My Mother’s House

After all, it was her house too, for more than half a century.

Laureen Gowan was born on Christmas Eve, 1929, the same day as my father, though he was born in the afternoon and she in the morning.

The older woman.

She was the daughter of Lee and Fanny May (Carson) Gowan. She and her four brothers and five sisters grew up on a farm in Bruce County, Ontario, near the village of Allenford. Another sister, Pearl, died at only seven.


Mom is at the extreme left of the family photo above: appears to be taller than her Dad. Mom’s three surviving sisters, Sadie, Mary, and Anna, fondly remember her as a strong-minded Tomboy who liked doing farm work with the boys. Determined. Adventurous. That spirit led her to leave Bruce County, the only one of her siblings to do so.

She did her nursing training at Owen Sound General and Marine Hospital and graduated as an RN in a class of 14 in 1951. One of her first jobs was at the London Psychiatric Hospital, pictured below, and she later worked for a year at Toronto Western Hospital before accepting a job in 1956 in Powell River, British Columbia.

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On her journey across the country to her new job she made a stopover in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, to visit her father’s cousins, Nelson, Goldwin, and Gordon Gowan. Goldwin was on the Swift Current Union Hospital Board and found her a job. She gave up on Powell River without ever reaching there, which is the way life often works. Her head had been turned by her 2nd cousin, Joseph Gowan.

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On October 26, 1957, Joe and Laureen married. She moved into the house where Joe lived his entire life. Together they ran the mixed grain and beef farm, and raised four children: Heather, Lee, Raymond, and Alison. Unfortunately for the rest of us, after Heather was born they stopped taking photographs. Fortunately they got some great ones of her.

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Laureen was a full partner in all aspects of working the farm, helping out from seeding to harvest and managing the cattle. She also planted one of the largest private gardens anyone is ever likely to see, growing enough produce for the family and many friends and neighbours.


Laureen was known for her inquisitive mind, subscribing to her Aunt Wynn’s declaration that you should never let your housework get in the way of your reading. She encouraged all of her children in their chosen paths, Heather as a teacher, Lee as a writer, Ray as a farmer, and Alison as a musician and teacher. Even in her final years she was still a feared Scrabble opponent.


She died on June 4th, 2015, surrounded by by her family. We will remember her for her determination, her laughter, her kindness, and for her watchful greyish-blue eyes. We will miss her very much.


9 thoughts on “My Mother’s House

  1. What a lovely tribute to your mom, Lee. I’m impressed with her story, and wishing I’d met her in person. But I’m glad to read this, and very pleased to see her in the photos. We never met, but your mom is part of my own story too, having read and approved of my very first book. Thank you, Lee, for that introduction and now, for this.


  2. Thanks, Lee, for the memories and the photos. Loved Aunt Laureen for all the things you mentioned: her inquiring and active mind, her kindness and caring and abive all, she loved her family. Just loved that sparkle in her eye and the watchful way she had of checking your reaction to something she had said. Bob and I were so blessed to visit your parents many times when we were in Alberta. They treated us like gold. Great writing as always, Cousin Lee!


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