Mary Lillian McGregor was born February 2, 1953 and was the second daughter for Ellen and John McGregor. She grew up on the family farm on the Sullivan/Bentinck town line and partially due to the influence of older sister Isobelle, she learned a love for animals and rural life. Mary’s love of animals was evident, as life went on, and she was the main instigator in bringing many cats and dogs into her home, in years to come.
Even before Mary started school, at the age of four, her brilliance was apparent. The girls would sometimes get Chiclets, as a treat. These were in cardboard packages with two per pack. Isobelle would look forward to enjoying her two Chiclets after a day at school, but often her pack only had one Chiclet. After a great deal of investigation, it was discovered that Mary was opening Izzy’s pack, and resealing it with glue she manufactured herself with a mix of flour and water. Also, it was said, her desire to succeed became apparent when she was very young and the girls were playing “Snakes and Ladders”. If she happened to be on the losing end of a match, the protests would get quite loud. Although they fought like sisters, on occasion, while growing up, Mary (the quiet one) and Isobelle (the not so quiet one) had a special bond and there were very few days when they didn’t communicate with each other many times, either by phone or in the last couple of years, by texting. The question was asked numerous times over the years, by Bruce and the kids, “what can they possibly be talking about”? This would be after they had been shopping, or doing whatever sisters do for the afternoon, and within 20 minutes they’re back on the phone.
Mary attended public school in the hamlet of Scone and it soon became apparent that she was every teacher’s “dream pupil”. She had a thirst for learning and always worked to achieve excellence. One of her early achievements, while in grade 4, was to finish second in a nation-wide essay contest which required her to win in the local, district and provincial contests prior to the national contest. Her reputation of being an academic achiever followed her into high school in Chesley. Anyone who attended Chesley High in that era became aware of her many achievements.
After high school, Mary attended Guelph General Hospital’s School of Nursing where she graduated from their two year nursing program as a Registered Nurse. In September of 1973, she started her first job in the nursing field, at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital. It was there that she received her “baptism by fire” as her and another new graduate would work a month of eight hour night shifts on a surgical ward, caring for up to 45 patients. From there, Mary moved back home in May of 1974, to begin a long nursing career in Owen Sound. She continued working on a surgical floor both at the General and Marine Hospital and then at the new Grey Bruce Regional Health Center. She retired from her nursing career in the fall of 2007.
It was during the fall of 1973 that Mary attended the wedding reception of a neighbour and a friend from high school, at the Elmwood Community Center. It was at this party, she began talking to Bruce Fullerton, a former class mate from high school. Bruce, it is said, was a bit uncertain whether Mary, the scholar, would be interested in him, your typical not so much scholar. He had a frightening memory of sitting directly behind Mary, in math class in grade 13. The scary recollection was from a time when they had just received the results of a trigonometry test. This was Bruce’s lowest academic moment in high school and the only test he recalled failing. As ashamed as he was, he asked Mary how she had done and if it wasn’t 100% she received, it was 99. Her mark was double his, but he took consolation in knowing, “heh, I almost passed”. He did recall thinking, “wouldn’t it be great if a little of that wore off on me”. Mary had obviously blocked Bruce’s academic under achieving from her memory because, from there, a romance was born and the two were married in October of 1975. They purchased a piece of property from Bruce’s grandfather and began to build a house, even before getting married. It was there they raised their two children, Amanda and Ryan. They were blessed with Amanda’s arrival in 1980 and Ryan in 1983.
As with everything in Mary’s life, she threw herself into the role of wife and mother and gave her family all her love and devotion. While working the crazy shift work of a nurse she found the time to love and mentor her kids. Due to her upbringing and love for animals, and possibly due to pressure from her cat loving sister, the first family cat was brought into the household when Amanda was 4. Smokey was followed by Bart and later by many cats, too numerous to mention and whose names have been forgotten. The final two cats, Bailey and Cooper, where “drop offs” from Amanda, as she attended university. Due to lifestyle and accommodation changes, the cats became orphaned by Amanda and somehow ended up at Mom and Dad’s place. Dogs were also a “must” in Mary’s life, beginning with Red (the Irish Setter), Charlie and Zack (the Dalmatians), Dexter (the yellow lab), Casey and Jessie (the golden retrievers) and last but not least, Abby (the chocolate lab). Each and every one of these pets were loved and cared for by Mary with a passion that amazed some, but was simply a natural thing for her.
Mary was the driving force behind the kids entry into 4H life where they would train and show their Limousin calves. Many times, the kids were dragged out of the house to “work with their calves” to prepare them for the show ring. It takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears to take a calf from it’s natural environment, in the field with it’s mother, to standing groomed and poised in front of an eagle eyed judge at the Royal Winter Fair. Mary was rewarded for her diligent mothering on several occasions when the kids and their calves were chosen to be part of the Grey County contingent at the Royal. She could not have been more proud than when the kids and calves made it to the final lineup, in front of that judge.
