Whether she was baking peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, knitting, or taking paper tole classes at her local community centre, Margaret James was happiest when channelling her creativity.
“She really enjoyed doing those things, not just for herself but to share with her family,” says her son Neil James, who hangs a needlepoint of an eagle, stitched by his mom, in his home. “She wasn’t necessarily a big people person, but she enjoyed being creative.”
Much to her son’s chagrin, Margaret’s artistry sometimes made its way to clothes and Neil remembers being sent to school in handmade shirts and pants while his peers donned more fashionable clothes from the local department store.
“I wouldn’t appreciate the clothes at age 10,” he says. “But looking back on it now, it was how my parents made do.”
Died on March 18, 2020
In their early twenties and with nothing in their pockets, Margaret and her husband Michael travelled across the Atlantic Ocean in the bottom bowels of a ship to start a new life in Canada. Margaret was ready for a fresh start.
She had grown up in Sheffield, England amidst the backdrop of the Second World War and had survived the Blitz. The couple settled in Edmonton and later moved to Calgary. Although Margaret left England, her accent remained. Once, after seeing the Queen on TV, Neil told his fellow kindergarten classmates his mom was the monarch, a memory which made them both smile. And though she was quiet by nature, Margaret’s compassion for others was clear.
Whether it was letting people with fewer groceries go ahead of her in line, giving her artwork to friends and family or sharing her food with her three kids when they came to visit her in her nursing home later in life.
“I’d bring over a couple of scones, and I’d eat mine, and she would get halfway through hers and say, ‘you don’t have one, here have mine,’” Neil says. “She was a very thoughtful, considerate, giving person.”
This story was first published in MacLean’s as part of a collaborative project with Canadian journalism schools to document the lives of people who have died from COVID-19. To learn more about the project and to read the other obituaries, click here.