338 - 4th Avenue North | Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7K 2L7
Obituary of Leona Wilson
1924 - 2020
It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of our precious and irreplaceable mother, Leona Wilson (nee Peppley) on January 30, 2020 with her family at her side. She will be greatly missed by her daughters Colleen (Ken Achs), Cheryl (Jim Twigg), grandson Josh Twigg, sister Irene Neudorf, and many nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by our precious father and her husband of 64 years, Merv, in 2006, parents, Lili and John Peppley, brothers Leonard, Clifford and Jim, and niece Diane Peppley.
Leona was simply the best; a remarkable, but intensely private woman, devoted to her family. Leona wrote in her diary that she led a full and rewarding life, that her family, of whom she was extremely proud, was what she lived for, and that with the increasing impact of Parkinson's Disease on her life, she was very ready to go to her Lord and Savior and rejoin her husband and precious mother who she lost so young. She had no regrets about her life and felt that she had achieved her goals. As painful as this long goodbye over the past 14 years has been, it may have been the only way to accept the loss of a mother so dear, who had been so capable and full of life until robbed of it by this disease. We pray that in heaven she will find peace, the loved ones that predeceased her, and be freed from the health problems of the past 14 years.
Born in Lashburn, SK. January 9, 1924 of proud German heritage, Leona moved to Saskatoon. She attended Princess Alexandra School and Bedford Road Collegiate where she was an accomplished athlete, softball player, speed skater and volleyball star, but as she grew into a young woman everyone knew her for her beautiful looks and her devotion to her family. She married Merv in 1942; a marriage that was to last 64 years. After her marriage she continued to work as a fashion model before deciding to dedicate her life to making a wonderful home for her family. Her flair for fashion was lifelong, and she had that special something to make anything she wore look great. She was a real head turner with her then blonde tresses flowing driving her new red ‘63 Comet convertible. However, her family was her passion. She loved them endlessly, supported them in achieving their goals and took great pride in their accomplishments. She selflessly always put her own dreams and needs second to those of her family.
Leona had a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility. There was nothing she couldn't and wouldn't do for her family. She went far beyond the norm of being a good mother throughout both the childhood and adult lives of her children, and grandchild, until her illness prevented it. Along the way, Leona enrolled her daughters in numerous kinds of lessons and was always there to watch their successes. She was the mother who never missed a school assembly or a parent teacher meeting. She believed fervently in her daughters' education. She did everything so her family could pursue their dreams. She was a nurse, driver, confidante, fan, chef, seamstress, house painter, window washer, financier, gardner, stable hand, companion, and much more, but always looked like a million bucks doing everything. She never asked for anything in return except for her children and grandson to succeed in life, be happy, and to maintain the Christian values she held dear. While her husband and daughters lived very public lives, as a very private person, Leona had no problem living in reflected glory, enjoying their achievements quietly along side them. She was very proud of her husband and what they accomplished together from humble beginnings. She supported Merv as he was building a business and maintained a loving home, 'keeping the show on the road' for her busy family.
Leona was the consummate nurturer and caregiver. Losing her 46 year old mother to a cancer was devastating to her. After her mother’s death, Leona, known affectionately to her sisters and brothers as 'Lee', became the 'go to' one for her siblings, always looking out for them.
Leona was drawn into the horse world with her family. In the 60's and 70's she was a well-known Pony Club mom always attending lessons and horseshows, helping to make Pony Club lunches and running horse show concessions. She loved horse racing attending races with her mother in the 30s and 40s, and later taking her girls racing as children. When her daughters became involved in horse racing, that led to her enjoyment of many years of racing with her family, visiting tracks across Western Canada watching the family horses run in stakes races and helping at the farm. She enjoyed trips to Santa Anita and attended the Breeders Cup. She never missed watching the Triple Crown races with Colleen. For over 30 years, Leona was a regular at Marquis Downs watching the family horses race. While everyone in the family played a role in campaigning the family's Champion thoroughbred, homebred Josh's Hero, enroute to is victory in the Canadian Derby, Leona's supporting role was essential: looking after to her grandson and making sure the home fires were burning so the rest of the family could focus on the horse. It was a great thrill for her to be there and share in that victory with her family.
Leona loved animals and rescued many animals throughout her life. She was never without at least one pet and never said 'no' when her children brought pets home and left her to do all the work, or when as adults, gave her pets they found knowing they would be better of with her. For many of her later years she enjoyed attending Pets in the Park, until outings became too difficult.
Life without Merv was difficult for Leona. In addition to this loss, at the time of his passing she was battled and beat breast cancer, only to find herself soon diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. Before Parkinson's made travel impossible, with encouragement, she travelled to Mexico with Jim, Cheryl and Josh, and went several times with Colleen and Ken to their home in Palm Springs; even “hanging out” with Colleen and Cheryl at a Barry Manilow concert in Palm Springs.
