It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Mary Edna Gessell on 3 November 2020 at the age of 83 in the Edmonton General Hospital Continuing Care Centre. She leaves behind her sons Douglas (Nina) and Blair (Christine), grandchildren Tristan, Carmen and Carter, her sister Della and brother Barry, and numerous nieces, nephews and friends.
Edna was born 24 October 1937 in a farmhouse near Glen Ewen, Saskatchewan, the fourth child of Harvey and Mary Sawyer. Her name was meant to be Eutha Edna, but her aunt Sarah told her mother that if she named her daughter Eutha she would never speak to her again. So the result was Mary Edna and a lifetime of wondering why it wasn’t Edna Mary. Besides her parents, she was predeceased by her eldest brother Ross, her eldest sister Sheila and her husband Gordon.
Edna completed high school in Glen Ewen and worked first for the telephone exchange as an operator before training to become an X-ray technician. She met Gordon at the wedding of Art and Dorothy Usher, where he was the best man and she was the bridesmaid. He drove her home after the wedding; they married in 1960 within a year of meeting each other. They missed reaching their 60th wedding anniversary by four months.
Gordon and Edna moved frequently to follow his promotions within Imperial Oil. Edna worked until she became pregnant with her son Douglas; afterward she became a full-time homemaker. Not all transfers were equally welcome. She liked living in Kindersley, Saskatchewan; to have her agree to return to the smaller town of Lampman, Gordon bribed her with the purchase of a piano. Eventually they settled in Devon, Alberta, where they lived for 40 years apart from a four-year spell in Redwater in the early 1980s.
Edna liked being a homemaker and was good at it. She was an accomplished seamstress, an able cook, a dedicated preserver (notable for her chokecherry jelly and pickles) and a terrific baker. Dessert was available every lunch and supper, bread was baked every week for at least 50 years, and cinnamon buns for breakfast were regarded by any visitor lucky enough to have them as a triumph.
She delighted in playing her piano at home and was the organist for a few years at one of the churches she and Gordon attended. However, she was a superior singer with a lovely alto voice. Music was a constant feature in her life.
Gordon retired age 48 for medical reasons: he was diagnosed at 47 with hydroencephalopathy, and one of the operations undertaken to remedy it left him with brain damage that interfered with his ability to learn and impaired his memory. Edna supported him through numerous operations and rehabilitation efforts to resolve his condition and put up, mostly very patiently, with his inability to remember where he’d left his glasses.
Edna and Gordon played mixed-league curling everywhere they lived. Once Gordon retired, she concentrated on golf – during summer in Devon and during winter in Green Valley, Arizona. She helped organise ladies’ golfing leagues, won a few trophies, religiously watched televised golf tournaments and played whenever she could with her sons. It was the family sport.
Around 2015 Edna’s health declined as dementia slowly set in. She moved with Gordon to assisted living in St Albert to be closer to Blair. Having been cared for by Edna for so many years, Gordon returned the favour until the very last and insisted that the two of them remain together when additional, separate care might have been wiser. They were taken to hospital in the same ambulance on the same day in May, 2020.
In accordance with Edna’s wishes, there will be no funeral. A private Celebration of Life and the burial of her ashes along with Gordon’s will be held when circumstances allow. Photos, memories and condolences may be shared through www.serenity.ca.
Serenity Funeral Service Leduc 780-980-3688