GRAHAM, Patricia Ann (née McLaren)

January 9, 1933 – October 4, 2019

Patricia was born January 9, 1933 in Melfort, Saskatchewan to Elizabeth Ruth Reid and William Herbert McLaren. Her mother’s family were milliners (hat makers) and on her father’s side were a founding family of Métis Quebec.

Patricia grew up on a Saskatchewan farm and her love of animals started immediately with farm animals cared for like her dolls.  Patricia was the youngest of thirteen children. She was the remaining survivor of this generation.  The McLaren Clan visted frequently and included Ontario’s Doris, Lois, Nancy, Lillian, Betty and Alan; Saskatchewan’s Margaret, Hugh, and Helen; Alberta’s Bill and Merle with Herb in British Columbia. 

By the time Patricia was a teenager both of her parents had passed away and she sped off in her Renault and headed to find her fortune in the Yukon. Her first career of hair styling and small business owner took her from Whitehorse, Vancouver, Vancouver Island and to Orangeville with opening hair salons with her sister Betty.

While in Drumheller with her sister, Merle, Patricia met a cowboy named Bill Graham. Together, in 1963, they rode off into the sunset and headed up north. This was the start of a horse and cattle ranch near the northern Alberta community of Smith, along the banks of the Athabasca River.  Patricia and Bill’s strong pioneering spirit enabled them to endure no electricity, no running water and many acres to clear. Together they raised two daughters, Patty Dawn and Lori-Jo to be fiercely independent like them.

Patricia had a real affinity to Smith and its people. Smith was recognized as the volunteer capital of Alberta and Patricia took that to heart. She helped found the Smith School soup lunch program so hungry students could have a hot meal. She was a caring parent volunteer for school trips throughout the province. She was a baker of the beloved by all Haystack cookies.

With Patricia’s love of horses, she become an avid and skilled horse rider. On the ranch, she herded and trailed cattle and drove a team of heavy horses to feed cattle round bales. Patricia and Bill were natural and sustainable ranchers, long before this agricultural practice had a name. She was a movie extra in the Hollywood film, Silence of the North partly filmed at their ranch.

Patricia won trophies and ribbons for gymkhanas, horse shows, endurance rides and rodeo events.  She was the horse and bench show conveyor. She created the lawn and garden contest and helped establish the chilli cook-off. The Patricia Plate Horse Race was named in her honour.

Patricia’s fellowship was important to her. She was President of the Anglican Church Women, church organist and a Sunday School teacher. Lemon pledge wafted in the air from the hours of polishing the beautiful wood of Church of the Good Shepherd. We often had quilts in the middle of our living room surrounded by ACW ladies’ quilting bee.

Patricia was an active member of the Legion and Half Century Plus Club. She won prizes in bowling, curling, shuffleboard, and darts competitons across the province. She was the editor of the Smith Hondo Community Gazette. She loved community dances and took square dancing lessons.

Patricia’s volunteering and strong community ties culminated in being named the Smith Hondo Citizen of the Year.

After Patricia’s husband Bill passed away in 1990, she had fortitude to run the ranch on her own for many years. In 1998, she realized her dream of having an acreage with an outstanding mountain view along the Cowboy Trail in southern Alberta.  This is where she built a home, gardens and corrals to enjoy her retirement years.

Patrica had an artistic flair and could have hosted her own Home and Garden show.  She had stunning flower and rock gardens. She loved to paint murals. She tiled her own bathrom and crafted tin and wood doors. When we walked through the door there often was a refreshed look to the house. She passed on her love of sewing and knitting to her grandchildren.

Patricia lived and breathed sports. She bled green for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. She worshipped the Montreal Canadiens. She had apps following all of her teams on her smart phone. She delighted in attending live sporting events and cheering on so nervously Lancaster to Encarnacion to Shapovalov to Howard to Big Ben.

Patricia was tough as nails. She never owned a winter coat or boots. She fed cattle in -40s temperatures. She caddyshacked gophers. She could be covered in dirt from the field and then dress herself to the nines for an event showcasing a fabulous hat and dyeing her own boots to match her ensemble.

Patricia loved to go to the theatre and music concerts. She saw Charlie Pride many times. She took great pleasure that Ian Tyson lived on a ranch down the road. Her favourite song was Amanda by Don Williams. She loved the Royal Family and never missed an episode of Cornation Street.

Patricia took a keen interest in naturopathic medicine.  She practised reflexology and reiki on herself and the family. In her bag of tricks of natural cures she had poultices to chamomile tea.  Patricia relished the outdoors and enjoyed walking on the Friendship Trail. She never took an elevator and no amount of flights of stairs were ever too daunting. She was so strong and would amaze her grandchildren by halfing an apple with her bare hands. She was so active and always up to play games from Telestrations to baseball to bocce ball.

Patricia loved Canada from sea to sea to sea and visited all provinces and one territory. She was a champion for the underdog. She taught her family to respect and stand up for all people. She saw perfection in the imperfect. She was always there with a helping hand and a kind word. She was generous and quite literally would give the shirt off her back. She gave the most one of a kind gifts. Her smile lit up the room. People gravitated to her and she was just plain fun to be around. If the battle to pay the restaurant bill was an Olympic sport, she would win a gold medal every time.

Right up until Patricia’s last days she was tackling a barb wire fence. She had cows in the pasture. Her acres of lawn were mowed to the envy of any Major League Baseball club.

Patricia passed away peacefully on October 4, 2019 surrounded by her family.

Zachary, Grace, Emmett, Kyra and Taylor are so blessed to have this amazing person as their grandmother and they adored her. She was their comfort and their cheerleader.

Mom is the light of our lives. She made us stronger, kinder, and wiser. Her love envelopes us.  It is an honour to have her as our beautiful sweet mom.  You take the high road and we will take the low road … till we meet again.

A family graveside service was held on October 16, 2019 at Foothills Cemetery. Mom was laid in her final resting spot here on earth on a lovely hill overlooking a spectacular view of the valley with cows in the field. The sun was shining down on a perfect autumn day.

All family and friends are invited to attend a Celebration of Patricia’s Life at a picnic next summer.

Arrangements entrusted to Cochrane Country Funeral Home, Florence (Flo) Simpson, Funeral Director. Ph: 403-932-1039.

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