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facts & arguments

Mother, Nana, lover of books, movies, music, cookies and especially animals. Born Feb. 20, 1924, in Winnipeg, died March 30, 2013, in Toronto of Alzheimer's disease, aged 89.

Margaret was happiest with her family in attendance, usually over a home-cooked meal.

She spent her childhood, youth and early years of marriage in Winnipeg. She attended St. Mary's Academy and College from the age of four to 21, and was considered one of their "lifers." She was both valedictorian and head debater of her school and always loved a good argument.

She was consumed with family above all and spoke often of her fondness for her Irish grandfather, Michael Monaghan, who lived in Quebec City and with whom she corresponded in Latin. She proudly related that though he taught at Trinity while in Dublin, he also had to drive a milk cart in order to adequately feed his family.

Margaret loved animals of all kinds – horses and dogs especially, but even her grandson's pet rat, which was entrusted to her care one weekend. She was horrified to discover it dead the next morning, but promptly stuffed it in a shoebox and traipsed off to her favourite veterinarian. When she arrived with the stiff creature she had to face the fact that, though Dr. Vandenbrink was good, he was not that good.

She played piano and loved music, opera and singing. The singing stayed with her, but the piano didn't as her life changed and she sacrificed much for her ever-growing family.

She met a young naval officer, John Kerr, and married happily. They had much in common but continued to follow their individual intellectual pursuits, he politics and current affairs at the CBC and she her books. They had five children in Winnipeg before picking up and moving to Halifax. Moving by train halfway across the country with five small children in tow was quite an undertaking in 1963. After a few years there, just when Margaret was beginning to thrive as a Maritimer, John was transferred to Toronto – the big bad city. This was most difficult for Margaret.

Many of life's tragedies followed, one after the other, over the next few years, including her husband leaving her with five children (though she always maintained that she was subsequently richer by far) and her eldest son, Michael, succumbing to depression.

Through it all, Margaret maintained a cheerful demeanour and a kind heart. She lived for her family and was fiercely loyal no matter what. But the stresses of her life took their toll and Margaret's behaviour became increasingly unsafe as she moved further away from us and into the decline of Alzheimer's. Still, she maintained her sense of humour and would come through with the most astonishing insights, such as when one of her grandchildren asked her, for a school project: "Nana what do you think of aging?" She thought for a moment, then pronounced: "Better aging than not."

Margaret taught us about love by her giving nature and her capacity to love. She will be sorely missed by all those in whom she invested so greatly – her children and 12 grandchildren, and their spouses, and her three great-grandchildren, Juliet, Henry and Liam.