Matriarch. Singer. Adventurer. Friend. Born March 29, 1920, in Justice, Man.; died Sept. 30, 2016, in Winnipeg, of natural causes; aged 96.
It was fitting that Marj was born in a place called Justice. A number of years ago, the town, which is now very small, printed T-shirts with the slogan “There’s still a little justice in the world, Justice, Manitoba.” Those words captured the essence of Marj as she treated everyone with dignity and respect and would not tolerate unkindness or any form of injustice.
Marj liked to tell the story of her somewhat precarious beginning. She was born at home on the family farm in Justice, Man., and there were difficulties with the birth. Her father warned her mother: “Pearl, she might not make it, so best be prepared.” Marj would always say, “Well, I sure fooled everyone didn’t I? Here I am, still kicking!” Marj went on to live a long and vibrant life and made a lasting impression on all who knew her.
After a childhood on the farm, which instilled a lifelong pride in her Prairie roots, Marj moved to Winnipeg when she was 17. She married Addison Merner in 1941 and together they raised six boys and two girls in a busy household. But Marj never had to raise her voice, as one look from her was all that was needed to restore order.
Music and singing were also important. As a child, she sang at community events and, as an adult, at family occasions such as weddings. Marj often said that she would have liked to have been a blues singer, but instead, her grandchildren remember growing up listening to nursery rhymes and lullabies sung in her beautiful warm alto.
Marj worked in a hospital nursery for many years and when she was 50, she went back to school to study social services. After graduating, she worked for a family-services agency, where her ability to connect with people and her experience raising a family of eight served her well. Marj didn’t drive, but she knew every bus route and schedule in Winnipeg in order to make her client visits.
Marj faced many difficult times during her life but always managed to stay positive, curious and ready for adventure. In her 80s, she went up in a hot air balloon and flew in a helicopter. Marj embraced life – you could count on her exuberant laugh and warm hug to make you feel better. Marj had a way of reminding you to live in the moment and to appreciate the simple things. She was the matriarch over a clan of eight children, 16 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren, all of whom were devoted to her.
Many a visit with Marj during her lifetime involved taking her for a ride in the car, often outside of the city to see her beloved Prairies. She loved to be “on the road” going somewhere. Just a month before she died, her friend’s son, a long-distance truck driver, bought a new rig. He told Marj that he was going to call it “Marjorie” in her honour. She laughed when telling this story and was thrilled to know that “Marjorie” would still be “on the road.”
Maureen Morrison is one of Marj’s daughters-in-law and Lianna Merner is one of Marj’s granddaughters.
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