It is with extreme sadness that we announce the passing of Mary, after a lengthy fight with cancer. Mary will always be remembered by her husband, Charlie, sons Cameron and Graeme, her brother Jim Nowell (Carol), brother-in-law Doug Birt (Kathy), sister-in-law Janet Force (Bob) and many nieces and nephews. Mary was predeceased by her son Taylor, her parents Gilbert and Margaret Nowell and her infant brother, John.
Mary was born in Winnipeg and grew up in River Heights. At an early age, she discovered she was blessed with a magnificent singing voice. Mary performed in operettas at Kelvin High School and as a competitor in the Winnipeg Music Festival. All this talent and training led to a professional career in singing. Mary performed in many local and national radio and television shows for CBC as well as many public events. Her career highlight was performing four solos with Duke Ellington and his orchestra in a performance of his Sacred Music at the Centennial Concert Hall in March of 1970.
Mary attended the School of Music at the University of Manitoba where she received her Bachelor of Music and Licentiate of Music degrees. Upon graduation, Mary joined the Manitoba Department of Education School Broadcasts, where she wrote scripts, planned, organized and produced radio, television and film programs.
Mary married Charlie Birt, and they were blessed with three sons, Taylor, Cameron and Graeme. Her family was of utmost importance to her.
Once her three boys were in school, Mary discovered another talent - fundraiser extraordinaire. She joined St. John's Ravenscourt School as their first Development Officer. Over a period of 16 years, she helped raise funds to improve the physical plant and educational opportunities for the students. Mary then moved on to the University of Manitoba where she became the Director of Private Funding. She was called to join the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Manitoba Division. There she conducted their first capital campaign and put in place fundraising programs that helped the organization achieve its mandate of conserving ecologically significant lands. Mary contributed her talents to assist many other arts organizations and charities in Winnipeg.
After retiring, Mary and Charlie spent many winters in Texas in the Pine to Palm Trailer Park and summers at the cottage in Whytewold, Manitoba. There Mary entertained family and friends, took up golf and discovered her talent for painting.
Mary's special qualities of joy, optimism, warmth and bravery drew people to her, and she cherished these relationships and made all who came to know her feel special. She will be greatly missed.
We are grateful for the care and support that Mary received from Dr. Ralph Wong, the staff at Cancer Care and the Department of Internal Medicine at the St. Boniface Hospital.
A memorial service to celebrate Mary's life will be held at Westminster United Church, corner of Maryland and Westminster, at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, June 20, with a reception to follow.
In lieu of flowers, friends may choose to make a donation to the J. Taylor Birt Scholarship Fund at St. John's Ravenscourt School, 400 South Drive, Winnipeg, MB R3T 3K5, or Cancer Care Manitoba, 675 Mcdermot Avenue, Rm.ON1160, Winnipeg, Mb, R3E 0V9.