Sunday, January 12, 2014

52 Ancestors: #1 - Rhona MacDonald Marshall (1933-2003)

Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small has issued the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge.  The premise:  write once a week about a specific ancestor.  I have been planning to write profiles on my ancestors for awhile and this us definitely the push I needed.  The problem - who to start with first.  After much thought I decided to begin with the person I know best - my mother.

Rhona MacDonald Marshall was born on February 21, 1933 at the Maternity Hospital in Dundee, Scotland – the 8th child of Robert Burn and Eliza Hamilton (Burnett) Marshall.  She was baptized in St. Mary Magdalene’s Church in Dundee on March 24, 1933.  At the time of her birth, the family was living at 65 Main Street, Dundee.  When Rhona was just two years old, her father, Robert, died of Chronic Rheumatism of the heart.  After Robert’s death, the family was to move to 50 Glenconnor Drive.

Rhona’s two oldest brothers, David and Robert and an older sister, Rachel were in the forces during the Second World War.  Her oldest sister, Helen (Nell), was working to help support the family.  During this time, a couple of Canadian cousins stationed in England came to visit the family in Scotland, bringing a Canadian soldier friend with them – William Henry (Harry) Crossman.  Harry (as he was known) and Rhona’s sister Nell were to marry in 1942.  When Rhona’s mother Eliza became ill, Harry made a death bed promise to look after the three youngest children, Norman (who was 14), Vina (who was 12) and Rhona (who was 10).  Eliza passed away on March 29, 1943 in Dundee from Carcinoma of the breast and acute gastritis.

On May 27, 1945, Rhona was Confirmed in St. Ninian’s Mission, in the Diocese of Brechen, Dundee.

When the war ended, Harry returned to Canada to prepare for the arrival of Nell, Norman, Vina and Rhona.  Unfortunately, before all the paperwork for immigration was complete, Norman turned 18 and was required to do a mandatory two year military service, forcing him to remain in Scotland.

On April 5, 1946 Rhona (then 13), Vina (then 15) and Nell (who was 30 yrs. old and a War Bride) left Southhampton, England on the Aquitania landing at Pier 1 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on April 10, 1946.  They then boarded a train for farm life in the small town of Balcarres, Saskatchewan, Canada.

From the time she arrived in Canada until she turned 16 yrs. old, Rhona attended the one room Tipperary Schoolhouse in Abenethy, Saskatchewan.  In her words, “the teacher was not much older than about 19 – we had some fun as well as lots of hard work to do.”  She left school at 16 to work (I believe at the Balcarres Hospital). 

About a year before Rhona passed away, she wrote a short bio on herself and described her life on the farm:

“I leaned to plow the fields, drive the tractor, ride horses.  I was not allowed to drive the combine as I was told it was too big for a 14 year old to ride.  I had other chores to do as bring in the eggs, feed the animals – never learned to milk the cows as every time I did they would kick the pail over when half full and spill it so I gave up.  I loved the farm.  I brought in the wood for the fire, ice and snow in the winter.  We had fun as well as work, we had hay rides and sleigh rides, church suppers, barn dances, country fairs.”

Rhona began dating a young man from a neighbouring farm, John (Jack) Farrell.  That relationship didn’t last as Jack started seeing someone else while working in Toronto.  Rhona then began to be courted by Jack’s older brother Robert (Allan) Farrell. 

Rhona and Allan (as he was known) were married on August 15, 1953 at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Balcarres.  Allan was working as a mechanic while Rhona stayed home to look after their first child – a daughter, Judy, who was born in December of 1953.  In 1954, Allan, Rhona and Judy moved to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, where they welcomed the birth of two more girls, Heather (born in 1956) and Alana (born in 1961).  Life was not easy for Rhona and Allan as Allan suffered from Juvenile Diabetes.  In August 1962, Allan was admitted to the hospital where he passed away on August 12th.  He was buried on their 10th wedding anniversary – August 15, 1962.

On December 21, 1963, Rhona married for the second time to a family friend, Douglas Sinclair Kay (Doug was the brother of Rhona’s sister in law, Helen).  They were married at St. George’s Anglican Church in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.  A couple of days after the wedding, Doug, Rhona and the three little girls (Judy – 10, Heather – 8 and Alana – 2) boarded a train to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where Doug resided.  They were to reside at 631 Mercille Ave., in St. Lambert, Quebec – downstairs from Doug’s parents, later moving to their first house at 325 Oak Ave.

Rhona and Doug (and family) were active members of St. Barnabas Anglican Church in St. Lambert, where Rhona was a member of the Ladies Evening Guild.  She was also very active in the Church’s Annual Rummage Sale where she “manned” the same station for nearly 40 years.  For a time, when the children were in school, she would look after the children of friends.  In later years, she became involved with the Girl Guides, eventually becoming a Sparks leader.  She did volunteer work as a school monitor at St. Lambert Elementary School in St. Lambert.  She was also an avid crocheter and reader.  Doug’s parents, Adam and Clarice Kay, were members of the Order of the Eastern Star and Rhona was very active in helping out at the social events beside her mother in law. 

Rhona and Doug finally got to have a honeymoon when Doug took Rhona home to Scotland in October 1970 – the first time being home since immigrating in 1946.

Rhona became a widow once again when Doug passed away on April 7, 1989 from complications from Parkinson’s Decease.

Doug’s sister, Helen was, at this time, also a member of the Order of the Eastern Star and encouraged Rhona to once again help out with their social events and anything else a non-member was allowed to participate in.  On September 26, 1991, Rhona finally became a member of the Order herself, joining St. Lambert Chapter #15 in St. Lambert, Quebec, later joining Friendship Chapter in Chambly, Quebec.  She was a very active member in the Order right up until her death.  She was very involved in, and was in charge of, one of the Chapter’s charities, the Cancer Gift Cupboard collecting and making items for the local
hospital that the Chapter supported, The Brome-Missisquoi Perkins Hospital in Brome, Quebec.  When she passed away, a memorial contribution was made from the hospital’s organizer and Rhona’s name was entered in the hospital’s Remembrance Book.  Rhona loved the Eastern Star and said: “when I miss a meeting for some reason, I feel as though I have missed something special.”

In 1998, Rhona was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer.  After a complete hysterectomy and a round of radiation, she went into remission.  She never let this “blip” stop her and when well enough, continued with her activities with the church and the Eastern Star. 

In her little bio she wrote “I will be 70 years old and feeling fine.  Sometimes I feel that I have not done much then I think well, I have my health and get around – sometimes with a cane.  But other than a stiff leg and the odd backache, I guess I’m not too bad off.”

Rhona was eventually forced to slow down when, in April of 2003, she suffered two strokes.  After surgery to remove a blockage and a month’s stay in a rehabilitation centre, she went to live with her daughter, Heather.  In late August of 2003, however, her cancer returned and she was admitted to the hospital on Labour Day weekend. 

Rhona passed away on September 8, 2003 and is buried at the Jardins Urgel Bourgis Cemetery in St. Hubert, Quebec.

She is greatly missed.

©2014, copyright Alana Farrell

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