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Anne Lascowich Laine Croteau Add to ...

Mother, friend, traveller, supersaver, wit. Born Oct. 29, 1929, in Kahwin, Alta., died Feb. 20, 2012, in Edmonton of C. difficile, aged 82.

In Jasper, Alta., in 1954, Anne caused almost as much stir as Marilyn Monroe had the year before filming River of No Return. Anne was as beautiful and lively as MM, and much more accessible. She was a waitress at the Astoria Hotel, where half the town stopped in to be served by this witty mystery woman.

She was nicknamed Bubbles, from the song I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles, and for her bright sense of life’s joy and potential.

She saved every penny to winter at Waikiki Beach. American G.I. barracks parallel to the strand were an added draw for this lovely blonde as she bronzed her curves.

She returned to Jasper many summers, staying with my family. Everything she did, even painting toenails, was an adventure. Other seasons, she worked in Edmonton at Kresge’s, where the lipsticks, flip-flops and rhinestone whatnots were all such fun.

With scrimped cash in hand, Anne flew to Oahu many times over. During the Cold War, she and a cousin ventured to Poland. They got in the back door of the Soviet Union to Moscow, but didn’t dare try to visit her parents’ small village in White Russia.

In time, we learned that our “Marilyn” was a farm girl who’d changed her family name to Laine. Her parents were immigrants from Obrovo, Belarus, where her mother, orphaned by the First World War at 15, had married her father. Following birth of a stillborn son, Anne’s father joined an uncle in Chicago to seek his fortune in foundry work, logging in California, and eventually farming in Alberta. Her mother escaped further predations of war by fleeing with her in-laws to Kazakhstan. She returned home to nothing.

In 1928, Anne’s mother joined her husband, a middle-aged man she scarcely knew, at the Kahwin homestead. Anne was born at the farm, followed by her three sisters.

In 1963 in Jasper, Bubbles met Robert Croteau, her one and only, a railway conductor. They married and settled in an Edmonton apartment. With the birth of Roberta, Anne became a devoted homemaker, clipping coupons and stretching every dollar to buy a house.

Their substantial savings were wiped out in an investment boondoggle. Bubbles lost heart, but kept living frugally and saving. When Roberta was 15, they bought their longed-for home. They enjoyed trips to the United States, and Anne returned to Russia with her widowed father to visit his village, a trip she later repeated without him. She joined my family in Norway and Jamaica.

Roberta’s career in Nashville as an independent magazine producer, rubbing shoulders with the stars, was a source of pride and accomplishment. Daughter has realized her mom’s dreams.

Bob died in 2006, leaving Bubbles free to travel, like in her Marilyn days, but peripheral neuropathy kept her ever-more housebound. In recent years, even in a wheelchair, she couldn’t visit her beloved farm.

A fall landed her in hospital, where she picked up C. difficile. After her happy return home, an intractable “flu” set in. At another hospital, she succumbed to dehydration and slipped away quietly surrounded by family.

Brenda Guiled is a family friend.

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