Alice Miller Remembered

1922 - 2014

Alexandrina “Alice” Miller late of Penticton, British Columbia formerly of Weyburn, Saskatchewan passed away quietly the morning of Thursday, March 20, 2014 the first day of spring, two days, one month short of her 92nd Birthday. 

Eulogy by daughter Sandra

Alexandrina (Alice) Miller, nee MacDonald, of Penticton, BC, passed quietly the first day of spring - March 20, 2014, two days and one month short of her 92nd birthday. She is survived by her daughter Sandra (Albert) Hanni, two grandsons: Jeffrey Hanni (Candace Cummings), his son Noel and David Duncan Hanni (Danna) and their daughter Allison. She was the last of her siblings: Christina Douglas, Nina Patterson, Bill MacDonald and Rhoda Forseth. She had fond memories of her nieces and nephews and their families. She had a plethora of friends all over the world and kept in touch with their Hawaii Beach gang regularly. 

Alice, daughter of William and Jessie MacDonald, grew up on their McTaggart farm. It was an innocent and happy time, taking part in the farm girls' program, playing ball, and of course, helping with harvest. She was determined to finish her education and moved to Mama Bell's on Foster Street, Weyburn where she completed her Grade 12. To pay her way, she worked at both the Soo and Royal Hotels for the owners who had her help with banquets. There she learned how to do fancy baking. 

Mrs. McRoberts, owner of the Royal Hotel during the war years, held many an evening for the boys from North Weyburn RAF station. Alice worked as receptionist/bookkeeper as well as with those socials. To keep the boys entertained, there were dances at North Weyburn, and the locals would be bussed out. That is where she met her future husband, Sidney Miller, a RAF from Gravesend, Kent, England. They both enjoyed ballroom dancing and continued to do so through their life. 

They were married in September 1943 and the following spring. Sid got sent back to England. As a spouse going to join her husband, she had to have a medical and discovered she was with child. She had to wait to join him once her only child was born in August 1944. Three months later they traveled with the help of Red Cross, across the ocean. Not a good trip for her with seasickness keeping her down. She stayed with her sister-in-law Joan until Uncle Dodge came home. Then we stayed at Grandad Miller's where she kept house. She decided it was safer to head to Scotland and stay with Granny Ross. 

The MacDonald family welcomed Alice and Sandra with open arms and she thoroughly enjoyed her time there. She would take the pram and go walking to the beach for some solitude, not realizing she was sitting under the testing range for the forces. 

When Sid was demobbed, we returned to Gravesend where we lived on the top floor of an apartment next to a bombed out building, one block up from the Thames. She worked as a bookkeeper for an importer/exporter for a time. She developed breathing problems and they decided before returning to Canada, to see what could be done through the National Health Plan. As a result of a team of specialists' consultation at the world famous Guys Hospital in London, she underwent surgery to help her breathing, resulting to a permanent tracheotomy that she lived with ever since.

For many years, no one realized she had this disability. As Alice said in one of her stories, "One does not need to advertise an ailment. Just deal with it and get on with life." She did that with dignity and grace.

Returning to Canada in 1950, she continued working with numbers, her favourite thing other than dancing. She worked in the automotive industry as an accountant: first with Weyburn Motors Ltd., on 2nd Street with Cliff Fleming, a wonderful boss and later with Gerry Papic, Great Plains Ford and finally with Ron Barber, another one of her favourite people, at Barber Motors.

Alice was the first lady accountant in Canada to win a perfect score for three years running, all done by hand - no computers for her. She also worked at the City of Weyburn with Johnny Norman until Ron Barber enticed her back into the car dealership life. 

She enjoyed her life and family with the ups and downs as we all experience. They would go dancing and attending big band orchestras in Regina with her sister and husband, Chrissie and Albert Douglas. She decided she wanted more creativity in her life and took up painting, first in oils, then water colour. Four of her watercolours are in the City of Weyburn Permanent Art Collection. She donated her talents to the first local Communithon, and along with her grandson Jeff, produced a number of posters, some of which are still in existence. 

Alice was involved in the making of Weyburn's "Big Wheel" with Joan Linley and others. She, along with Dorothy Barlow, also helped design the City of Weyburn flag by researching heraldry for meaningful symbolism for Weyburn. That flag remains a part of the City today. 
She wasn't a joiner but would help out or volunteer at the United Church's fair booth baking pies, or supplying fancy cupcakes for teas. She was on the charter council for Job's Daughters, a Masonic young woman's organization - both local and provincial.

