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Mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, wife, aunt, sister, dear friend to many. Born Oct. 11, 1915, in St. Catharines, Ont. Died Aug. 11, 2011, in Lindsay, Ont., of cancer, aged 95.

When anyone who knew Margaret Hayes thinks of her, it's likely they remember her raucous, gravelly laugh and enthusiasm for life. She liked nothing better than a good time and a good joke. She treasured the goofy cards, wacky fridge magnets and singing stuffed animals that people brought her. Anyone who could appreciate a toy pig that snorted Jingle Bells was welcome at her party.

The youngest of Harry and Ida Collins's four children, Margaret thought about becoming a dietitian. But the tall, stylish 19-year-old was courted by Ralph Hayes, who was on the rise in the pulp-and-paper industry. After they married, in 1935, they lived in Baie-Comeau, Que., Pine Falls, Man., and finally Toronto.

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There she was part of a bowling league and a bridge club, and when she visited her sister Neula in St. Catharines, Ont., she would sit in on Neula's poker club. If Marg had a zany streak, it was nothing compared to her rollicking older sister. When she visited, the pair of them would spend hours cackling like a pair of geese.

For all the fun, though, Marg took her role as a mother seriously. She was always supportive and assumed that her kids – Susan, Salli and David – would turn out just fine. But Marg also had a feisty streak and could be stubborn; she sometimes feuded with family members for reasons that left people scratching their heads. Ultimately, it just meant she had human weaknesses.

At 91 and a widow, she moved to a little apartment in Fenelon Falls, Ont., not far from Salli. She loved her strategically located unit where she could watch everyone come and go from the building, as well as the garden that Salli created for her. She missed Toronto, though, and always looked forward to her visits there.

During her short battle with cancer, she never lost her powerful spirit. While a few times you could sense that she raged against the dying of the light, her healthy optimism meant that she accepted the inevitable and retained her wry sense of humour. One morning, after David and his partner, Jennifer, had been up half a dozen times through the night to tend to her, she said to David: "I'm sorry you kids had to stay up half the night making sure I don't croak."

Somewhere in the world right now, it's about 5:30 in the afternoon. If you arrived at Marg's place around that time, she would say to get yourself a drink, which meant get her one, too. Her favourite, from midlife on, was a gin and tonic. ("Two ounces," she would say, in case you thought an ounce-and-a-half of gin qualified as a drink.) So raise a glass, real or imaginary, and toast this wonderful woman who, wherever she is right now, is doing the same.

David Hayes is Margaret's son.

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