Leona mostly loved to be at home, but she and Merv travelled to business conventions enjoying trips to Quebec, Banff, Nova Scotia, Jasper and various cities in BC. When her girls were young, Leona and Merv had a cabin at Waskesiu and Leona enjoyed many summers there with family. She liked golfing at Waskesiu, Riverside Country Club and Sunrise Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California where Leona and Merv had a vacation home. Like their main home and lake cabin, the Rancho Mirage home was filled with many happy family adventures, including journeys to Disneyland and Universal Studios.
Leona traveled with Merv and her daughters to Expo 67 in Montreal with a contingent from the Board of Trade where Merv was an incoming President, and in the 1980s to Expo in Vancouver. She had wonderful memories of trips with family to Las Vegas, Phoenix, Peppley gatherings in North Dakota, the Wilson family reunions in BC, and her trip to Hawaii for Colleen and Ken's wedding. As a 60th wedding anniversary gift Colleen took Leona and Merv on an Alaska cruise, accompanied by Cheryl and Merv's brother and his family. It was an incredible memory for all.
Leona was the keeper of all family memorabilia. She saved every item that her family gave to her, no matter how insignificant. She kept all the letters that Merv mailed to her when he was serving in the army in London during WWII, and cherished the engraved heart bracelet he had made for her from aircraft salvage metal.
She loved country music, Ray Price, Elvis, the Oilers and the Roughriders. She hosted numerous Grey Cup and Stanley Cup gatherings. She especially loved the movies, particularly stars Clark Gable and Lana Turner, the latter who she was often said to look like. She was always singing around the house, loved to dance and enjoyed practicing disco dancing with Colleen. She enjoyed playing bridge and was an excellent gardner. She was a fantastic chef and baker. She always enjoyed politics and was politically active in the 1960s and 70s. She was a mentor to her daughters' friends and will be remembered by them for all the words of women's wisdom shared over tea and her fresh baked muffins.
She loved hearing of her daughters successes and sharing the adventures of their lives, meeting many celebrities, travelling to big horse races, and being a most enthusiastic “Hockey Grandma”. Leona shared her love of fashion and savy bargain-hunting with her daughters enjoying many shopping marathons, often in LA and Palm Springs. Fashionable to the end of her life, as late as this summer she still got a gleam in her eye when Colleen would dress her up and take her on a stroll to go shopping and for a fancy coffee afterwards.
The birthday parties Leona threw were complete with pink and green cake and matching pinwheel sandwiches. They were legendary; she did it out of love, but unbeknownst to her they weresaid by the attendees years later that they were ”the social event of the season” for little girls. Leona tirelessly hosted storybook family Christmases, making sure every detail was perfect and family traditions were maintained, always celebrating with her sister Irene and her family. Those years created indelible memories for us. Her Sunday dinners were the highlight of the week for her family for many years. She was tireless.
In 2014, Leona had a 90th birthday celebration with family and friends. Then, and right until her passing, she still looked so beautiful with her silver hair, twinkling bright blue eyes and unforgettable smile.
Leona’s wish was to remain as long as possible in the midcentury dream home that her and Merv had built in 1961. She resided there until 2014 when her health issues became too great to tackle stairs. To build a house like that there was no doubt she was “cool“. It was with a heavy heart that there was no choice but to move mom somewhere safe on one level. We will be always grateful to her long time live-in caregiver and ‘Filipino daughter’ Laarni Rombawa, whose dedication extended the years mom could be in her home; to Kryssa Angeli Ereso (RN), who was like a granddaughter, for providing daily private care for Leona for the last two years; to Amy Blom who lived-in and and took such great care of mom when Colleen and Laarni needed back up; and to the part time caregivers over the past 12 years who provided private assistance to Leona from time to time as back up. The family would also like to thank the staff of Circle Drive Special Care Home for helping to care for Leona in the past few difficult years of her life.
Leona's devotion to her Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was important throughout her life. She constantly read her white Bible,taught Sunday school, attended Bethel Church, Grosvenor Park United, where Merv was an elder, and in later years attended Calvary Church.
We were so very blessed that Leona was and always will be our mom. Leona’s Celebration of Life will be held at Calvary Church 2810 Louise Street, Saskatoon on Thursday, February 6th, 2020 at 1:30pm. Leona said she would be happy for friends to pay their respects by simply remembering her and Merv, and the good times they all shared over the years. Internment will be in the family plot at Woodlawn Cemetery.
While we know our mom will always be the angel on our shoulders, we will rejoice in one day being with her again in Heaven where we know she will be the first one waiting for each of us by heaven's gate.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Saskatoon Pets in the Park, the Saskatoon SPCA, Street Cat Rescue or New Hope Dog Rescue.
Condolences may be left for the family at www.saskatoonfuneralhome.com
Arrangements have been entrusted to the Saskatoon Funeral Home.
Dependable. Committed. Compassionate.
338 - 4th Avenue North
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7K 2L7
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