Mother, physician, lover of knowledge, people and water. Born June 22, 1927, in Medicine Hat, Alta., died Feb. 9, 2013, in Winnipeg of cancer, aged 85.
Margaret spent a happy childhood in “the Hat,” exploring the cliffs and coulees of the South Saskatchewan River Valley with her father, or running through tall grass on her uncle’s farm.
After finishing high school there, she ventured off to Edmonton to study. She earned her bachelor’s, master’s and medical degrees at the University of Alberta (one of two women in her class in medical school). So boundless was her enthusiasm for learning that at 50 she undertook a specialty in psychiatry at the University of Ottawa.
While climbing Roche Miette in Jasper National Park, she met David Fish, and they married in 1955. She recognized David’s untapped intellect, and encouraged and supported his education, which culminated in a PhD from the London School of Economics.
Margaret launched her career as a professor at U of A in 1955, and when she and David welcomed baby Kathleen, she kept her in a basket under her desk. She was a trailblazer for working mothers, managing both an academic career and a growing young family as Sheila and Ian arrived. The year she and David spent in England while he attained his PhD was her opportunity to be a stay-at-home mother.
In 1964, the family was loaded into the Valiant station wagon to move from Edmonton to Ottawa, where Margaret continued her research at the University of Ottawa.
After the marriage ended in 1969, she and the children remained in Ottawa and she switched from research to practice, providing medical care and a modicum of mothering to students at Carleton University, then practising psychiatry from a home office till her 75th birthday.
She took full advantage of all Ottawa had to offer – symphony, theatre and opera at the National Arts Centre, antique shops and neighbourhood walks. She owned a series of homes in the city, always choosing a site close to water. She never lived more than a few steps from the Rideau River or Canal.
In 2002, Margaret moved to Winnipeg. Living by the Assiniboine River under the big Prairie sky was a homecoming of sorts. An unexpected bonus was a late-in-life romance with Jim Baker, with whom she shared many adventures.
Last November, looking out the window of her new senior suite next to Jim’s at her view of Sturgeon Creek, she said, “Living near water has always been important to me. I’ve downsized everything else, so it seems only fitting that I am overlooking a creek now!”
Margaret’s thirst for knowledge and her understanding of the human psyche and the world around her were present even in the hours just prior to her passing. Her innate capacity to connect with others was also there. In her final weeks, it was deeply important to her to identify the principles that had guided her life so as to provide a road map for the journey ahead. She boiled it down to what she called “The Three Cs” – Courage, Clarity and Compassion. These principles were truly the essence of her.
Margaret was not ready to leave, but she accepted the inevitable with courage and grace.