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Maisie Mabillia Hanna

Mother, gardener, fibre artist, activist. Born on June 1, 1923, in Mazenod, Sask., died on Dec. 21, 2014, in Regina, of natural causes, aged 91.

Mom may have grown old, but she never grew up. She'd get that twinkle in her eye and you knew mischief was afoot.

She once "kidnapped" a bride-to-be and led everyone on a merry chase for more than an hour. She helped her six-year-old daughter to ice mud cookies to present to Dad as an April Fool's joke. In her mid-80s, she taught her great-nieces how to make snow angels.

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Maisie Higham grew up on a farm near Assiniboia, Sask., the fourth of six children. After graduating from high school, she worked as a bank teller and noted that a local farmer, Garnet Hanna, seemed to come in more often than necessary to check his account. They married in 1946, and within four years had two children, Margaret and Richard.

A bout of rheumatic fever when she was a child had left Maisie with a damaged heart valve that severely restricted her activities. In 1956, she had open heart surgery to repair the valve. Once home, she decided to make up for lost time. First thing she did was learn to swim.

She loved to garden, transforming the farm yard from dirt and grass to an oasis of trees and flowers. "Grass is boring," she would say as she got Dad or Richard to dig up more grass so she could plant roses or lilies or delphiniums.

Her other love was fibre arts – sewing, quilting, smocking, and knitting. She studied with renowned needle workers and became proficient in lace making, and hardanger and crewel embroidery. She made many items for churches and to raise money for projects in Third World countries, such as supplying bicycles and sewing machines for women in Africa, and the Clean Water Project sponsored by UNESCO. She was invited to demonstrate her creative abilities throughout Saskatchewan and Alberta, and one of her dolls won an award at the Associated Country Women of the World conference in Australia.

As a farmer's daughter and a farmer's wife, Mom understood the isolation and challenges faced by rural women. She held positions in many organizations, such as the Network of Older Women, for which she travelled across Saskatchewan to hear from older rural women and to help compile resource material for them, as well as a report for the University of Regina and Health Canada. She worked tirelessly as a member of Intercultural Grandmothers Uniting, to foster understanding among non-aboriginal, First Nations and Métis women. In 2014, the provincial government awarded her the Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal to mark her many years of community service.

Mom's idea of the perfect day did not include housework. She would rather be in her garden or at her quilting frame, or, even better, sit on the deck with friends sharing coffee and a decadent dessert. She always enjoyed a glass of Guinness.

After Dad died in 1997, she sold the farm and moved with Richard to Balgonie, where she quickly became involved in the community. In 2000, her failing heart valve was replaced and, after a small heart attack in 2009, she moved to an assisted living residence in Regina. A severe fall in 2013 sent her to a long-term care facility. Her world became increasingly smaller.

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Mom refused to grow old gracefully. She hated her final years, in which she was in constant pain and became increasingly feeble. She often said, "I just want to go to sleep and not wake up." In the end, that's just what she did.

Margaret Hanna is Maisie's daughter.

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