Mother, maker of home remedies, storyteller, bon viveur. Born Jan. 28, 1923, in Arborfield, Sask.; died Sept. 11, 2013, in White Rock, B.C., of natural causes, aged 90.
Although Priscilla (Pat) Isabelle Mary Fahlman grew up in a predominantly Anglophone community in rural Saskatchewan, her Francophone parents, Nelida and Edouard Boucher, instilled an awareness of the French language and traditions in their 10 children.
In such a large family, a sense of community develops early. When Pat was in her mid-teens, she spent a summer season with Chautauqua, a travelling tent show that brought performing arts and music to isolated communities throughout Saskatchewan. She performed Russian-Ukrainian folk dancing, which she learned at a community centre class.
Her early wanderlust took her to Vancouver, where several siblings had moved. At a dance at Balmer’s Beach in White Rock, B.C., she met Raymond (Ray) Fahlman. They married in 1947 and raised a family of four children: Richard, Robert, Lynn and Kenneth.
Family life suited Pat well. Knowledge from her rural roots often came in handy in treating ailments with home remedies – mustard plasters to ease the wheezing of bronchitis, ice-cold compresses to make sore throats disappear. She lovingly hand-knitted Cowichan sweaters for her family to ward off the chill of rainy Vancouver winters.
Life brought Pat, Ray and family to Ottawa in the early 1970s for Ray’s work, but soon the Pacific lured them back home to Vancouver. Pat had an open-door philosophy and fed many family members and friends her chicken cacciatore, cabbage rolls and butter tarts. She considered herself blessed in life, and in turn gave back to her community. She dedicated many years to Meals on Wheels, as well as assisting newcomers to Canada adapt to their new homes.
In 1994, Ray died of pancreatic cancer. Pat opened her door to new friends and, with youthful enthusiasm, made plans to explore the world. A series of adventures with her family brought Pat back to her French roots during visits to Quebec, Lyon and the small villages in the south of France. She once twirled around a lamppost by the harbour in Marseille after enjoying a few glasses of fine Côtes du Rhône wine.
In 2008, Pat was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. With it came frustration and the realization of her growing limitations, but she didn’t waste time worrying about the future when so much needed to be done here and now. Pat planned a Baltic Sea cruise in 2009 with her good friend John. The trip was almost cancelled when it was discovered she had cut up her passport photograph because, as she said, “I didn’t like what I looked like.” A quick scramble for a new passport had her soon setting sail.
Her last years living with Alzheimer’s, while a struggle, did not put a cloud over her enthusiasm for life, but did teach us all to enjoy each moment with her. To the end, she brought smiles to her children and seven grandchildren with her jokes and funny stories. The twinkle in her eye never left.
Robert Fahlman and Lynn Ullett are Pat’s son and daughter.
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