There were times when it was a bit tough, for both the kids and Bruce, growing up and living with Mary and her “type A” personality. More than once, the family was reminded that the dirty clothes went into the clothes basket rather than just “wherever”. Education, and especially the kids hunger for learning, was a point of discussion as well, on more than one occasion, between Mary and Bruce. Amanda being a “Mary mini me” (but with party genes) would be held up as an example of what should be happening in the world of learning versus Ryan who didn’t seem to display the same academic thirst. Perhaps she had haunting memories, from her own high school years, when fellow students didn’t seem to have her academic flare (remember that trigonometry test). Could this be Karma? Mary had difficulty understanding why Amanda would arrive home from school bearing all the books and binders she could carry, whereas Ryan’s homework was folded up on an 8 ½ x 11 sheet, in his hip pocket. However, as time went on, she began to realize that she had two kids who just channeled their brilliance in different ways. She was totally filled with pride when attending Amanda’s graduation from Western, her acceptance at the bar and her graduation from law school. That same pride was evident when she did not hesitate, after working a 12 hour night, without any sleep, to travel to London, to be there when Ryan graduated with his mechanic’s diploma from Fanshawe College. It became evident to her, in the last number of years, that saving a corporation from legal ruin or rebuilding a diesel motor were both very amazing feats. As in any family, there was the occasional Mother/Daughter tiff, during the formative teenage years. Bruce would always do his very best to remain the “innocent bystander” during any of those confrontations. He knew that things would be OK, given time. As Amanda started her life at university, Mary, once again, poured her heart and soul into making sure that all her needs were met, and all Amanda had to do was concentrate on getting the “job done”. Sometimes this would lead to a rather empty bank account but by the time the degrees were in hand, the bills were covered, and Amanda needed only to concentrate on beginning her career. As anticipated years earlier, everything was OK, and the bond between this Mother and Daughter was a true pleasure to see. It was as recent as the last two weeks, when Mary was reminded of the all the effort she put into supporting Amanda, during those years, her reply was simply, “it made me happy doing it”.
Mary was an avid gardener and enjoyed spending time in her garden both growing vegetables and working with her many flowers. She learned to drive a zero turn lawnmower, like a pro, to cut their rather large lawn. One of her most favourite times was when she was helping out with their cows and calves. Bruce admits that she was the best he’d ever seen around the new moms and their babies. She never missed an opportunity to be with Bruce while he did chores or worked with the cows. During the summer, when the cows were on pasture, she would be with Bruce checking the new calves, as well as expectant mothers. They would jokingly wager as to when a cow might be going to calve and on rare occasions, she might even let Bruce win. She took a keen interest in every aspect of farm life and even on her last morning, she jokingly remarked, while checking the internet price of soybeans and wheat, “maybe you guys sold too soon”. Life in the country meant everything to Mary and many times she would say their home was their very own piece of heaven.
Bruce found it interesting, when they first started dating, that Mary was a fairly avid hockey fan and really enjoyed watching a Saturday night hockey game. The Leafs were definitely her favourite team and she remained true to form over the years, and would pass up a gripping movie to watch the Buds as they stumbled towards the next cup. She was thrilled to watch the kids play minor sports, whether it be Ryan playing hockey or Amanda on the ball field.
She loved her time in the kitchen and the rest of the family would reap the rewards of her efforts. Her pickles, relishes and jams were second to none and were even better when most of the ingredients came out of her own garden. Baking was another love, and her muffins, cookies and apple or pumpkin pies were truly mouth watering. She was often reminded that she had become her Mother, in the kitchen.
One of the most precious moments in Mary’s life, as a Mom, was the day Ryan was married to his beautiful wife, Krista. She knew, at that moment, her efforts to raise him properly were not in vain. That day was only outdone by the arrival of her four amazing grandchildren. Her love for this family was boundless. She was heard many times telling people, with the utmost pride, what a good Dad Ryan had become. Any thoughts of her unfocused, teenage son, potentially not making it, were long forgotten.
One of Mary’s morning chores, when there was a fresh snow fall, was to shovel off the porches and the walkways. She absolutely loved getting outside in the fresh air, to clean things up. Interestingly enough, and it’s witnessed after every snow fall, Reid is outside doing exactly the same; shoveling to his heart’s content. There are definitely some strange traits being passed through the generations.
If you were picking a “life’s team” and were looking for loud and boisterous, Mary would’ve been chosen last, each and every time. However, if you needed team members who were quiet, thoughtful and compassionate, Mary would definitely be your number one pick. These qualities were just part of the reason many patients, who fell under her care, where rewarded by being cared for by one of the best. Walking into a room full of people, Mary would be the last person you would hear, as she always put others ahead of herself and thought deeply before speaking.
In reflecting on their years together, Bruce is reminded of his thoughts from that day in math class. He could not have imagined what lay ahead when “he hoped a little of that might wear off on him”.
It seems unfair to those who loved her so dearly, that Mary should be stricken with a disease she saw far too often as a nurse. Her battle was courageous, and her undying love for her family was ever apparent through out that journey. Sadly, Mary passed away on Friday, January 15, 2021 in her 68th year.
Loving wife of Bruce. Cherished mother of Amanda of Toronto and Ryan (Krista) of R.R. #1 Desboro. Beloved grandmother of Reid, Jase, Kendra and Kinsley. Mary will be dearly missed by her sister Isobelle (Jim) Greig of R.R. #1 Chesley, brother-in-law Murray Fullerton (Diana Jackman) of Owen Sound, nephew Steven (Gina), and niece Lesley. She was predeceased by her parents John and Ellen (Kirkwood) McGregor.
Bruce and the family would like to thank those who worked providing Mary with excellent care during her illness. A very special thank you to Dr. Alison Petrie (Mary’s family doctor for 28 years) for her care, guidance and concern, Dr. Aboo and the amazing staff of the Oncology department at the Grey Bruce Regional Health Centre and Jackie Little and the staff of the South West LHIN as well as the VON nursing staff who played a big part in Mary’s care. Dr. Colin Lackner of the emergency department stands out as being one of the very best and deserves special credit for his diligent efforts in coming up with the initial diagnosis.
A private service honouring Mary’s life will be held. Memorial donations to the Owen Sound Regional Hospital Foundation would be appreciated as expressions of sympathy.