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Louise Georgia Murray.Courtesy of family

Louise Georgia Murray: Mother. Mentor. Feminist. Honorary Scot. Born Apr. 1, 1932, in Kimberley, B.C.; died Dec. 30, 2019, in Kelowna, B.C., of congestive heart failure; aged 87.

Louise lived with a verve and tenacity developed during the Depression in the hardscrabble small-town life of Kimberley and Chapman Camp. She and her older brothers, Dick and Chuck, grew up with a mother who stretched the family budget to help the hungry and dispossessed. This spirit of generosity remained with them all, and Louise’s childhood gave her the character to embrace life fully after major surgery for life-threatening ulcerative colitis in her mid-20s. Louise soldiered through any obstacle.

Louise’s parents separated in the late 1940s and she and her mother moved to Trail, B.C., where Louise enrolled in high school and subsequently business school.

She met John Murray, a slightly rakish lad with a devilish smile and a winning pool cue. He was the son of Scottish Protestant immigrants and part of a large expat community from the Hebrides, while Louise was the daughter of an Italian Catholic father. These ethnic and religious differences loomed large at the time, but they fell in love and married in 1952, followed by the birth of their daughter Jacqueline. John left the hard labour of the CPR to become the clerk of the nearby Village of Warfield, where their son George was born. In 1965, John’s work meant the family traded the mountains of the West Kootenays and the shadow of the Cominco smelter for the ocean’s edge at Powell River and the MacMillan Bloedel pulp and paper mill.

Through the 1960s, Louise evolved into a feminist forerunner, proud of her ability to balance her jobs as a bookkeeper with raising a family and running a household. She did it all: attending Brownies and soccer games and still making nutritious lunches, with fresh greens every night for dinner and roast beef on Sundays.

Louise provocatively adopted the honorific Ms. before it was common. She talked about women’s rights at the dinner table, much to the chagrin of John and to the delight of Jacqueline. Every Christmas, Jacqueline found a copy of Ms. magazine in her stocking.

As a mother, Louise was strict about breaches of the rules, but also empathetic. Her children’s friends sought her out for advice because she was quick to listen and slow to judge.

Louise was also always late. She tried to be on time and kept the kitchen clock running seven minutes fast, but it rarely worked since it was she who set the clock in the first place.

Louise and John retired for the first time in 1985. For a year, they lived in their fifth-wheel trailer, travelling the western United States and Canada. They moved to Whistler and found work; Louise did the payroll for the ski mountains. She learned to ski on the slopes of Blackcomb in her mid-50s and developed a fondness for the black bear that wandered through the yard.

Upon their second retirement, Louise and John bought a house on the 15th fairway of a golf course community in Arizona. So, Louise took up golf. She once landed a hole-in-one and proudly displayed the statue holding the very golf ball.

Louise and John eventually settled in West Kelowna, B.C. In 2003, they volunteered during the devastating Kelowna fires and planted seedlings annually to help with reforestation.

All her adult life, Louise had been immersed in the Scottish-Canadian community of her in-laws and travelled to the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides as John reconnected with relatives. She felt so welcomed and at home, that she came to consider herself an honorary Scot, exploring the country further and even eating haggis.

Her unspoken motto was to seize the day, live life to its fullest, be courageous and resilient. Louise is a continuing inspiration.

Jacqueline Murray is Louise’s daughter.

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