Autumn has always been my favorite season. As a child, September meant back to school, and I was always eager to return. The smell of books, the sharpness of pencil crayons, the excitement of seeing friends again and making new ones—I enjoyed it all. I extended that enthusiasm into my own teaching, first in elementary school and then at the university level.
Now, I still relish autumn with its golden-red leaves, crisp mornings, and cool nights. But, there is a layer of sadness combined with gratefulness over some of my September days. I had three friends die from some form of cancer in September. I also remember another friend who died in March but whose birthday was in September. I miss those four friends.
Marilyn Bales: I worked with Marilyn in the Indian Teacher Education Program (ITEP) at the University of Saskatchewan. Marilyn was the administrative assistant, and the ‘go-to’ person for all the staff and students. She and her family moved to Burnaby, B.C. I visited her a few months before her death on September 5, 1995. Her daughter, Dana, used to babysit for us, and I kept in touch with her for a few years. Unfortunately, we lost contact, and when I was writing my second book, I wasn’t able to locate Dana. I miss Marilyn’s sensible outlook on life, her warmth, and her smiles.
DiAnne Holbrook: DiAnne and I became acquainted in the bathroom at the Nesbitt Burns Office in Bankers Hall in downtown Calgary. She was an associate with one of the male brokers in the office, and I was a new investment advisor. The only place women really socialized in the office—other than brief good mornings—was in the bathroom. A few years later, DiAnne and I ended up at the same Bank of Montreal (BMO) branch on 130th Avenue in Southeast Calgary. In fact, we were part of the team that opened that branch. DiAnne had worked in the financial business all her working life and had extensive knowledge of both the retail banking and brokerage sides of the business. We shared concerns, celebrated successes, and developed a firm friendship as we worked together at 130th Avenue. DiAnne told me that the biggest change in the banking business was how the emphasis had changed from service to sales. We both tried to make sales to meet our targets while attempting to provide excellent service. Clients and I valued DiAnne’s knowledge and strong work ethic. I remember DiAnne’s laugh the most. I can close my eyes and still hear that laugh. She died on September 17, 2007.
Virginia Wood: Virginia worked as an independent in the publishing business in Alberta. I first met Virginia when I was working for Scholastic Publishing as the Southern Alberta Representative. Virginia was the one who welcomed me into the publishing group, and we saw each other regularly as we set up and worked displays at conferences and teachers’ conventions. She gave me invaluable tips and suggestions. After I left the publishing group, Virginia and I kept in touch, meeting for lunches and conversations. The last time I saw Virginia was in the hospice. Her goal at that time was to live for the birth of her latest grandchild—she fulfilled that goal and died shortly after on March 2, 2009. I miss Virginia's kindness, her love of books, and her sharing.
Louise McLeod: Louise worked in the financial business for many years. She was part of the 130th Avenue BMO Branch team. As a Customer Service Representative—those of us of an older vintage recall the term Tellers—Louise was on the front-lines of the branch. She was extremely competent and friendly. I always knew when Louise was in the branch because I could hear her peals of laughter rolling down the hallway to my office. We were all intrigued with her various shades of hair colors. Louise loved her two sons dearly. Louise died September 16, 2011. I had gone to visit her at a hospice the day before her death. She was heavily sedated so I said a brief hello and goodbye and left so that family members would be alone with her.
As another September rolls into October, I think of these four women and value the friendship and laughter that we shared.