Wilhelmina “Minnie” O’Connor
“Family – like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one.”
We are deeply saddened by the sudden but peaceful passing of our beloved mother Wilhelmina (Minnie) O’Connor.
Minnie was born in Consort, Alberta on June 19, 1933, the eldest of 8 children. She married John O’Connor in 1951 and they set about to farm for themselves in St. Bride’s, Alberta. They were struggling to make ends meet with three children, and it was then that they decided to move to Whitehorse, Yukon in search of a better life. Here, John and Minnie put down roots and grew their family, having 8 children together and eventually many more grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Family and faith were both cornerstones of Minnie’s life. She put her family on a pedestal and was fiercely proud of their achievements and success and wasn’t afraid to give them advice when she felt it was needed. It was second nature to her to create opportunities for her family to be together and connect. Minnie and John’s cabin in Tagish, Yukon was one of those places, and so were her weekly luncheons which she began hosting once she moved into a senior’s residence in Whitehorse. Every week, the hallways of the building would fill with the scent of homemade white and whole wheat buns and simmering pots of soup as Minnie would prepare a feast from scratch for all of her family members to drop in for lunch.
This kind of never-ending stamina of Minnie’s is something her friends and family will remember about her. She was someone who always had a project on the go, whether it was finishing a knitting project while watching a Blue Jays game, tending to her flowers and abundant vegetable gardens, baking her famous cinnamon buns, or canning and preserving her garden harvests. Her friends and family would laugh and shake their heads in disbelief when she would tell them of the trips she was planning, or all of the things she wanted to get done that day. When she set her mind to something, she was hard to stop – and she seemed to always achieve what she set out to do. This is someone who, at age 56, was determined to hike the Chilkoot Trail and also come out of the strenuous hike looking like her usual self. Minnie snuck a set of pink sponge rollers into her pack to set her hair and finished that hike with her honey blonde curls completely intact.
Things didn’t always come easy to Minnie and John in their lives. They endured lots of hard work in their careers and raising their family. Minnie grew to be someone who deeply appreciated the value of a dollar – be it a dollar earned through hard work or won at a casino slot machine. She worked hard to make sure that she had enough in her life, and that those of her family were set up for success. In an interview, Minnie joked, “If there ever is a catastrophe, my kids say they’ll come to my house because I’ve got enough food for us all; I like to see a full freezer and lots of jars on the shelf.”
And if her actual family wasn’t large enough, Minnie’s circle grew even wider when she moved to 600 College Drive. Her friends in the building became like a second family, and she was always involved in the building’s activities such as potlucks, evening gatherings in the lobby, the holiday craft fair, and of course, the weekly games of bingo.
Minnie appeared in the book Remarkable Yukon Women, which celebrated the lives of 50 women over the age of 50 who made the Yukon their home. She was an avid fan of curling and baseball and delighted in traveling and spending her winters in Arizona, and visiting the occasional casino. Minnie was also a proud member of the 33 Club, a group of Yukon women all born in the year 1933. Every year they would gather somewhere special for a meal in celebration of each other. When people think of Minnie, they will remember her spunky attitude, deep love of the people in her life, and unwavering faith. They will also likely remember the flavours of the food Minnie lovingly brought to the table – the sweet taste of a warm, freshly baked cinnamon bun, the savoury comfort of Ukrainian pierogis and cabbage rolls, or the fresh crunch of vegetables fresh out of her garden to name a few.
She is deeply loved and missed. Until we meet again, Rest in Peace Mom
Minnie was pre-deceased by her husband John, daughter Catherine, sister Marie, as well as her mother Lyda and father Francis Gottenbos. She is survived by her 7 children and their spouses, 15 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, 6 brothers and sisters, and many friends.
A memorial mass will take place on Friday, September 23 at 2:00 pm at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
A celebration of Minnie’s life will take place in the CYO Hall on Sunday, September 25 at 2:00 pm.