The Queen of Everything has moved to a new kingdom. In advance, she sent her husband of 71 years, Francis, ahead to prepare her accommodations.
Born in the same year as the lesser-known Queen of England, like all queens, she has profoundly impacted the lives of many.
With Halloween already taken, she chose to arrive on October 30th, 1926. From that very first day, proud mother Anne Nimchuk became her raison d’être. Mom’s uncommon strength as a young woman helped Nan survive difficult years raising her and her brother Jack in a small house and on a meagre income. Despite the struggles, Mom managed to excel academically, earning a scholarship to pursue post-secondary education. Looking at a bright future and harbouring a deep-rooted yearning to explore the world, she instead chose to support her mother financially and emotionally, eventually welcoming Nan into her home where she was surrounded by the deep affection of her grandchildren. In almost every way, that selfless decision and act of love shaped the course of the rest of Mom’s life.
In 1950, Mom married the man of her dreams, who, she routinely asserted, was the only man she had ever “been with” or would ever “be with”: Francis “Red” Anderson. Maybe it was his smooth dancing skills, his flash of wavy red hair, or his knowledge of naval knots, but the attraction wasn’t likely due to a meeting of the minds. In fact, Mom rated her smartness as 10 out of 10, whereas Dad rated his “a 2” with Mom adding another “7.5”. An often-heard phrase was “It’s a good thing your father met me, or he’d be lying in a ditch somewhere...” In the end they were the perfect opposites to qualify for a long marriage: Mom hated cleaning closets and Dad hated making beds.
With Mom’s determination, to-do lists, and budgeting skills, they built the family home on Farrand Street with their own hands. Contemporary at the time and still a fixture on the street today, the home was large enough to accommodate Mom’s famous giant Christmas trees, each year procured in the same way: by wandering through the “bush” ruling out the top of prospective 100’ victims, then, after that, ruling out the top of the remainder before bringing it into the home. Dress-up New Year’s parties with her friends and waist-expanding family dinners featuring mom’s pies and Nan’s perogies and cabbage rolls were always a staple. Tom Jones and Robert Goulet playing loudly in the hours leading up to holidays and get-togethers, omnipresent. Mom was the catalyst of a very active household with four very active children, allowing a continuous flow of relatives, friends, visitors, and family pets into her home. Even in her final days, Mom welcomed and easily befriended visitors and caregivers at her home in Roseview. From meatballs to wooden spoons, Mom was the adhesive that held the family together.
Limited by her budget but never by her imagination, Mom lived the life she could only dream of. From custom living room drapes of the NY city skyline to ordering clothing and shoes from Macys via mail, sporting a beaver fur coat with fox tail scarf, or having a wedding dress and headdress embellished with imported Point de Venise lace, mom was only sometimes able to keep up with fashion but was always able to keep up with fashion trends by reading about them in the latest edition of McCall’s, House & Home, or Good Housekeeping. If a stylish article of clothing was beyond her budget – which most were – she would make it herself. She had a lot of talents, including sewing.
Later in life, mom kept in touch with the broader world and her aspirations by subscribing to a plethora of magazines: Life magazine, Time, Newsweek, People, National Geographic, Conde Nast, as well as the encyclopedic Vanity Fair. It was impossible to live with her or visit her home and not pick up something to read or just plain pick up the skill of reading. But magazines were only an appetizer to mom as she simply devoured novels; many per week, a dozen or more per month, a hundred or more per year, for an entire lifetime. Her love of literature enriched her dreams of travel, culture, celebrity, world affairs, and great love affairs. While this trait ultimately eliminated her ability to find playing partners for Trivial Pursuit, she could always find partners for cards. Card games in the dining room with relatives, friends, kids, and grandkids were commonplace, with many nickels being lost and even more cheesies and bugles being consumed.
With her home finally a reality, she set her sights on camp life, first at Floral Beach and then finally at Wild Goose. You didn’t just visit camp for the summer, the day after school ended you moved there. Period. No whining about friends in town or summer jobs; you were there for one of a thousand campfires, swimming, and whatever else kids did in those days to entertain themselves when rabbit ears were the only technology to play with. Mom held court, hosting bbq parties and running the food shed during the annual camp picnic. Personally, baking in the sun on an air mattress maintaining her signature deep tan was an almost daily event on the big lake. Mom loved camp and invited all to visit and enjoy it as well.
Early in life, Mom worked at St. Joseph’s hospital and in the mining industry (surrounded by a bunch of “shysters and crooks” as she would say); she finished her career as a school secretary and head of her union, culminating with 21 years at St. Bernard’s school and her final glorious exit on the infamous “Retirement Express Bus”. It is virtually impossible to encapsulate her impact on the Catholic school system but suffice it to say that “handpicked” principals were often assigned to her annually for “retraining”. To quote some remarks from her well-attended retirement, mom was: competent, tactful, decisive, dependable, skillful, and knowledgeable, but was also open with a good sense of humour. She expected a certain standard and decorum from students and teachers and was the first and last person to “set the tone”. It was precisely all of those attributes that made her highly respected and someone who people easily gravitated to and befriended, and it was here that she made the best of lifelong friends. Barry, now deceased, and to this day, Diane, Linda, and Mary, also, outside of school, Art and Barb; all friends who were there through thick and thin, and who continue to be.
After she retired, Mom spent winters in Florida, years she called the best of her life. She worked hard and saved every penny to be able to do that. Yellowstone and the Black Hills in an old tent trailer, Spain and Morocco, Hawaii, and Ireland were other places she felt blessed to have been able to visit and which she reflected upon often. Mom loved historical stuff, the royal family, murder mysteries, and epic series like the Forsyth Saga and Shogun. She loved art, lying about her age, being a member of the Catholic Women’s league, bowling, the TV and music being played loudly, and anything sung by the three tenors. Her phraseology was legendary, often needing to be translated to younger generations. Mom said that anything a man could do, a woman could do better; but she always loved a good-looking man and let him know it.
Mom is not easy to “sum up” but because of her early life challenges, she became a proud and strong woman and mother with the highest expectations of herself and others. Her love never ceased and while not continuously spoken about, her greatest pride was always her three daughters: university educated, independent, and worldly; all the things she longed to be.
You will be missed Mom, by a lot of people whose lives you have touched and inspired.
There’s a place that I travel
When I want to roam
And nobody knows it but me.
The roads don’t go there
And the signs stay home
And nobody knows it but me.
It’s far, far away
And way, way afar,
It’s over the moon and the sea.
And wherever you’re going
That’s wherever you are
And nobody knows it but me.
Mom is survived by daughter Leslie (Mark) and grandchildren Rachel and Nathan, son Richard (Lori) and grandchildren Ben, Max and Ivy, daughter Carol (Bill) and grandchild Eamon, daughter Mary Ann (Steve), and grand dogs Toby and Winny. She has been predeceased by her loving husband Francis, mother Anne and father Michael, brother Jack, as well as many relatives, brothers and sisters in law, friends and colleagues.
A funeral mass will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 7, 2022 at Corpus Christi R.C. Church. Visitation for family and friends will be held September 6, 2022 from 5:00 until 7:00 p.m. with vigil prayers beginning at 7:00 p.m. at Sargent & Son Funeral Home. Interment will take place St. Andrew’s Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Thunder Bay Centennial Conservatory in Joan’s name. Condolences and online tributes can be made at www.sargentandson.com.