Wife, mother, sister, kindred spirit. Born Oct. 30, 1940, in Wingham, Ont. Died Aug. 12, 2011, in Toronto of cancer, aged 70.
Elizabeth Congram’s early days were spent on a farm near Bluevale, Ont., with her parents, William and Mary McKinney, and her older sister, Eileen. After selling the farm, the family moved to Bluevale to run the local mill.
Her father died when she was a young girl. This was her first experience with the tragic effects of cancer. Her mother returned to teaching and they moved to nearby Wingham. Liz and her mother had a close relationship. Together they attended St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, where Liz met and started dating the love of her life, John Congram.
John and Liz were married in 1961. After John’s ordination in the Presbyterian Church of Canada, he and Liz served in congregations in Biggar, Sask., Hamilton, Sarnia, Ont., and Toronto.
Liz often wondered aloud how she became a minister’s wife, but she was involved in all the congregations where they spent time. Everywhere she went she made lifelong friends. One of her passions was music, and she especially enjoyed her time in the choir at St. Mark’s in Don Mills. Her family remembers arriving home to her singing and playing the piano while she prepared dinner. If she was pounding out Anchors Aweigh, it meant someone was in trouble and it was time to keep a low profile.
Liz was extremely proud of her role as a mother to four sons. When asked during her final stay in the hospital about work, she declared her profession to be “mother of four boys.” Before their first child was born, she agreed with John that she would name all the boys and he could name all the girls. The boys are named Mark, Robbin, Timothy and Christopher (Blair).
Living in a house full of men (even the cat was a boy), her ability to survive became one of her badges of honour. No matter what her children did or how disappointed in their choices she might have been, they always knew that she was proud of them and that she loved them. She was a devoted mother. In recent years, she spread that devotion to her grandchildren, Julia, Ben, Abbey, Caroline and Luz; and her daughters-in-law, Karen, Raquel and Cindy.
Her other badge of honour was being a cancer survivor. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997, she was cancer-free for 10 years before it spread to her bones. One by one all the things she enjoyed most were taken from her, beginning with exercising, taking a walk or even sitting at a show or concert. Yet she put up a brave front. Even near the end, people didn’t realize how much she was suffering. No matter how she felt, she was always impeccably dressed.
Liz enjoyed her time with friends as they travelled from congregation to congregation or spent time at the cottage in Bluevale. Her kindness and compassion will be missed.
By Tim Congram, Liz’s son.