Irene Thomson

Irene Thomson

1912 – 2010

Irene (Rene) Thomson passed away at the age of 98 on Saturday, June 26, 2010 in the Williams Lake Seniors Village where she had been a resident since May 2008. Born on a farm near Nantwich, England on March 12, 1912, she was the eldest of seven children of John William Oakes and Jessie (Cooke) Oakes.

The Oakes family emigrated to a homestead north of Sedgewick, Alberta in 1926. Irene, who was 14 at that time attended school for part of a year then went to work as a housemaid in order to help support the family because the selling price of grain was less than the cost of producing it. In 1933, Irene married Herbert Shaw Slater who was the son of a family who had moved to the Lloydminster

area to join the Barr Colonists. Herb’s grandmother had been Irene’s

Sunday School teacher in England. Herb and Irene moved to a homestead adjacent to one owned by his parents. They had three children, William James, Lillian Esther and Margaret (Peggy). However, Herb was fatally injured in a farm accident, leaving Irene to look after the farm and raise the children.

A few years after that, Irene married Robert (Bob) Ringland who owned a large farm in the Lone Rock area. Although Bob had not progressed beyond Grade 3, he was a shrewd business man and accumulated his fortune through property transactions. He was well known in the area as an avid coyote hunter and was often seen in the fall and winter with his pack of greyhounds racing over the fields. However, Bob became ill with diabetes and Irene again became responsible for running a farm with many cattle, horses, hogs and other livestock as well as having crops of wheat, oats and barley sown and harvested.

The children recall her pumping water from the well by hand during the winter for all the livestock because there was insufficient wind for the windmill during the very cold weather. Soon, the farm became too great a burden, so the family moved to Lloydminster for a year, then to a large fruit-tree farm at Carrols Landing in the Arrow Lakes Valley. There was an abundance of apples, peaches, cherries, apricots and many other fruits. It was an idyllic life-style but not a money-making one because sending the products out by the steamboat, SS Minto, which has a large rear paddle-wheel was not practical.

So, Bob again became impatient and moved the family first to Enderby, then finally to Salmon Arm in 1948. Soon after, he became an invalid and Irene again went to work in a grocery store and took in boarders to keep the family together. Bob died in 1955.

The children finished school and Irene was alone again. Irene met John Milton (Jack) Thomson who was the son of a family who had lived on a small homestead on the hill above the village. John was employed in Edmonton as a cottage-cheese maker. They were married in 1960. John was very meticulous and won First Prize for all of Alberta for his cheese-making shortly afterwards.

After retiring, he and Irene moved back to the Thomson homestead in Salmon Arm. They planted huge gardens which produced food for everyone who came to visit them. They also bought a VW bug and travelled all over western Canada and into the Yukon seeing the sights and visiting many family members and friends.

During the Second World War, Jack, who had been in the infantry in the Sicily and Italian campaigns, was wounded and taken prisoner by the German Army. As the Allies advanced, he was moved from hospital to hospital 14 times. He gained great respect for the medical services provided to him by the enemy, and how they risked their lives to rescue him from hospitals which were being bombed.

In the early 1990s, Jack’s old injuries and emphysema made him an invalid and Irene again became the caregiver. They moved into a condo in Salmon Arm and Jack passed away about six years later. They had been married for 40 years.

Irene was diagnosed with breast cancer about 1988 but because of her age the decision was made not to treat it. By 2007, her dementia caused her to be moved first into Shuswap Lodge in Salmon Arm, then to the Williams Lake Seniors Village in order to be near her daughter and son-in-law, Lillian and Bruce Haines.

In March 2010, Irene celebrated her 98th birthday with family members and friends with a large cake with many candles. Much to the surprise of everyone, Irene, with two quick puffs, extinguished all the candles.

During the past three months, the cancer, which had been only a minor annoyance for over a decade, caused her health to deteriorate quickly.

Irene’s younger siblings, Gresty, Margaret, Lilian, Eric, Tom and Mabel, all deceased before her. She is survived by her children, Peggy Geuder, Lillian Haines (Bruce) and James Slater (Judith), eight grandchildren, 23 great grandchildren and 12 great-great grandchildren, a well as many relatives through her three marriages.

Irene has always been a dedicated member of the United Church of Canada and its overseas missions.

A funeral service will be held in St. Andrews United Church in Williams Lake on Tuesday, July 6th at 11:00 am, with a social hour afterwards. Interment with her husband, Jack, in the Salmon Arm Municipal Cemetery will follow with a brief graveside service on Thursday, July 8th at 1:00 pm.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to your favourite charities, especially those involved with overseas relief.

Arrangements are by Compassionate Care Funerals in Williams Lake which is associated with the Memorial Society of B.C.