It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of our mom, Doris Gustafson. She died peacefully, surrounded by family on May 4, 2019, in her 95th year.
Mom was the youngest of three daughters born to Jack and Sarah Cookman in Fort William, Ont. She always said she grew up with three mothers because her older sisters were 10 and nine years older than her.
She was an adventurous and independent soul from an early age and shared a very special bond with her dad.
She often noted that her dad never told her she couldn't do something; rather, he taught her to do it safely.
That freedom led “Cookie”, as she was known to her childhood and Wren friends, to swim in the Kaministiquia River, climb the rocks around Kakabeka Falls, ride shotgun in an Air Force training plane and to try to join the Navy at age sixteen.
In 1938, Mom and her mom travelled to England, by ship, to spend the summer with relatives. Thanks to her cousin, Dick, she saw many sights in and around London, including many to which the average tourist had no access.
In 1943, Mom did eventually join the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service, which became known as the Wrens. She received her training in Galt, Ont., St. Hyacinthe, Que. and Bainbridge Island, Wash.
It was in St. Hyacinthe that she was schooled in “lady-like" behaviour and the skills required to copy intercepted wireless code and managed to evade "zoot suiters.”
As a telegraph Special Operator, she served at Gordon Head Special W/T Station in Victoria, B.C. and at the LORAN station in East Baccaro, Nova Scotia. Mom was proud of her service to Canada during WWII and remembered her fellow service men and women every year on Remembrance Day.
After the war, Mom returned to Fort William to attend Lakehead Rehabilitation School for service personnel. It was there she met Erik Gustafson.
They both chose to attend the University of Toronto and were married in September, 1947. Mom graduated from U of T in 1949 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree.
Following Dad's graduation in 1950, they started their family and made many moves throughout Ontario and British Columbia for Dad's career: Toronto, Fort Frances, Fort William, Alberni, Qualicum Beach, and Cranbrook, returning to Fort Frances in 1971.
In Fort Frances, they built their lake home. Mom was very clear with Dad that she would only move “up the lake” when the bathroom, and especially the bathtub, were fully installed and functioning.
Their time together on Hopkins Bay was too short with Dad's sudden passing in 1988. With her trusty canine companions, Jet and Jake, by her side and the support of family, Mom stayed there for another 11 years to finish the house, even taking a woodworking course to aid in that endeavour.
She really enjoyed the peaceful surroundings living on Rainy Lake. It was only after her water line froze over Christmas and she was forced for six months to haul water from town did she decide to move to Calgary to be closer to her daughters.
Fifty years after leaving, Mom returned to Vancouver Island last year to live in the “fiercely independent” residence of the Nanaimo Seniors' Village, where she was in close proximity to three of her four children.
Wherever Mom lived, she was active in her community and formed many life-long friendships. In Fort Frances, Mom served on the Recreation Commission in the 1950s and in the 1970s and '80s served as a school trustee for eight years and represented Fort Frances on the Board of Governors for Confederation College for six years.
She was a committed volunteer for the Good Neighbours' Council, Literacy Committee and the Volunteer Bureau, serving in executive positions as well as preparing tax returns for seniors and low-income earners.
In Alberni and Qualicum Beach, Mom volunteered on the Parent-Teacher Association. In Qualicum Beach, she also volunteered with various community organizations including Boy Scouts, Brownies/Girl Guides and Little League and was active in Toastmistresses (Toastmasters) in Qualicum Beach and in Cranbrook.
Both she and Dad literally helped build the Qualicum Beach Curling rink and enjoyed playing in a mixed league following its completion. Mom successfully lobbied to ensure skating at the curling facility during school breaks.
While living in Calgary, Mom served on her condo board, resigning only two years ago.
As a 66-year member of Beta Sigma Phi, Mom enjoyed many life-long friendships with her sorority sisters and served in numerous executive positions in the various chapters to which she belonged.
Over her lifetime, Mom worked in a variety of jobs: substitute teaching in Qualicum Beach, Cranbrook, and Fort Frances; working in the Assessment Office in Fort Frances; and as a legal assistant for Bill Bradley, Theo Wolder and Ian McLennan. Her ability to read and make sense of legal documents, aided by her Latin studies, was invaluable.
In Calgary, Mom worked as a census taker for several years and as a polling station worker for several elections.
Mom followed politics to the end, casting a ballot in the advance poll for the Nanaimo-Ladysmith federal byelection just a few days before her passing.
Mom is survived by her four children, Karl (Jane) of Surrey, Karin (Phil) of Nanaimo, Kurt (Cathy) of Victoria, and Britta (Hank) of Calgary.
She is also survived by eight grandchildren, John (Cheryl), Mark (Christina), Paul (Zaneta), Matthew (Jane), Tomas, Joshua, Alexandra and Stefan; six great-grandchildren, Johnny, Matt, Will, Ava, Michael and Luke; and many nieces and nephews and their children and grandchildren.
Mom was predeceased by her husband, Erik; her parents; sisters, Kaye (Al) and Betty (Bob, Elmer); Dad's siblings, Alice (Einar), Evald (Emily), Ruth (Fred), and Ralph (Betty); nieces, Pat and Linda; great-nephews, Kip and Kyle; and many dear friends.
Mom was also predeceased by many fur-babies, most notably Meg, Jet and Jake, all of whom provided her with hours of amusement and pleasure.
Mom was a long-time blood donor and although she was not able to donate any of her organs, she would encourage all who are able to donate blood and to sign their organ donor cards to give the gift of life to others.
Mom's mind was sharp and she remained intellectually engaged to the end. As a stickler for the English language, Mom would also ask everyone, journalists especially, to learn when to use “like" and "as" and to never say "me and . . .”
Mom was insistent there should be no funeral service for her, asking only that her ashes be united with Dad's and that we all raise a glass of Harvey's Bristol Cream or a gin and tonic in her memory.
If you wish, donate to a charity of your choice or perform an act of kindness for someone else in her memory.
Mom was a wonderful role model and positive influence on all of us and she will be forever loved. Her often amusing and unique behaviours and phrases will never be forgotten.
She would think it “balderdash,” but we will miss her dearly.