Alice was a working mum when most mothers stayed at home, but she was a very caring mother and grandmother who delighted in her great granddaughter Allison. Summer was traveling and camping tent style. None of these fancy affairs people travel with these days.  Hot cocoa in the morning at Banff, or camping by a roadside stream was the way we went. One summer they discovered Penticton in the Okanagan Valley. 

Eventually Alice and Sid lived out their retirement there enjoying the condo life and their many winters in Hawaii. She was an artist, a writer, an archivist, and a historian of family and local events. She was a very organized person with many stories, files and binders documenting her and her family's life. Thanks for that Mum.

She completed her first book Paper Dolls (her early life on the farm - dedicated to her parents) in the 1980's, her gift to the "MacDonald" grandchildren. In 2012 she completed 'War Bride' depicting our time in England. 

Predeceased by her husband Sidney in July 2001, she was determined to stay in her beloved condo and did so until a week before her death. As Frank Sinatra, one of her favourite singers, said, "I did it my way", and she did. 

We will miss her terribly but with great love for how she showed us what life is all about. 

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to min'? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And days o'auld lang syne?" ...Robert Burns 1759-1796

Alice Remembered by brother-in-law Murray Douglas

As Alice was just 5years older than me, I have many memories of her, and of her absolutely glorious abundant head of curly reddish hair. 

At our commemoration event for Chrissie, when she died at 96 last year, I recounted numerous great memories of Chrissie & the rest of the MacDonald family; of Mr. & Mrs William MacDonald, Alice, Bill, Nina & Rhoda, who lived just 1/2 mile south of us. Where I went countless times on my pony (the most beautiful in the world), Daisy. And where I shared countless meals at the MacDonald table at the invitation of Mrs MacDonald, one of the best cooks in the entire Weyburn area - as was recorded by her many awards won at the annual Weyburn Fairs. 

Probably last year among those memories I told the fantasy I had when I was about 10-12y old, concerning Chrissie, Alice & Nina. For those not present at that event last yr, here it is.

That was at a time when I was greatly enamored of Nina with her glorious shiny jet black straight hair. Hair which shook out from her head when at our 1-room Actonvale School Christmas parties etc  Nina gave her memorable performances of the strenuous & famous  'Sword Dance', danced to the bagpipes played by her brother Bill. A super-vigorous dance which would leave Nina exhausted, out of breath.  After all these yrs I can still hear Nina gasping for air when she finished. 

My fantasy? 

My fantasy was that Chrissie, Alice & Nina would marry Albert, Elmer & me, & that we would all live happily ever after!!   Elmer was in fact as enamored with Alice as I was with Nina. 

3 beautiful MacDonald girls, married to 3 Douglas boys. 

Now how's that for a young boy's fantasy? A fantasy which I never revealed publically until at the event for Chrissie last year. A fantasy which I now share also with my grandchildren, Heather & Roby, which may make them bust out laughing at their grandfather.

When a few yrs later Alice married Sid, I didn't hold a grudge against him. Actually it seemed tremendously romantic that a Brit in the RAF would come to the SFTS air training station located about 2 miles east & 1 mile north of Weyburn, lost  in the middle of the endless prairies, & that Sid & Alice would meet, & would fall in love, & would get married!  Totally romantic, the Alice & Sid story!!!

So with those who were not present at the event for Chrissie last yr, I now share these fond memories about Alice & her younger sister Nina who stirred my pre-adolescent testosterone. Potent gals, those MacDonald gals!!!

My sincere sympathy to the close family members of Alice, a member of the MacDonald family which was so important in my young life.

Alice Remembered by Verna (Beichel) Korkie

I will always remember Alice Miller as being a lady of substance, dignity, and integrity.  She was instrumental in getting Job's Daughters going in Weyburn and how wonderful that was for us teenage girls - kept us from becoming 'wayward'- now that's catchy - "the Waywards from Weyburn". 

I remember to this day that one of the duties we had was to 'convene' a tea.  So organizational skills started way back then under Alice's tutelage.  How grateful my heart because I always think of her when organizing an event - and there have been dozens - be it a humble dinner party for 4 or a bigger celebration involving many. 

And she always wore such beautiful neck scarves long before they were 'de rigeur.  I raise my glass in a toast to a wonderful woman who lived well and made a difference.