Eileen Joan McKee, aged 85, died June 6, 2016. Born in Mimico, Ontario, on January 1st 1931, Eileen was the elder of two daughters of Irish immigrant parents, James and Maisy (known as Mary) McKee. She was almost named Joan, but the maternity ward was full of babies named Joan, and a nurse persuaded Mary to change the order of her names at the last minute.
Eileen was a good student who was to become a champion of education for her daughters, but in those days women were not ordinarily meant to aspire to any sort of career. They had to find their fortunes through attracting the right sort of husband. There were no suitable candidates at Markham High, and after graduation she moved to Toronto where she worked as a bookkeeper. Eileen had a head for figures, in a different era, she might have been an accountant, indeed in later years she did a little bit of accounting work. She saved up her money for a big overseas trip through England and Europe.
Eileen was with her best friend Janet when they were invited to a party in a London flat, and that’s where, she met a certain handsome Australian, Colin Barrett. Colin’s mother had been a schoolteacher, and he wasn’t afraid of smart women. They shared views on the things that matter most: values like justice, integrity, and thankfully, politics. Together they made a home in which to raise a couple of smart feminist daughters.
Eileen married Colin on January 14, 1961, in a short satin wedding dress that Jackie O would have envied, which she sewed and designed herself. Eileen became a housewife then in the era of housewives, and she performed that job with her trademark perfectionism. She was an excellent cook. The cookie jar was bottomless, there were always pies with pastry that would have won prizes. Eileen made beautiful clothes for her two daughters, she matched plaids on seams and finished hems on the inside of garments by hand.
The family moved from Toronto to Stouffville, then to Kingsville in 1975, as Colin was transferred in his work.
As a mother, Eileen was somewhat intolerant of other people’s children which was a source of embarrassment for her daughters at times. This didn’t stop her from being an excellent mother. She kept the house well stocked with art supplies and library books and encouraged any sort of creativity and imagination. She strongly believed that children should spend as much time out of doors as possible. She never complained if the beautiful clothes she made for her children were ruined. Without reading it in a parenting book, she had grasped the idea that the work of childhood was in play. Additionally, she felt that a certain amount of dirt was good for children.
She put up with pet birds and a procession of gerbils loose in children’s rooms. Pet dogs acquired ostensibly for the family somehow became her own: the three family dogs which followed each other in succession were her well-loved and indulged fur babies.
Eileen played bridge rather well, and enjoyed, but was not particularly good at, curling. She was a member of the Leamington Curling Club for many years. She had always enjoyed gardening especially tulips, Irises, gladiolas and lilacs. She loved to watch birds in the garden and would observe them with the precision of a scientist. She kept her mind agile with a lifelong love of reading and by doing crossword puzzles.
An accident just before Christmas in 2015 took a huge toll, and the last few months of her life were hard. She missed her garden and her family, and though her husband Colin visited her every day, she suffered. She passed away peacefully on June 6, 2016 as a result of ongoing complications of her injuries.
Eileen was predeceased by her dearly loved granddaughter, Olivia. She is survived by her loving husband of 55 years, Colin, and her daughter Catherine Watson and son-in-law Roger Watson of Calgary and daughter Alison Barrett and son-in-law Ian Hogg of New Zealand. She leaves three beloved grandchildren, Colin, Winston and Matilda and a great-granddaughter, Iris.
Cremation has taken place and a private memorial celebration of Eileen’s life is to be arranged. As an expression of sympathy, memorial donations made by cheque to the Salvation Army would be appreciated. Family and friends are invited to share words of comfort and remembrance at www.reidfuneralhome.ca
For more information about this obituary visit http://www.reidfuneralhome.ca.