Mamie Gertrude McKnight R.N.
September 13, 1925 - March 16, 2023
Mamie was an extraordinary woman who lived an extraordinary life.
She passed away on March 16, 2023 in Fenelon Falls, Ontario at the age of 97.
Mamie is predeceased by her devoted husband, Frederick Donald McKnight (Freddie; 1921-1995), brother, Judson George (Sonny; 1928-1997), and sister Phyllis Cleghorn (1926-2023). She is survived by daughter, June (Junie) McKnight and son-in-law, Justin Kanitz. Surviving is one sister Claire Jardine (Merve), and half-sisters Gail Nowlan (Tom), Marina Tilley (Cam), Aileen Bertin (J. P.), and Bev Just (Martin). One half brother, Wayne Searle (Carol) also survives. Mamie was a member of St. James Anglican Church in Fenelon Falls, Ontario.
The eldest daughter of Gertrude Blakely (1903-1942) and Michael Melbourne Searle (1902-1961), Mamie was born in Chatham, New Brunswick on September 13, 1925. She enjoyed a carefree and fun-filled childhood with her siblings Phyllis, Sonny, and Claire until the tragic death of her mother from tuberculosis. This defining moment marked Mamie’s life from that day forward as she was thrust into the position of primary caregiver for her younger siblings at age 16. Each day began with lighting the fire and preparing all meals daily for the family before walking the 2 ½ miles to Chatham High School. Once home after school, supper prepared and concluded, chores included cleaning fox bowls before beginning homework. This legacy of hard work continued throughout Mamie’s life. A fearless and tenacious role model, Mamie leaves behind all who have known her to feel just a little more empty and vulnerable. Countless family members have benefitted from Mamie’s sage advice and persistent motivation.
The Second World War and Ottawa’s plans for the creation of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan meant the expropriation of her parents’ property for a new airfield to train would-be pilots. Although the war brought the positive changes of rationing and better times to the Miramichi, it also brought illness and greater tragedy in the additional deaths of six aunts and uncles from tuberculosis in addition to that of her mother. In turn, Mamie herself developed tuberculosis; resisting hospitalization in the sanitorium to recover herself at home and resulting in the loss of a year of high school. Abandoning her dreams of becoming an artist, Mamie enrolled in the Miramichi Hospital School of Nursing, graduating as a Registered Nurse in 1949.
On October 13, 1950 Mamie married Freddie McKnight of Napan, N. B. in Hamilton, Ontario and together they built a life of love and laughter. Always firmly rooted to their homes in the Miramichi, their house on Gage Avenue was always open to any and all Miramichi ex-pats. Friends and relatives alike could always look forward to Freddie’s endless jokes and animated story-telling, while Mamie ensured you would never leave without a full-course, home-cooked meal and choice of several home-made desserts.
Stray animals, especially cats, could also find a home on Gage Avenue as well, either inside or outside, providing Mamie with more opportunities to put her nursing skills to good use and restoring health to these creatures. One evening while walking home from an evening church service, Mamie’s eye was caught by a sparrow at the side of the street against the sidewalk. Scooping it up with a handkerchief she placed it in her purse, and brought it home to place in a bird cage to heal and regain strength. And when her time with it was sufficient, she released it outside; strong, free, and capable of rejoining nature once more. Countless animals were given new life by Mamie’s caring and loving actions.
As a mother, one thing that gave Mamie great pride was that she was the Junior Press Club’s Mother of the Year for 1975. Back then, Hamilton’s newspaper, The Hamilton Spectator had weekly contests children could enter by joining its Junior Press Club. For Mother’s Day 1975, 10-year-old June wrote a letter telling why her mother Mamie should be selected. Here, in part, is her winning submission and what was published in that newspaper for Mother’s Day, 1975: “to me, my mother is the very best. If you ever met her, you’d like her too. I knew long ago I had terrific taste in mothers. Nobody in the world could be a more real mother than mine.”
Mamie worked for 39 ½ years as a Registered Nurse at the Hamilton General Hospital: the major trauma centre for the Hamilton-Niagara Region. Her earliest patients included caring for the victims of polio before placed into isolation, before the advent of Salk’s vaccine in the early 1950’s. She also worked in Intensive Care, Emergency, and Psychiatry before retiring at age 65 in 1990. Mamie could now enjoy retirement with Freddie by moving to their former cottage outside of Fenelon Falls. Her retirement plans, however, were tragically cut short when Freddie passed away just one year after their move. She would live alone there independently for 24 years enjoying a long and fulfilling retirement.
By age 93, just ten months before the start of the covid19 pandemic, it was time for Mamie to transition into longterm care. She moved into Fenelon Court in Fenelon Falls and truly considered it to be her new home. This was now an opportunity for her to finally be cared for by other nurses and personal support workers. And that strongly impacted her: to be cared for by caring others. Mamie always deeply appreciated and easily related to their hard work and empathized with them, all day and every day. Thanks to the incredible family of carers at Fenelon Court whose compassionate, approachable, dedicated, and diligent staff, from PSWs to nurses, reception, environmental services, the kitchen, recreation, physiotherapy, and administration made Mamie’s final years truly exceptional ones.
Mamie leaves behind a legacy of altruism and gratitude; to approach life with fortitude and resilience.
In keeping with Mamie’s wishes, cremation has taken place. A memorial service occurred at Adams Funeral Home Chapel, 140 King St., Miramichi on Thursday, March 30 at 11 a.m. with The Venerable Perry Cooper and The Reverend Canon Sandy MacPherson officiating. The music for the service was provided by Mrs. Karen Kaiser and the hymns were "Breathe on me Breath of God", "Just As I Am" and "Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah". Interment will be in Black River Community Cemetery, Black River Bridge, New Brunswick, later in the spring.
As expressions of sympathy, donations to the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society, your local Humane Society, your local hospital, or the Black River Community Cemetery would be appreciated by the family.
Arrangements were entrusted to Adams Funeral Home Ltd., 140 King St., Miramichi, telephone (506) 773-3492. Additionally, messages of condolence may be shared online at www.adamsfh.ca
"Where Dedicated People Care"
To plant a beautiful memorial tree in memory of Mamie Gertrude McKnight R.N., please visit our Tree Store.