It is with great sadness the family of Mrs. Gwen Zehner (nee Elliott) announce her passing on Thursday, November 19, 2020 at the age of 91 years. A private family service will be held on Tuesday, November 24, 2020. A link to live stream the funeral service will be posted on the Eternal Memories Facebook page on November 24, 2020. Memorial donations may be made to the following charities: Canadian Cancer Society - 630 45 St W #2, Saskatoon, SK S7L 5W9, Diabetes Canada – 1300-522 University Ave. Toronto, ON M5G 2R5, North Battleford Humane Society - 751 114 St, North Battleford, SK S9A 2M7, or to the charity of a donor’s choice. Funeral Arrangements have been entrusted to Trevor Watts of Eternal Memories Funeral Service and Crematorium.
Hello and thank you for being here to help celebrate the life of Gwen Zehner. My name is Stephanie Marshall, I am one of her many grandchildren, and I am honored to be able to share a few words with you today.
To know and love Grandma Zee was to have been on the receiving end of one of her quick- witted zingers. She had a unique sense of humour and she always spoke the honest truth. At family events, she was happy just to sit quietly, enjoying everyone’s company, but never missing a detail. Every once in a while, she’d chime in with a wisecrack no one saw coming. I remember introducing her to a boyfriend once, and she looked straight at him with a bit of a smile and said, “Oh, another one hey?”
Lois Gwendolyn Elliott was born in 1929 in Edam, SK, to Vesta Dallyn and Westley Elliott. She had three brothers (Gene, Bill, and Larry) and two sisters (Audrey, Olive). She always had great relationships with her siblings. They were tight-knit and shared a close bond. They looked after each other until the end, often living together or at least next door for periods of their adult lives. She played Donkey Baseball with her brothers and GrandMa always told the story of how her donkey was too gassy and refused to take her around the bases. Her sisters hated helping with the farm animals, but GrandMa loved it, so she did that and her sisters picked up all of the cooking. It was a great partnership, because we all know how much GrandMa Zee hated cooking!
Gwen remained a faithful, caring daughter and she took care of both of her parents in their later years. Her mother, Vesta, passed away in 1988 in North Battleford at the age of 90, and her father, Westley, passed away in 1991 in NB at the age of 97. She loved her parents more than anything, and they were always there for her.
She was a student at Edam School and according to a report card Auntie Debbie found, “Gwennie was a good student in every way and she worked hard.” When she finished her education, she became a switchboard operator connecting calls by inserting phone plugs into the jacks. Not long after that job, she owned and operated a grocery store in Fairholme, SK with Gordon Brooks. Lois Jacqueline was born to Gwen and Gordon in Turtleford, SK when she was 21 years old. Bruce came along several years later and he was born in North Battleford.
She worked for in-laws at Turner Warwick Printers for many years. When Bruce was in grade 1 and Jackie was in grade 7, they moved to Calgary. She worked at Coop Cafeteria and met Don Zehner whom she married and had two kids with. Donald Junior was born in Calgary in 1967 and Debbie was born in North Battleford in 1969 after they moved back. Don Zehner passed away at the age of 41, leaving her with four children to raise on her own.
Bruce remembers that his mom’s two most common replies to “hello, how are you?” was the simple reply, “WITHOUT” or “FAIR to MEDLIN!”
Her kids recall her as a mother who was always there for them, a great listener, a resourceful problem-solver, and she was a very understanding parent. Debbie remembers a time she stole a pack of her mom’s cigarettes to go smoke out in the bush with April, Lee, and Cousin Wendy.
So, when the parents found out they were smoking, April and Lee got the strap and were grounded, Wendy got a boot in the ass, and all Gwen said to Debbie was, “I understand you were curious and wanted to try it, just don’t do it again.” Debbie figures she always got off pretty easy compared to the others.
