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lives lived

Anne Jobin.Courtesy of family

Anne (Nan) Jobin: Matriarch. Pioneer. Patriot. Compassionate. Born July 4, 1922, in Lurgan County, Ireland; died Nov. 16, 2019, in Calgary; of complications from a broken hip; aged 97.

Anne Jobin was 5 when she arrived in Quebec in 1927 with her parents and two younger sisters. They sailed aboard the Megantic with 50 other families from Armagh, Ireland. Her family soon boarded a train for St. Brides, Alta., and began a new life as farmers. It was a hard life, for not one of the city-living settlers had a farming background.

In winter, Nan (she loved the nickname her father gave her) would wake up with the blankets frozen to the bed until the stove was restarted. The Indigenous community shared their harvest with the newcomers and taught them how to farm. Nan often said if it was not for their support, her family – now with six children – would not have survived. When her mother died from childbirth complications, a Cree elder visited weekly to help with chores, darning socks and patching clothes.

Nan loved school but her formal education ended the day her mother died. She was 11 and needed at home while her father worked the farm. She didn’t resent her father, and fondly recalled his singing, baking bread and caring for the family. But she did warn him: If he remarried, she would take the children and run away. There would be no “evil stepmother” in this family.

In order to pay the hospital for their mother’s care, Nan, at 16, was sent to work off the debt. She lived with other girls with similar arrangements in the basement of the hospital and worked as a cleaner six days a week for 18 months. Her father was allowed to visit; amazingly, she never complained about her experience.

Released from cleaning duties, she moved to Edmonton with her sister, Aileen. On a double date in 1945, both sisters would meet the men they would marry. James Jobin was in the Canadian Air Force, and Nan married him after the war.

The couple lived in various small towns across the Prairies as James managed different branches for CIBC. In the early 1960s, he changed jobs and they settled in Winnipeg to raise their daughters.

Patricia and Shirley remember their mom making breakfast and lunch before catching an early bus to work. She worked in administration at the local hospital run by the Grey Nuns (but this time for a salary) and retired as senior administrator of housekeeping. The work fit her compassionate, gentle and kind manner. Nan always made time to talk to patients she felt were lonely and would share their stories with her family at the dinner table.

She loved baking cookies for the neighbourhood kids and was always knitting for her family. Once, on receiving a sweater for her birthday, Nan’s eight-year-old granddaughter said: “Not again, Grandma!” And that was the last knitted sweater she received. Nan loved to repeat this story as it made her laugh each time.

Nan left work when James’s health began to fail. When he died in 1994, she moved to Calgary to be closer to her extended family. Nan loved living in Calgary. She was closer to her roots and, as a CFL and NHL fan, switched allegiances accordingly.

Nan went back to Ireland in 1957 and never had the urge to visit again: Canada was her home. With Nan’s passing, the last of the original 50 families is gone. Although she was born Irish, Nan was 100-per-cent Canadian.

Patricia Caplan is Nan’s daughter; Sheldon Caplan is Nan’s son-in-law.

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Lives Lived celebrates the everyday, extraordinary, unheralded lives of Canadians who have recently passed. To learn how to share the story of a family member or friend, go online to tgam.ca/livesguide

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