Obituary of Katherine McKenney
September 25, 1939 – Toronto, Ontario
May 4, 2023 – Calgary, Alberta
Mary “Katherine” McKenney (nee Lyall), beloved wife of William McKenney, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, May 3, 2023, at age 83 in her sleep.
Katherine was born September 25, 1939 in Toronto, shortly after the beginning of WWII, Katherine grew up in a time when bread, milk and ice were still delivered by horse and buggy.
Roncesvalles, where the family lived, became the neighbourhood setting for many childhood adventures, which Katherine always recalled fondly to her children and grandchildren. Side-by-side with her best friend Ann, Katherine roamed freely through the neighborhood - exploring nearby shops, often including her father’s hardware store at 139 Roncesvalles Ave. The girls loved the local library, attending storytime and religiously checking out their allotted one book per week, which was often read before they even made it home.
Books were one of the great passions of Katherine’s life. When her eyesight failed her, she turned to audiobooks and never lost her love of fiction. She and Ann continued sharing book recommendations their whole lives.
In her own words; “I think that books were always my favourite things. I would hold one in my mouth as I crawled through our house. It wasn’t too hard to find someone to read to me.”
Katherine also recalls a memory from her early childhood where she and Ann inadvertently skipped school and the two girls ended up visiting the park together with their mothers - a “thoroughly enjoyed and undeserved treat.”
Sadly, her mother died when Katherine was only 12. Her father’s sister, Aunt Jessie, moved in and became a maternal figure to Katherine and the two remained very close.
On weekends and in the summer, they would travel to their historic family home in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was Katherine’s favourite place and would be where she eventually got married. She never stopped sharing stories of “Aunt Jessie’s house in Niagara” with her family. Aunt Jessie was a renowned birder, gardener, and collector of antiques. Time seemed to pass the house and the town by. Visiting the family home was like stepping into a bygone era and something Katherine always loved to do.
Katherine remembers childhood summer holidays at lakeside cottages in Ontario. She loved the Muskoka region, Algonquin and so many of the other beautiful places in the Canadian Shield. Along with books, swimming and boating were other great passions for Katherine. She remained an avid swimmer her entire life and passed along that joy to her daughter.
Katherine attended McMaster University, earning her BA. It was at McMaster that she met the great love of her life, William.
They met in the fall of 1959, when they were both volunteering in the coat check at a university theatre group performance of The Cherry Orchard. Soon they were inseparable and remained close for more than 60 years of marriage.
Along with their three children (born between 1962 and 1967), they lived in Burlington, Ontario. Katherine was a homemaker for some time, before going back to school to become a librarian.
Katherine and William provided a wonderful childhood. They instilled a love of nature and of all things Canadian in their kids, with several cross-country camping trips that helped their children appreciate the great landscapes and people of Canada.
Canoeing and camping were a big part of the young family’s life, with frequent trips and outings around Southern Ontario, exploring many of the parks and nature preserves. The family would spend hours at the lakeside, swimming and playing in the sand. When it rained, they gathered inside the tent trailer, playing favourite board games like Life and Risk. Aunt Jessie’s home in Niagara-on-the-Lake remained a beloved place to visit and Katherine shared her love of that place with her husband and children.
In 1979, the family relocated to Edmonton, Alberta, but Katherine’s sense of place always remained back in Ontario. By this time, Katherine had finished her schooling and she took a legal librarian job at Bishop & MacKenzie LLP, which she enjoyed until she retired. Outside of work, Katherine loved swimming, walking her beloved Golden Retrievers in Terwillegar Park (Drifter, then Raffi) and of course, reading.
Her son, Craig remembers: Aside from countless dog walks to Terwilleger Park, my favorite memory of mom was sitting with her after school while she read a book in the warm afternoon sun. If for any reason, I had a bad day she would be happy to have me sit with her and rest my head on her shoulder while she read. She was always there for me.
The first grandchild came in 1991, when Katherine was 52. Katherie and William loved being grandparents. Ever the librarian, Katherine would research the latest toy and book reviews, finding perfect gifts for the children. They were endlessly patient with their grandchildren, taking them on many well-remembered and cherished adventures.
After retirement, Katherine and William moved to Calgary to be closer to their family. During these sunset years they fell in love all over again. Any hardships from earlier times were forgotten and they simply enjoyed being together. Their love grew very deep and powerful. There was simply nowhere else they wanted to be other than with each other.
The family will miss Katherine immensely and we remember her with love.
Besides her loving husband, Katherine is survived by her three children Bryan (Marie) McKenney, Kim McKenney (Ken Lukowiak) and Craig (Krista) McKenney, as well as her grandchildren Kai (Ashley), Bryn, Jenel, Quinn, Sam, Jake and Michael. Katherine is also survived by her lifelong friends Ann Wilkens, Tony (Mary) Salvadori, Pat Duffus, Donna Stevenson and her close cousins Pat Wood and Sandy (Wendy) Burnett.
Katherine was predeceased by her parents, Gordon and Kathleen Lyall (nee Hunt), one of her favourite aunts, Jessie Lyall, and one of her close cousins, Lorna Ballagh.
Honouring Katherine's wishes, no memorial service is planned. The family thanks the compassionate staff of Ward 32 of the Foothills Hospital for their loving care, ensuring Katherine was comfortable during her final days.
Condolences, memories, and photos can also be shared and viewed here. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for charitable donations in Katherine’s name to CNIB, supporting their tireless advocacy of the blind.
In living memory of Katherine McKenney, a tree will be planted in the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area by McInnis & Holloway Funeral Homes, Crowfoot, 82 Crowfoot Circle NW, Calgary, AB T3G 2T3, Telephone: 403-241-0044.
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