With her family by her side, Annie (Nan) Blower passed away peacefully, on April 1, 2019, at the age of 95. She is predeceased by her husband John (Jack), daughter Janice Buck, sisters Gwyneth Dahms, Maisie Jenkins, and brother Jack Thomas. Left to feel her loss are her sons John Dennis (Iris), James (Linda), Barry (Linda), son in law Terrence Buck, 6 grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren, as well as a lifetime’s worth of friends.
Nan lived her life to the fullest and had more impact on those around her than she would ever understand, much less take credit for. Her wish was that the family not make a fuss for her when this day came. However, by thoroughly disobeying that wish, and her, for the first time, we are excited to honour and celebrate her. She loved the company of friends and family, so your participation will be a perfect tribute. Please join the family at Serenity Funeral Service, 10129 Princess Elizabeth Avenue, Friday, April 26, at 1pm, with a reception to follow.
Nan was a feisty Welsh lady, born there, in the coal mining village of Aberfan, on November 7, 1923. As a young girl, she endured the long, seasick journey across the Atlantic to Canada, continuing to Kinsella, Alberta by train. Her family broke and worked their new farmland, but the lure of returning to work in the coal mining industry had her dad move the family to Pickardville, Alberta, then finally to Edmonton, where they settled for good.
Like many back in the day, Nan married young. In 1942, at only 19, she married John (Jack) Blower. The newlyweds had only a short time together before Jack left to serve in England with the RCAF. That time was enough to start their family though, with their first son, Dennis, being born shortly after Jack deployed to the European theater. Dennis was 2 and a half years old when his dad returned from the war, having served 948 days in uniform.
Nan kept letters that she and Jack exchanged during the war, and having read some of them, it is easy to feel the caring and tenderness, as well as the vulnerability, that any young couple in their situation would have felt. Some of them read like teenage love letters, because they were. In today’s world, we can barely imagine communication exchanges taking weeks and months. With mail ship losses to U boats, personnel movements, and the backdrop of a world war, it is amazing to us today that these two made it work. Anyone who knew Nan, knew well that she was no quitter, then or now.
From an early age, Nan showed that she was capable of anything that she set her mind to, and that she had a knack for bringing out the best in people, and bringing them together. During the war, through the exchange of letters with both her husband, serving in the RCAF, and with her brother Jack, serving with the Canadian Navy, she learned that the two men would be only a few miles apart on a given day, when Jack’s ship was due into port in England. Nan was able to arrange, all by mail, the opportunity for her brother (and his navy buddies), to meet her husband, (and his air force buddies), at a pub for drinks. Stories about that evening of partying, lingered at our family holiday dinners for decades, and seemed to have some expected gaps, but what was clear, is that the evening was thoroughly enjoyed by all, and that the morning after may have been a bit rough on the boys, with headaches all around. In hindsight, it may have been this kind of sharing that Nan could inspire, that shortened the war.
After Jack returned home, Nan’s family grew with the arrivals of 2 more sons, Jim and Barry, and a daughter, Janice, who the family lost far too soon, in 2015. Nan’s children were always her greatest joy, and proudest achievements, and she never hesitated to let them, and others know it. Nan always had a wide circle of friends to share her time with, but her time with family was always her priority.
Nan raised her family, and lived in her house in Forest Heights for most of her life, and until her final days. It was here that her family would gather for Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, countless birthdays, and celebration dinners. Even when the family spread out and continued to grow, with the arrival of 6 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren, Nan’s house remained the place where important family news, announcements, and celebrations happened. Nan, or Gram to many, was not just the matriarch of the family; She held a position of respect and influence in the lives of her kids, grandkids, and great grandkids, akin to that of a monarch. She blessed and approved of family matters. She was the first to receive birth and engagement announcements, the first to read someone’s school report card, to congratulate a young athlete on a great result in a competition, to praise a piece of artwork, or to just offer encouragement, when she sensed that it was needed. She never sugar coated anything and always gave straight talk, but in a way that was never argumentative. She did not tolerate bad behaviour from anyone, and would let someone know if they made her “cross”. Those days were few, but on those rare occasions, the feisty Welsh lady would make herself heard.
Nan was always young at heart and lived each day with zeal. In going through some of her paperwork after her passing, it struck us to find her saved reminders of a life well lived. We stumbled upon her swimming report card from when she was in her 70’s. We also found her swimming badge celebrating her graduation to her next level, in a box on her dresser. She also kept pictures of things that had meaning to her. Album after album is full of smiling faces, landscapes, sunsets, and trees and flowers in bloom. Few of us can open a photo album and see an image of their grandmother riding a camel, or standing in front of one of the pyramids in Egypt. We found children’s crafts, her Mother’s Day cards from 60 years ago, postcards from friends and family, photos of her family’s achievements, and more. Nan was an expert at knowing what mattered, to her, and to those who she cared about. The girl knew how to get the most out of a day, even if it was a day on her own, on her deck, drinking tea, surrounded by the blossoms of her shade tree.
Nan also volunteered her time with Meals on Wheels, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and at the Jubilee Lodge. Even as she aged, she never felt, or acted old. She never took her good fortune in life, or her health, for granted, and gave of each whenever she could. We could all learn from that.
Only a few years back, Dennis took Nan, with her arthritis, to see her doctor, as she was complaining a bit about some knee pain. She explained the problem to the young doctor, who intently listened to her symptoms. She looked to the doctor to provide some magic solution, but gave that doctor the what for, when he simply closed his notebook and told her; “madam, you are 90 years old!” Clearly Gram was not pleased with his response, and reminded him that she was well aware of her birthday tally. “Just fix it” was her demand, and home she went, satisfied that she would continue to manage, as we all know that she did. The word stubborn may have a negative context to some, but anyone who knew her well, would certainly know that trait to be one of Nan’s strengths.
