Margaret “Jean” was born to parents John and Isabelle (Ziegler) McRae on Wednesday, December 20, 1933 in Dobbinton, Ontario. The year was memorable in more ways than one, as it was the coldest winter that her family experienced, causing all their fruit trees to freeze. Jean was the second oldest, being born two years after her brother Roy (1931) with younger siblings Grant (1936), Ruth (1938), and Allan (1941) following her.
Jean’s family mixed farmed on the 12th of Elderslie. She attended Snell’s school, which was beside the family farm, and then completed her education at high school in Chesley. Growing up, Jean saw the results of her parents’ hard work and wanted to follow in their footsteps. She then went on to Stratford Normal School to become a teacher, which at that period, was rare for a woman her age to go onto post-secondary education.
Jean’s teaching career began at S.S. #1 in Arran. She then taught at Nenagh School in Ayton before returning closer to home and taking a job at Elsinore School. It was during this time that Jean began dating her future husband Basil William Wark. In fact, the story is told that Basil dated Jean’s younger sister, Ruth, first! Apparently, he was reminded of this early decision more than once throughout his life! The young couple was married on Thursday, April 10, 1958 at the Dobbinton United Church Manse by Rev. Wolley. They originally called Allenford home, where they welcomed their two sons, Larry (1958) and Raymond (1961). The Wark family moved from Allenford to Southampton in 1964 where the boys attended school. By this time Jean had taught at Skipness and had settled in at G.C. Houston in Southampton. She taught mostly intermediate grades and even spent a year teaching her son, Raymond, a unique situation for both of them. In 1977, the Warks moved to Arkwright and settled on the 15th sideroad. Who knew then that this would remain their family home for the duration of her life.
In addition to being a loving wife and mother, Jean’s students were very much an extension of her family. She taught a total of thirty-five years, and she retired in 1988 at the young age of 55. However, she was still keen to teach and regularly supply taught through her retirement. Jean also was known for her help nursing local children through their illnesses. The family couch and her tomato soup were often mentioned as helpers in their recoveries. Back in the classroom, Jean was a remarkable teacher and always knew what her students needed. She was also known to stand up for herself and never backed down from a male counterpart. Mrs. Wark was well-respected by her co-workers and students alike and always enjoyed the opportunity to catch up when she met up with them in the community. Her strong work ethic and values will not only live on through her family but her students as well.
In her limited free time, Jean enjoyed time spent in the kitchen, cooking, canning, and baking. Apparently, there were no family favourites as I am told everything was very good! She liked to dance but sadly didn’t get the chance to as much as she would have liked. Jean enjoyed keeping up with her trivia and often tuned into Jeopardy. Last of the Summer Wine was another of her favourite shows. Jean could also often be found reading novels, or a Reader’s Digest.
Jean was a very well-respected, considerate woman who took everyone at face value. Her caring personality and great sense of humour were infectious and drew people to her, allowing her to cultivate a large network of lifelong friends. She dearly treasured these friendships as well as spending time with her special Arkwright neighbours, always looking forward to the next community gathering. These relationships were treasured and will be fondly remembered by all those who had the pleasure of calling Jean a friend.
Her faith was ever-present throughout Jean’s life. Throughout the years she was always active, whether it was helping teach Sunday School or a member of the church Board. After her retirement, she became very involved in UCW particularly the Arkwright Unit and the Priscilla Unit of Tara United Church. Her strong faith particularly helped her through her many physical and health challenges in her later years. She was never one to complain but would instead make the best of each day.
Sadly, Jean passed away at Grey Bruce Health Services, Southampton on Thursday, April 29, 2021 in her 88th year.
Beloved wife of Basil. Loving mother of Larry of R.R. #2 Tara, and Raymond of R.R. #1 Bognor. Cherished grandmother of Kristen (Scott) Lummiss, Nicole (Zach) Woods, all of Owen Sound, and Lauren of Bognor, and great-grandmother of William and Benjamin Lummiss and Jackson Woods. Dear sister of Ruth (Morley) Kaufman of Owen Sound and sister-in-law of Hazel McRae of Tara and Lois McRae of Gould Lake. Jean was predeceased by her brothers Allan, Roy, and Grant and her parents John and Isabelle (Ziegler) McRae.
A private family funeral service honouring Jean’s life will be held at Rhody Family Funeral Home on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 at 2 p.m. Interment in Hillcrest Cemetery, Tara. A recording of Jean’s funeral service will be available on the funeral home website Wednesday.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations to the Tara United Church would be appreciated as expressions of sympathy. If easier, donations can be hand-delivered or mailed (Box 5, Tara N0H 2N0) to the church directly.