in gold coins. She was the first woman to climb Old Glory on skis and to ski down, and always liked to refer to Old Glory as “my mountain”.
When her family relocated to West Point Grey in Vancouver and World War II broke out, Mom was one of the first 150 Canadian women to join the WD (Women’s Division) of the Royal Canadian Air Force. She trained in Centralia, Ontario, and was posted first to Summerside, PEI, and then to Claresholm Alberta, as Flight Lieutenant Eileen “Wee Mac” Macdonald. In her later years, she enjoyed travelling to WD reunions to reconnect with her wartime colleagues.
After the war, Mom returned to the Rossland/Trail area to teach Pro Rec and skiing. She met and married W.O. “Windy” Williams in 1948. They honeymooned at Yodel Inn, Dad’s cabin near the top of the Squaw Basin Trail (now Reno’s Run) and spent much time touring and skiing in the local mountains. They settled in Warfield in 1948 and raised two children, Wake and Karen. When Dad retired from Cominco in 1965, Mom went back to UBC to complete her teaching degree and began teaching in the Trail school district. During her career she taught first at J.L. Crowe and Rossland Secondary Schools, then found her true calling as school Librarian at Central and MacLean Elementary Schools.
After Dad’s passing in 1979, she retired from teaching in 1980 and began to do some travelling: a culturally interesting cruise to Alaska aboard a Russian cruise ship, several WD reunions in eastern Canada, jaunts to the Northwest Territories with Elderhostel and to visit her son in the Arctic communities of Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay, and around B.C. in her half-ton truck and camper with her Scottie dogs Mac and Flora.
For many years, Mom volunteered as a driver for Meals on Wheels, continuing well into her late eighties, delivering meals in some cases to people quite a bit younger than she was! At the same time she also wrote for and co-edited the seniors’ newsletter, “The Best Years”. As she got into her nineties, she was herself supported by Meals on Wheels, Home Support and the Bridges program at Columbia View Lodge. The family would like to thank everyone involved with these organizations for the kindness and the care that they gave our mother. In her last few years, Mom was also wonderfully cared for by April Cashman and her colleagues Stacy Prince, Elaine Robataille, and Monica Averill, who were instrumental in supporting us in Mom’s care so that she was able to stay in her own home. Our sincere thanks to them as well.
Mom was pre-deceased by her husband, Windy, and sister, Ethel, and is survived by her children, Karen and Wake, her nieces, Lucy Quinn and Pat (Dr. E.K.) Murakami, her great-nieces and nephews Mark, Kathy, Julie, Paul and Doug, and her “adopted” children, Len and Heather Seymour.
There was a family remembrance held on February 25, 2012 in Hope, B.C. A drop-in remembrance of Mom’s life will be held on March 31, 2012 from 1 to 4 pm at her home at 410 Forrest Drive in Warfield. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the charity of your choice.
A poem written by Eileen’s sister, Ethel (Macdonald) Quinn, to explain to Eileen’s nieces why there was no need to worry during the war:
AUNTIE’S IN THE AIR FORCE
Bombing squadrons don’t appear
Things like that can’t happen here
In our hearts there is no fear
Auntie’s in the Air Force
Blacked-out windows, stuffed-up cracks
Imminence of war attacks
Can’t send shivers down our backs
Auntie’s in the Air Force
If in the night the sirens blare
We wouldn’t feel the least bit scared
We know the country’s well prepared
With Auntie in the Air Force
We love you, Mom, and we will miss you.