Gwendoline Pah, beloved wife of the late William Pah, passed away on January 11, 2021. Gwen and Bill were married for 68 years. Their marriage was truly a life long partnership. Gwen was the much-loved Mother of Jennifer (Ed) and Graham (Gloria), Grandmother of Amelia (Rob) and Paul, Sister of Leslie (Daintry) and Shirley, Aunt to Claudia, Jeffery, Noreen, Corrine, Sharon, Jeffery, and Dean and a Great-Aunt to their many children.
It was her outlook on life that endeared our Mom, Gwen Pah, to everyone she met. Life was the adventure. Gwen distilled the essence of good will out of every moment. There was always a reason to laugh and be grateful-even during a time of sadness. In Gwen’s world- when circumstances ended on a bad note, to our Mom it was over and at least we had tomorrow to look forward to. Perhaps watching her Dad race motorcycles in the 1930’s helped develop her passion for life. The depression was a difficult time. However almost all of Gwen’s stories were awash with fun. At 8 years old, the boys in the apt. building next door dared her to jump off her 3rd floor balcony to theirs. Gwen did it, the boys next door that started this… did not!
When Covid Pneumonia hospitalized Gwen, our Mom could not believe she had tested positive. Later as the diagnosis sunk in. Gwen said she’d had a wonderful life. Never once as the pneumonia progressed did Gwen’s spirits’ fade. She tried to have us understand that she was ok and not to be worried for her.
At 17, Gwen joined the Canadian Air Force. Gwen’s school chum was planning to enlist the next day. Gwen went home and asked permission. It was ‘ok’ by her parents as long as it was the Air Force. Her older brother-Leslie was training to be a flyer.
The next day Gwen was a new recruit in the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division; an Official WD. Years later Gwen marched in Veterans parades in Ottawa. Proud of her wartime service, she helped organize the 60th RCAF-WD reunion in Montreal. Meeting the Ultimate Canadian Airwoman Roberta Bondar was a highlight of her life
At Uplands Air Force base in 1942 Gwen worked in the Link Trainer division, precursors of todays flight simulators. Gwen got treated to plane rides with new pilots and barrel rolls and nose dives over Ottawa’s landscape.
As a member of the Airforce Women’s basketball team and an energetic jitterbug champ, Gwen had a never-ending source of dance partners and an audience to cheer the team on at courtside.
After the war ended Gwen met our father Bill on a blind date. Bill was the man for our Mom. Bill loved to ski, hike (and although he claimed to be the better dancer he wasn’t). He introduced Gwen to canoeing. Canoeing was their summer passion; together they often paddled through the Lachine rapids and frankly, any other white water they managed to find. Although, if it got too scary Gwen would lie down flat in the canoe and not look. Their honeymoon, an alpine ski vacation at Stowe Vermont.
As kids arrived it was family skiing and camping. On a skiing trip to Mt Washington, Dad broke his leg badly. New driver Gwen took over, battling Montreal traffic punctuated by remarks from a serious backseat driver, Dad. Gwen developed driving nerves of steel.
In 1971 Jennifer and Gwen took off on an adventure that was to include riding bicycles from Paris to Cannes. Despite never having been to Europe, Gwen and her 17-year-old daughter arrived in Paris with folding bicycles, plus a CAA triptych road trip to Cannes. Realizing the small bicycles were a mistake, they rented a car. Gwen learnt how to drive stick shift in the Alps. Her daughter working the handbrake; when Gwen yelled ‘GO’ Jennifer released the brake and then gunning the gas and riding the clutch Gwen + Jen subdued the French alps.
Gwen’s retirement included quilting, tap dancing, volunteering and travels with Elder Hostel. She took the dare at age 70 to go parasailing in the Caribbean. Snorkelling was a passion into her late 80’s. When Gwen went to the ocean it was to go in the water. As was her wont, our Mom brought encouragement and enthusiasm. Watching Gwen jump in was often enough to brush aside the reticence of many beachgoers. People fearful to “get in” realized the white-haired grandmother was already in, and they joined her.
Some of Mom’s favourite memories were vacations in Cape Cod. Walks by the water were a must and she and a young Paul collected seashells together. Mom hunted for pretty shells while Paul hunted for shells that still housed crabs. Paul would chase his Grandmother down the beach with anything scary. Gwen would tell Paul to put that down, as she went running; the two of them laughing together.
During the later years of their lives Mom and Dad lived at the Cambridge senior’s residence in Pointe-Claire. Laura Roach took care of Mom’s daily living, and her companionship made it possible for our parents to live in the Cambridge independent living area. Lori Pearson was Gwen’s physiotherapist and often her confidante. Both were good friends to her, and Mom so appreciated their visits. These last two years especially, the Cambridge and the 2nd floor CARE staff treated our Mom with patience and kindness and Gwen was always very confident that she would be well cared for. As a family we want to extend our deepest gratitude to all the people that helped our parents live out the most vulnerable portion of their lives.
Our thoughts go out as well to Elizabeth Laporte & Ralph Pollard. Neighbours who became friends and kept our parents young and engaged for many years.
It was at the Cambridge that my parents met Robert McTaggart, later to be husband to Grand Daughter Amelia “Molly”. They had tea in the garden. When Molly married Rob, they travelled to Montreal and watched the video of their wedding with Gwen. Gwen was transported by the moment. Mom sang the wedding hymns aloud. It was a joyful time for our Mom.
If it sounded fun and interesting Gwen was up for it. If you needed help or just a cup of tea, she was there. Her advice was always carefully given to allow you to reason it out for yourself. Gwen was our best friend, our co-conspirator, always in our corner and the best Mom you could ask for. Once we are able to gather together again we plan on a proper farewell party for Gwen, deserts, tea and Gin and tonics.
Condolences can be left on the Voluntas site. If you wish to be included concerning the dates of a farewell party please include your contact details.
Gwen will take her place this summer with our Dad, Bill Pah, in the Canadian Armed Forces National Field of Honour Cemetery, in Pointe Claire Quebec. Together forever, in God’s hands.