It came as no surprise to any of us that Mom’s heart ended her life. She gave her big heart to anyone who needed it until there was nothing left, not even for herself.
With her four children at her side, Catherine Elizabeth Wiley died Jan. 28, two days shy of her 95th birthday; we were all convinced that she was stubbornly trying to survive long enough to celebrate the big day.
Left to mourn Catherine are her husband Warren, her beloved husband of 70 years; children Joan (John Storm), Janice, Tom (Marlene d. 2020) and Doug (Genie); a gaggle of loving grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and extended family and friends.
Mom was born in North York Township (Willowdale) on Jan. 30, 1928, the daughter of Edith and Charles Graham. Edith was a British Home Child, sent to Canada as an orphan; Charles was a carpenter. Mom’s older brother, Elmer, died in 1994.
Mom trained as a nurse at Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie, practised in Vancouver, and eventually took her nursing career to St. Catharines. It was here that Catherine met her dashing future husband, Warren, on a double date (she was with the other guy). They married on Dec. 6, 1952 at Westminster United Church in St. Catharines. She continued to work after the birth of her daughters, but then left nursing and dedicated herself to the family farm. Two sons completed the family.
Catherine juggled many responsibilities as a farmer, wife and mother: schlepping kids around to concerts, sports games, piano and swimming lessons; supporting Dad with farming and his political career; involvement in her church; preparing and harvesting a huge vegetable garden every year; canning and preserving the bounty of gardens and orchards; and planting and maintaining beautiful flower gardens. Her legendary oatmeal cookies attracted younger generations like moths to a flame.
Mom held surprisingly progressive, accepting and compassionate views for a woman her age. She enjoyed narrative poetry (“The Cremation of Sam McGee” and “Casey at the Bat” were two of her favourites). Mom loved to sing, and her whistling ability was a match for the birds that she admired so much.
Mom had an encyclopedic memory, and was able to state categorically who was connected to whom, where they lived, what they did and why, and the latest news of the neighbourhood. It was for this last reason that she was known as CNN, Catherine’s News Network.
A service celebrating Mom’s memory will take place Monday, Feb. 27 at Tallman Funeral Home in Vineland (3277 King St.). Visitation starts at 10am, a Celebration of Life begins at 11am, and light refreshments after the service will be available in the Fireside Room.