Nan lived a wonderful life, but it was not just one life. She lived her youth with her siblings
and friends. She was a wife for 30 years, a mother for 76 years, a grandmother for 48 years, and a great grandmother for 20 years. She lived on her own for 47 years after her husband passed. The things that she got to see and do in her time, and the joy and grace with which she did them with, inspire.
Nan meant a lot to many people, but asked nothing in return. She clearly understood that we get the most, by giving the most. What she meant to others cannot be measured by any known standard. When asked, her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren offered some thoughts, feelings, and memories;
We will miss visiting her.
We will miss her cookies and baking.
No one can possibly make a better Welsh cake.
We will miss the way that she smelled like flowers.
She thought it was funny to hear the feedback beep sound from her own hearing aid, when she hugged someone.
We will miss her encouraging words, her hugs – beep and all, and her simple head tilt to the side, accompanied by the twinkle in her eyes.
She enjoyed eating at Dallas Pizza, almost as much as she enjoyed leftover pizza from Dallas Pizza.
We loved the sound of her laugh.
Bacon and eggs are clearly the keys to a long life.
She had the best leaf piles in her yard in the fall, perfect for jumping into.
She took her grandchildren downtown by bus, and enjoyed seeing movies with them.
There was a time that The Golden Girls was her favourite TV show.
She enjoyed playing cards at the kitchen table.
She used to play Hawaiian guitar, while her husband Jack played the violin, during visits by friends.
She used to sing in the church choir.
She loved Earl Grey tea – anytime.
Burned out lightbulbs annoyed her. So did tardiness.
She kept some pretty cool old toys in the spare room, and loved watching the grandkids play with them.
Holiday dinners should be an event.
Nan assembled the best candy bags at Easter and Halloween, and Santa bags at Christmas.
She looked forward to having her family over to her house to set up her Christmas tree with her.
She loved the simple napkins from Ikea – and pecans – and bananas.
Keeping abreast of the Royal Family was a life’s study for Nan.
She loved travelling and seeing new places, meeting people, making new friends, and elevated keeping up with old ones to an art form.
She remembered the birthdays and anniversaries of those that she loved, and would call you on your special day.
She was a mother to many because she cared about many.
She was an excellent listener, and offered advice only when it was warranted.
She believed that being modest and generous pays back to us spades.
She loved her children, cherished her friends, doted on her grandchildren, and still spoke with her great grandchildren as equals.
Nan enjoyed a good glass of wine, and was quite happy to have a couple of glasses too many, a couple of times per year.
She enjoyed watching football and hockey on TV, and especially looked forward to seeing her Oilers play,
…and not least, she always felt that anytime is tea time.
On March 23, Nan fell while walking from her living room to her kitchen. She broke her shoulder, which very clearly annoyed her. She said that while watching the hockey game on TV that night, she was heading to the kitchen for a snack, turned to look back at the screen to see a replay, lost her balance, and fell. Her Oilers lost that night, but more importantly, so did all of us. Though we did not want to accept the realities of what was on her horizon, it has been some sort of small mercy, that really would be her style, that her final days after her broken shoulder were few. Nan did not like people making a fuss over her. Unknown to many of the family, she had made her personal wishes very clear, in the event that something like this happened to her. It was as if she wanted to make things as easy on her family as possible, even if it was hard. The hospital staff who cared for her commented candidly, and most sincerely, that she was clearly a wonderful lady, and a real fighter, but they could tell that she felt that she was ready to let us all go.
Too often when someone passes, we read about their life, and mourn what was lost, what was not to be, or the unfinished works that they left to others. Clearly, none of that is the case for Nan. Of course, we will all hurt because we cannot stop by for visits and a cup of tea, and because we have lost one of our family’s greatest cheerleaders. But we have the honour and privilege of being able to celebrate her life, and the fact that she lived it to the fullest, both for herself, and as an example to those around her. We will be sad for us, but should not be sad for her. We have to hand it to her. She lived her life on her own terms, and by that we are inspired.
Whenever you sit down to breakfast of bacon and eggs, for a cup of tea, share a laugh with a friend, gaze at a fresh bunch of flowers, or a perfect sunset, or watch a mother smile at a child, do remember that Nan felt that those are the things that matter. She would be pleased if we all did our best to live each day to the fullest, and though we all know that she would not want us to make a fuss, she would be thrilled that you all came out to share her day.
May we all be as fortunate as Nan, to have lived a life so well, for so long, and as deeply. She will be sorely missed, but always deeply loved.
In accordance with Nan’s wishes, cremation has taken place. Please take the time to join the family in a celebration of Nan’s life, at Serenity Funeral Services, on Friday, April 26, 2019, at 1pm, with a reception to follow. We look forward to sharing the day with you.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Meals on Wheels, or the Heart and Stroke Foundation, both important to Nan, in her name.
A Note From Meals on Wheels;
There are a few ways that people can donate to Meals on Wheels, should they choose to do so in Nan’s memory:
1. Mail in a cheque
a. Make it out to: Edmonton Meals on Wheels
b. Send it to: 11111 – 103 Ave. Edmonton, AB. T5K 2P1
c. In the memo, they can write who the donation is in memory of, so that we can know why they are choosing to make their donation
2. Donate online
b. In the ‘note’ section, they can let us know who their donation is in memory of, so that we know why they are choosing to make their donation
3. They can call in with their credit card number (780-429-2020) and make a donation over the phone
All donations will receive a donation receipt. Any donations we receive will go towards supporting our programs and services, the same programs and services that Nan helped to provide in her years as a volunteer with our organization. The donations in memory of Nan will provide the gift of health and independence to homebound Edmontonians who rely on Meals on Wheels for their well-being.