After several months of struggling with failing health, Maree passed away peacefully on Sunday December 23rd, a month from her 95th birthday, at the Kamsack hospital, surrounded by the prayers and singing of her family.
Maree was the second oldest of seven children, born Jan. 23th 1924 to Margaret (George) and Ernest Ridley in Foam Lake, Sk. She grew up on a farm near Leslie, Saskatchewan and attended school until grade 10. She loved the outdoors and spent many happy days in the sunshine. Maree, her older sister and brother did much of the farm work growing up. In her early twenties, she left home to try and join the army out east. Health issues kept her out of enlistment, so she worked with her sister at a munition’s factory until the end of the war. Maree moved to Winnipeg and worked at a hospital before she moved to Saltcoats to work at the Richardson Turkey Hatchery.
It was in Saltcoats that she met the love of her life, Frederick Richard Willis. They were happily married on July 15, 1948. Fred and Maree farmed on Fred’s family farm, north of Saltcoats by Soda Lake. In 1956, they purchased land closer to Saltcoats for the children be able to attend school and continued building up a thriving Turkey business. For the next 20 years, Maree was very involved with the turkey business which shipped turkey eggs nationally and internationally as far away as Cuba.
It was on this farm that they raised their five children. Muriel, born Feb 15, 1949, Rick born June 16, 1950, Dorothy March 29, 1954, Sherry July 6, 1955 and Arthur born Dec 4, 1959. The family has since grown by leaps and bounds, with a total of 18 grandchildren and 39 great grandchildren.
Family was everything to Maree. She loved hosting the many family gatherings with great food and lots of games. In the summer months, Maree always had time after the day’s work was done to head outside with the kids for a game of ‘Kick the Can’, ‘Hide and Seek” or ‘Ante-I-Over’. These family activities built memories that have carried over into the way her children raised their kids. The family home was the hub and meeting place for celebrations for the large extended family and their many friends, where great food and fun was always a big part of the celebrations.
Maree loved working outside. She always grew a large vegetable and flower garden, that fed the family for the whole year. Maree farmed alongside Fred, helping with the day to day needs of the farm even helping drive tractor during harvest. There were lots of great family meals centered around a pot of stew, fresh homemade bread and corn on the cob that was taken out to the field to share during harvest.
Maree was very involved in the life of the Saltcoats community serving on many committees, volunteering countless hours and donated many baked goods. She was an active member of the Saltcoats Anglican Church, the Agricultural and Horticultural club, the curling club and the 4H garden club. She tried her hand at many activities including becoming an expert seamstress creating many of the kids clothing, oil painting, pottery, handmade cards, raising exotic birds and arrangements which included feathers from these birds.
In 1990, Fred and Maree semi-retired building a new home on an acreage just south of Saltcoats. She continued to grow a large garden and add to her collection of exotic birds. At one time, she had over 19 different varieties including rare breeds of chickens, peacocks, pheasants, doves and guinea hens. Fred and Maree enjoyed a very active social life together curling, volunteering and attending dances regularly. They were happily married for 58 years before cancer took Fred from us in August of 2006. Maree remained on the farm for another five years before moving into Yorkton.
Maree moved into the Bentley in Yorkton, and for the next eight years, enjoyed an active social life making many friends around the card games and activities that were part of her life there. She loved her daily early morning walks outside and tending to her flower pots in the summer and the Martin house that she donated to the Bentley for her 90th birthday. Maree enjoyed her large corner window and watching for her favorite birds.
Maree enjoyed playing a significant role in her grandchildren and great grandchildren’s lives. While she was still at the house, she created a nature trail in the forest by the house that gave the kids many hours of enjoyment. Any visit to Nana’s (her name once the great grandchildren began arriving) included a card game of some sort, candies from her stash, a game of shuffleboard, and having tea parties at the Bentley. Her fridge door was a collage of photos, notes and hand-drawn creations from the great grandkids. She knew each one by name and prayed frequently for them in the evenings. Family continued to be a big part of her life as she hosted and visited family members up to the very end.
Maree was predeceased by; her husband Frederick Willis, her parents Margaret and Ernest Ridley, her sisters Gladys (Bill) Gray, Eileen (Arnold) Thorpe, Joyce (Tom) Bilton, Gertrude (Elwin) Magnuson, and brother George Ridley.
Left to cherish her memory are: her children: Muriel (Len) Cameron, Frederick (Gloria) Willis, Dorothy (Lorn) Wionzek, Sherry (Bob) Schwab, and Arthur (Susan) Willis; her sister Rene (Cecil) Thorpe; her 18 grandchildren and 39 great grandchildren as well as many nieces, nephews, extended family and friends.
The family would like to extend a very sincere thank you and appreciation to the many people that helped Maree over the past few months in her failing health. This includes the doctors, nurses and staff at the Yorkton Regional Hospital and Kamsack Hospital and Nursing Home for their care and compassion.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memory of Maree Willis to the Heart and Stroke Foundation or the Yorkton Regional Hospital.
Maree Willis of Saltcoats passed away December 23, 2018 at the age of 94.
A funeral service will be held for Maree on December 28, 2018 at 2 p.m. from the Town Hall located at 203 Glasgow Ave with Nancy Brunt officiating.
Heart and Stroke Foundation, Saskatchewan
1738 Quebec Ave Unit 26, Saskatoon SK S7K 1V9
The Health Foundation of East Central SK
41 Betts Ave, Yorkton SK S3N 1M1