Laura Frost

Obituary of Laura Susan Frost



Laura Frost passed away on Monday, May 1, 2023, at the age of 73 years after a 15-month struggle with glioblastoma, which was preceded by a successful 18-month battle with breast cancer.


Laura was born on August 22, 1949, in Saskatoon to Raymond and Virginia Lemieux. She spent her childhood in Ottawa and moved to Edmonton at the age of 12. Laura was the eldest sibling of Rene (1951), Virginia, Michèle, Raymond, Andrée, and Janet. Laura’s affinity for academia was apparent at an early age. She graduated from St. Mary’s high school in Edmonton at the age of 16. Laura’s siblings’ earliest memories of Laura include her prodigious talent for painting, drawing and Latin. The mural she painted in the entranceway of St. Mary’s remained in place for decades. Throughout her life she could recall the Latin names of most flowers she encountered.


Laura began as a summer student in her mentor Bill Paranchych’s lab at the University of Alberta in 1968. She earned her BSc degree in 1970 and liked Bill’s lab so much she stayed and completed her PhD in Biochemistry in 1978. By 1978 Laura was married with three children and credited Bill, her husband Ed, and her parents (both PhDs themselves) for their support and encouragement to finish her PhD.


In the early years, Laura developed expertise in protein chemistry and especially electron microscopy. In the 1980’s Laura spent time in Edinburgh, Scotland where she learned molecular biology. While waiting for her DNA sequencing gels to dry on many an evening at the U of A, Laura wandered down the hall and learned the basics of X-ray crystallography from her colleagues which culminated in a fruitful and fun collaboration that defined the high points of Laura’s early research career.


In 1990, Laura moved to the Microbiology department as a professor with her own lab. Laura mentored many students in her lab and continued to publish research and participate in the scientific community by sitting on numerous panels and committees. In 2003, Laura became Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, the largest university department in Canada. The department was a smorgasbord of interesting fields and personalities and Laura’s talents as an administrator shined. From summer student to Professor Emeritus, Laura spent her entire career at the University of Alberta. Laura’s contributions to the fields of plasmid, genetics, pilus, bacterial conjugation, and molecular biology endure. Her work is frequently cited, and Laura became an important voice for women in science at a time when few women had such accomplishments to their name.


Laura met Ed Frost at a toga party in Jasper in 1967. Laura and Ed married in 1970 and were married for 49 years until Ed’s passing in 2019. They had three children: Frances (1970-2001), Kenneth (Patti-Kris Bogle), and Aimée (Peter Debreceni), and two grandchildren, Harry and Hannah.


Laura and Ed’s life together was filled with mountain adventures. Laura was a keen naturalist with an encyclopedic knowledge of flora and fauna, especially alpine flowers. Nearly every weekend was spent hiking and skiing in the Rocky Mountains with their children, siblings, colleagues, and long-time hiking buddy Jamie Higham. Laura and Ed retired to Canmore in 2010. As Ed’s health declined and their enthusiasm for summiting peaks and passes waned, Laura pursued birdwatching with zeal. She joined several Bow Valley hiking and birding groups from which lasting friendships endured. Laura was an exceptional crossword puzzle-solver, eager gardener, and impressive cook, activities she undertook during many happy stays at her sister Andrée’s cabin in Brisco. Laura may be the only person to ever declare that she loves weeding. Laura volunteered her green thumbs at the North-West Mounted Police Barracks & Hospital gardens in Canmore and the Silver Springs Botanical Gardens in Calgary. Laura and Jamie reunited late in Laura’s life and spent several happy months together in Victoria before Laura’s illness surfaced.


Laura will be remembered for sitting on her brother Ray, her victory at a pie-eating contest, enjoying a nip of scotch with any willing accomplice, and forcing her children and grandchildren on many scenic walks. Laura was formidable in her both academic pursuits and leisure activities. She attracted people with her ability to find fun in most everything she did. She will be fondly remembered and greatly missed.


A memorial celebration for Laura will be held on May 24, 2023, at 1:30 p.m. at Flores & Pine, (254028 Bearspaw Rd., Calgary, AB). If friends so desire, in lieu of flowers, please consider donating in Laura’s name to the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation  or the Agapé Hospice  where Laura was lovingly cared for in the last six months of her life. Condolences, memories and photos can also be shared and viewed here.


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