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Mabel Loreen McCreery.

Courtesy of family

Mabel Loreen McCreery: Matriarch. Gardener. Bookkeeper. Volunteer. Born May 27, 1924, in Moffat, Ont., died May 14, 2020, in Peterborough, Ont., of bladder cancer; aged 95.

A few days before Mabel died, she was crushing Ralph, her eldest child, in a game of online Scrabble. When he pleaded with her for mercy, she replied “Son, I just play the tiles I’m given.” It was a fitting epitaph for Mabel, who never complained about the hardships she endured. She always saw the best in people and was grateful for the richness of her life.

Mabel Harris was the eldest of five children and spent her early years on a farm near Guelph, Ont. Her parents Ivan and Ethel taught her the importance of family, church and community.

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Mabel completed high school in Acton and when war was declared in 1939, joined the work force. By 19, she was managing a grocery store in Milton, learning the bookkeeping skills she would use her entire life. She managed the family finances and kept detailed accounts. In later years, her children found Mabel’s records and were amazed that the cash on hand was often less than $1 yet their lives were so rich and full.

Mabel met Bill Archibald in Acton and he proposed in May, 1943. Bill enlisted in 1944 and was a wireless air gunner in Lancaster bombers flying out of Great Britain. He returned after the allied victory in Europe, but his stay was brief as he had to report back for the war in the Pacific. During that two-week interlude, Bill and Mabel were married, honeymooned and Mabel became pregnant with their first child, Ted. He was followed by Ralph, Sharon and Sheila after the war.

Mabel experienced heartbreaking losses. In 1952 she was in the kitchen when a stranger ran into the house, asking to use the phone because he had just hit a child. She rushed onto the street and saw Ted lying on the road. She held his head in her lap when he died.

Sixteen years later, Bill was struck and killed by a drunk driver. She soldiered on raising her teenagers. At a New Year’s Eve dance in 1972, Mabel met Bill McCreery. They fell in love and were married that September. It was obvious to her children that Bill put the bounce back into Mabel’s step and he was warmly welcomed into the family. Mabel had 21 wonderful years with Bill before he died in front of her from a massive heart attack. Mabel said she couldn’t have carried on without her faith and the support of family and friends.

Every spring Mabel itched to get back into her garden, and she always loved sharing her sense of fun with her grandchildren. Once, Mabel attended her granddaughter’s gymnastics competition. When Julie fell off the balance beam and silently started to cry, Mabel looked in her purse, found a plastic shower cap and put it on. When Julie looked up into the stands, she saw her grandmother and broke into laughter. This allowed Julie to finish her routine. Years later, Julie emerged from a changing room in her wedding dress wearing a shower cap. Mabel’s laughter filled the shop.

When her sister Freida died young, Mabel closely followed the lives of her children, never missing a birthday, anniversary or birth. Mabel considered the bond with Freida’s children as one of her many blessings. As she got older, Mabel embraced new technology to connect with her family, volunteered and travelled. She enjoyed international destinations, but by far her favourite trips were family vacations.

Mabel was caring, nurturing and engaged until the end. She was the very best of all of us.

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Ralph Archibald, Sharon Cahill and Sheila Gammom are Mabel’s children.

To submit a Lives Lived: lives@globeandmail.com

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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