Obituary of Alice Mary Maskey (née Novak [Nowak])
December 28, 1926 - Yellow Creek, Saskatchewan
March 25, 2023 - Calgary, Alberta
Alice Maskey of Calgary, AB, passed away on Saturday, March 25, 2023 at the age of 96 years.
Alice was the last remaining daughter of Ukrainians Mary and Joseph Novak raised in the depression in northern rural Saskatchewan. She was predeceased by three infant brothers and her five sisters, with whom she maintained close lifelong friendships with lots of music, laughter, and great food. As she always looked much younger than she was, she hid her actual age until the very end when she was proud to state that she had outlived Queen Elizabeth, her doppelganger!
She lived an adventurous life, starting off as a musician for town dances playing the accordion with her family “band” and then, eschewing her father’s offer to join him in running the rural post office and store, training as a nurse at Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert, SK, graduating in 1949. This opened up a world of opportunity and friendships with nursing buddies across the country, some of which friendships lasted over 75 years.
Effortlessly elegant and known as “waspy waist” for her tiny physique, she was a quiet force with a great sense of humour that led to her becoming a leader at a young age, working in Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, BC, in obstetrics, followed by Head Nurse in her mid-twenties in the polio ward during the epidemic in Saskatoon. She relocated to Calgary and was a career woman until marrying at 31, an age older than was usual for the time, to Sydney Maskey. Her thick curly coppery auburn hair was worn on top of her head until much later when she cut it short for ease, still looking elegant with minimal attention, until the end.
Alice helped set up the first neurosurgical unit in Calgary at Foothills Hospital while hiding her first pregnancy (nurses were expected to quit at marriage and certainly when pregnant!). Three more children followed and then an “exciting life” of 35 or more moves in fewer years, eventually moving the family to New Glasgow, NS, and to Moncton, then Rothesay, New Brunswick. While living in Rothesay for many years, she returned to nursing and was Head Nurse in general surgery in Saint John, NB. She calmly and kindly ran a tight ship with high standards of care. All of this was done while running a home and raising four children practically singlehandedly, as well as having three horses, a pet pig, a dog, and a few cats to tend to (despite her fear of animals). Economically practical, none of us ever fully appreciated at the time how she effectively stretched the tight budget. All food was made from scratch and she was famous for her pies, Christmas baking and chocolate chip cookies. A good home and a good education for all her children were her priorities.
When the family eventually returned to Calgary in 1981 after a short time living in Ontario, she worked at Colonel Belcher Hospital in outpatient surgery and emergency, followed by working in rehabilitation at Rockyview Hospital before retiring at age 69. Her colleagues wondered why she was retiring ‘so early’, with her only response a twinkle in her eye.
Alice then enjoyed 29 years living independently as a single woman. She became accomplished at watercolour painting, continuing her love of art she had started as a teenager (charcoal, pastel, and oil painting). She enjoyed birdwatching and was speed-skating into her eighties. She was driving until her 94th birthday, walking daily, and started each day with her “Extrasizes” (downward dog and the plank basic yoga/Pilates routine) which she did until the day before her final illness at the end of February 2023. She enjoyed travelling with one of her favourite trips being one she took to Europe in 1997 with her sisters Linda Schoonover and Dot Symons, her brother-in-law Don Symons, and Bea Causley, her dear friend since nursing school.
Alice had a quick wit and great sense of humour, and never forgot a birthday for any friend or family member – a challenge as the family grew to include eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Welcoming all her children, their spouses, and their kids, she loved putting on a “Boys Lunch” monthly to have family and friends visit and give her an opportunity to bake and cook for a crowd. She and her children were fast friends always and she enjoyed close relationships with her nieces, nephews, and grandchildren.
Despite declining health the past couple of years, she still enjoyed crosswords, playing Scrabble, walking up to two km several times weekly, and never missed a Wheel of Fortune episode. She continued to surprise her physicians, family, and caregivers until the very end, bouncing back from illness with a wonderful attitude of always looking on the bright side of any situation.
She lived independently in her own condo until summer 2021 after which she continued there with the help of family and ‘The Ladies’, her wonderful and loving group of caregivers. She had only just moved in to Trinity Lodge Retirement Residence and, although she had only been there very briefly, she was already making new friends among residents and the wonderful staff.
Even with recent health problems, she faced life with a quiet stoic equanimity which was always her way and an example to all who knew her. Her family has always felt that we struck gold to have her.
She was very grateful for the love and care of Dr. Vicki Penney, her family physician, and for the help and support of Dr. Philip LeLievre, Podiatric Surgeon at Peter Lougheed Hospital.
Alice lived a very long and full life modestly, with grace, dignity, and integrity, while also squeezing fun and good times out of it until the end, each day ending with a large bowl of Cappuccino Flake ice cream and a snifter of Grand Marnier on ice.
Mourning this wonderful Mum, Grandma, Baba, Mother-in-Law (MIL), and Auntie Al are: Jean (Sreeni and Gita Keshava), Colin (Nora, Kelly, and Christopher), Pat (Lynne, Dawn, Ryan, and Trevor), and Mary (Steve, Graham, and Isabelle Pineo), along with four great-grandchildren, Jemma, Brielle, Chase, and Rowan, and many nieces and nephews.
Alice requested that memorial donations may be made to a charity of the donor's choice in lieu of flowers. Due to recent events, she was very concerned about what was happening in her ancestral home so the family believes she would be in favour of supporting Ukrainian refugees.
A Celebration of Life will be held at McInnis & Holloway (Park Memorial, 5008 Elbow Drive SW, Calgary, AB) on Thursday, May 4, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. Reception to follow in the Hospitality Centre at the Funeral Home. Condolences, memories, and photos may be shared and viewed here.
In living memory of Alice Maskey, a tree will be planted in the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area by McInnis & Holloway Funeral Homes, Park Memorial, 5008 Elbow Drive SW, Calgary, AB T2S 2L5, Telephone: 403-243-8200.
Celebration of Life
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