Friday, December 1, 2023
December 1, 2023


September 1950 — November 2, 2023 


September 1950 — November 2, 2023 

Verna passed away in palliative care at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital with family by her side after a short illness. 

Born in Grande Prairie, Alberta to Peter and Annie Toews, both of whom were born in Russia, Verna was the youngest of six and is survived by four brothers, Donald, John, Henry and Lawrence, and one sister, Melita. The family farmed grain and in the early years a few mixed livestock. There were so many wonderful memories she had of the adventures with her siblings, like using an old tractor to tow each other around on an ice-covered pond when their parents were away, having it break through the ice and then borrowing all the chains in the neighbourhood to get it out and back into the barn before their parents’ return. She remembered winter chores before school, like chopping a hole in the ice on the dugout for the cows to drink in 40-below weather. Verna credits being the youngest and smallest as giving her strength and tenacity to keep up and play with the big boys without complaint. 

She attended secretary college, much to her father’s disdain as he wanted her to be a teacher. He reluctantly went to her graduation ceremony and was so proud of all the awards and accolades she received. After graduation she moved to Calgary with very little capital, found work and struggled the first few months. After paying her rent, money for food was minimal and liver was a high-protein, low-cost staple. She endured and it wasn’t long before wages and living costs found a balance. 

She continued her education in career development, social philosophy and fundamentals of petroleum technology and went on to become a valued team member of Marathon Petroleum.

The mountains being so close beckoned to her. Weekends in the mountains spent hiking or cross-country skiing with her brother Lawrence and friends gave her so much enjoyment. This slowly led to mountain climbing and with her brother or a past boyfriend she had been to the top of every major mountain from California to Alaska. This was by no means a small feat. 

The next chapter of her life started when while visiting friends who had moved to Salt Spring she was introduced to John, a commercial fisherman. After a few visits back and forth and many letters, they married in 1990. She also accepted into her life two step-children, Adrian and Nigel. She wore fishing well, an ever-changing adventure, with fresh air, hard work and always an uncomplaining attitude for any obstacles the day put in front of her. 

Verna and John retired in 2005, but kept their boat and made many beachcombing and sports fishing trips around Vancouver Island. Locally, prawns and crab were always near at hand. They enjoyed camper trips to Arizona and to the Olympic Peninsula where they had an oceanfront lot. Ocean waves and miles of beach always left her rejuvenated. 

Verna’s happy place these past few years was her yard. It’s a little wild in places. Rhododendrons, flower beds, lawn and always a few tomatoes. She thoroughly enjoyed looking after it all. 

Verna volunteered at the Lady Minto Thrift Shop for the past 15 years and treasured the friendship of so many of her workmates and the comments of appreciation from so many happy customers. 

Verna was a remarkable woman. Her soft-spoken, kind and gentle nature, paired with her strengths and a smile that took so little to earn, endeared her to all who came to know her. She left with a large circle of friends.  

Her passing leaves a large hole in many hearts that can’t be filled. We can only try to borrow some of her strength and learn to live with the loss. 

There was no service by her choice, but hopefully a celebration of life will be held in the spring when her yard comes into bloom. 

Thank you to all the medical staff and doctors at various locations that took part in helping her the best they could over these past few months.  


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