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As a little girl, living on her home island of Sao Miguel in the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores, Maria had a recurring dream that she was boarding a plane to travel the world. As a teenager, she often wondered what life was like beyond the horizon and she longed to travel.

Her dream began to come true in 1969 when her parents, Ermelinda and Manuel Cabral, left island life behind and moved their family to Canada, settling in Edmonton with their three daughters. Maria was thrilled, but it was a difficult beginning in a new country. She was quiet and shy, and worked at several jobs to supplement the family income while going to high school. She mastered English and French quickly, and soon realized she had a knack for languages.

Maria worked as a courtroom interpreter and taught at a Berlitz language centre. In 1979, she graduated with a bachelor's degree in French from the University of Alberta Campus Saint-Jean.

Maria worked for nearly 30 years at what she called the perfect job: passenger agent for Air Canada. It afforded her the opportunity to travel and she would pack up and go as often as her schedule and finances would allow. She loved a relaxing beach holiday, but she also had an adventurous streak that drew her to remote areas, surprising those who thought they knew her well, for activities such as camping on a beach in Central America, going fishing and bird-watching in a South American jungle, or hiking up a mountain. She loved shopping in Beijing, sightseeing and shoe shopping in Italy and visiting family and friends in mainland Portugal, the Azores and Rio de Janeiro. Paris and Venice were her favourites.

For the past 13 years, Maria worked at the Vancouver International Airport, where she enjoyed interacting with the public. Even in stressful situations she kept her cool and stayed upbeat, often displaying her genuine, beautiful smile.

Maria had no children but was a doting auntie to her beloved nieces and nephew. She sewed Halloween costumes for them every year, baked decadent birthday cakes and spent hours on craft projects. A sleepover at Titia's was a real treat, complete with breakfast in bed.

A magnificent cook and proficient baker, Maria loved hosting dinner parties, and delighted in introducing her friends to Portuguese dishes, especially her favourite, bacalhau (cod).

Maria was as thankful as she was generous, and she often said she felt lucky to be a happy person. By the time she began to feel ill, her cancer had already metastasized. Four months later, she died peacefully, surrounded by her loving - and heartbroken - family.

Esmeralda Cabral is Maria's sister.

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