Another time where she demonstrated a lot of patience was when Donald was about 4 years old and he decided to run away. He left in a huff with his fishing rod and his rubber boots on the wrong feet. Grandma tried to catch him, but he was running too fast for her. She was so worried; she canvased the neighbors, the McClouds, to see if they had seen him and later heard it was announced on the radio station CJNB that he was spotted on Main. Well when she found him, Donald was sitting on the curb at 15th Ave and Main street, fishing in the storm drain. Donald figures he probably got the wooden spoon that day.
GrandMa Zee has 9 grandchildren, numerous great grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren -- little Kolby in heaven, Bryer, Jaxon, and Max. In discussing Grandma with the great grandchildren, there was a common theme of bingo. I remembered, how, to my amazement, she could run several bingo cards at once and still have time for wisecracks. And Kirsten added, “yeah, doing all that plus a smoke in her hand!” and Jordan said, “yeah or having a smoke, playing crossword and drinking a coffee.” Halley told me that a good demonstration of how strong GrandMa Zee was and how much she loved bingo was when she played through a few rounds with a broken a hip and never complained. Halley said that she used to sneak into GrandMa Zee’s one drawer with all her bingo dabbers and she would use them to colour. Jordan remembered that when he was young, on Saturdays, he used to go over to her house and play tv bingo with her. Debbie and Jordan would go to the Coop and get the bingo cards for him and Grandma Zee, and drop him off at her house and they would play bingo for 2-3 hours. He said, “we never did win anything together but were close in some games.” Madison has the same memory except that her favourite part about bingo Saturdays was eating the French fries shaped like smiley faces and chicken nuggets. GrandMa loved French fries and all sorts of potatoes so much so, that Bruce actually nicknamed grandma Tatter. She always giggled about that nickname.
April reminisces about meeting with Grand Ma’s entire family every Friday for supper. We rotated between Smitty’s, Venice House, the Casino, and Humptey’s. Grandma Zee was there faithfully until she just wasn’t able to go anymore. April says that GrandMa always sat quietly and listened to the stories of how everyone’s week had gone. Every once in a while, she would interject with a comment that would make everyone laugh.
Melissa told me about a faux-pas GrandMa moment. When she was small, Donald used to make his own beer and keep it in a pop bottle in the fridge. Grandma Zee was babysitting one night and Melissa asked for pop. GrandMa pulled out the bottle of beer from the fridge and gave some to her. Melissa said, "no grandma that's beer!" And GrandMa argued with her so Melissa finally agreed to drink it, subsequently spitting it out all the floor and screaming "it’s beer!!!"
James and Jordan both remember GrandMa Zee always having little pink chalky mints. GrandMa would give James those mints when he would visit her when she was working at the River Heights Lodge.
The River Heights Lodge was a huge part of GrandMa’s life. My mom Jackie, my sister April, and my niece Kirsten all worked at RHL at one time or another. Many of us volunteered there as well. GrandMa Zee was a supervisor in housekeeping from about 1975 to 1994, and ended up living there in independent living in the cottages, as well as a resident on the 200-wing when she passed. GrandMa went above and beyond when she worked at RHL bringing in movies for the residents and always taking care of her staff. At her retirement party, the Mop Top Gang (her staff of six) donned their best white-string mop tops as hair and sang a song specifically written for Gwen to commemorate her dedication and enthusiasm for her workplace. In between her two separate stints living at RHL, she lived at Davidson Manor.
Gwen Cave, Donald’s mother-in-law, says that she enjoyed when Gwen was her neighbour across the hall, and she came for suppers and coffee. Grandma Zee would often say how good of cook Gwen Cave was, and we’re all thankful for how much care and companionship she gave Grandma.
A final memory in Donald’s own words: “While sitting with mom after she passed, I couldn't help but remember the many times I would roll in home from late nights or early mornings and find mom sleeping in bed with her glasses half off, her harlequin romance book laying on her chest and lights on. I would take her glasses off remove her book and turn out the lights. On the morning she passed away she looked the same peaceful way. If I could have turned the lights off in the hospital room, I would have.”
It was grandma’s time, as she lived a life characterized by hard work, perseverance, and grace, that gifted us with her kind, tolerant heart that still lives on in all of us today. Thank you.
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