The Mowbray brothers are sad to record the death of, but joyfully proud to describe the adventurous life of, their beloved mother Catherine Louise Mowbray (née Johnston), on January 31, 2023, at the age of 97. Kay, as she was known to dear friends around the world, was born on 12 August 1925, in Toronto, Ontario, and grew up in the town of Lucknow, where by her teen years she fell in love with a handsome boy named John Mowbray, whom she later married. Country girl makes good: Kay graduated from the nursing program at the University of Toronto, while John became a doctor.
In the 1940s, 50s and early 60s, the couple lived in Ontario and rural Saskatchewan, then Saskatoon, producing three boys before embarking on their greatest adventure: life overseas. They moved to Kabul, Afghanistan in 1964, where John worked for CARE-Medico, a medical education nonprofit. Just getting to Kabul in 1964 involved transit through Toronto, New York, London, Frankfurt, Vienna, Istanbul, and Beirut. “We cannot seem to organize enough to avoid chaotic departures,” Kay wrote on the first page of her amusing and insightful diary, though she noted about air travel that “meals are excellent but too frequent.” Shortly after arriving in Kabul there was an earthquake. This at a time when Afghan women were able to throw off their veils and attend university, a fact recorded a few pages later.
Later, Kay and John lived in Indonesia, and again Afghanistan, and then Tunisia, before moving to BC (first Cranbrook, then Salt Spring, where they lived for more than 25 years). Kay worked as a nurse and English teacher and was a frequent volunteer and fundraiser, both abroad and in Canada, with interests in human rights, hospice care, and peace. Travel, often with kid or kids in tow, was a particular passion: throughout Southeast Asia, to Communist China (in 1965!); to India and Pakistan, to Nepal and Russia and Europe and Lebanon and North Africa. In 1965 Kay and John drove a feeble Volkswagen station wagon from Kabul to Liverpool, took the car onto the Empress of Canada ocean liner, which was bound for Montreal, and drove from Montreal to Saskatoon. No air conditioning, no iPads, and three kids in the backseat the whole way.
Kay was beloved by family and friends for her entertaining, her Christmas decorating, her baking, her early and passionate feminist convictions, her skills at bridge, her snazzy hats, and her infinite capacity for kindness. Until no longer able, she was a devoted writer of old-timey paper letters. The yearly display of holiday cards and letters from around the world spoke to the connections she maintained. Visitors came from as far as Singapore for the celebration of the couple’s 50th anniversary at the Beaver Point Hall. Kay’s home was filled with art and objects from around the world, reflecting a love of Ming ceramics, batik fabrics, Afghan rugs, Balinese and Indian metalwork, Pakistani furniture, and Inuit art. She is survived by her three sons, John, Paul, and Scott, and three grandchildren, Michael, Emily and Rosa. Special thanks to Sandy and staff at Heritage Place in Ganges and to the staff at Mount St. Mary’s Hospital in Victoria for an abundance of kind and respectful care during the final years of Kay’s life.
A remarkable, kind and beautiful person.
thank you John, Paul and Scott.