[By her eldest daughter, Helen] Mary was the first of five children in the family. She was born on the farm, outside of Douglas, Manitoba, in 1921. She attended the one-room schoolhouse there, until her high school years, when she continued her education by correspondence. As the oldest, she was the one who drove the horse-drawn wagon - or sleigh, in winter - to take herself and her younger siblings to school. In the worst of winter, the wagon was boxed in with a door on one side and a narrow slit for the reins. One time, the wagon slid off the road and landed on its side, blocking the exit door! Another time, a major blizzard hit just as the students were heading home from school. Unable to go any further, Mary turned the sleigh into the nearest farm. Most of the other pupils from her school ended up there, and were snowed in for three days! On the third day, a child looking out the window said, "Mary, I think that's your father coming up the lane!" She said, "No, we don't have a pair of grey horses." It WAS her father, but their pair of BLACK horses were coated with ice & snow. He didn't try to take his children home yet, but returned home to assure his wife that their three school-age children were safe. The family survived by farming through the depression, but in 1938 came a major change in all their lives. They inherited a large house and properties in Toronto. The decision was made to make the move, despite their fears of the evils of the big city! The family of five, plus the mother-in-law, plus a babysitter, made the trip in a brand new 1938 Chrysler Imperial. They moved into the big house at 5611 Yonge Street, on the corner of Finch Avenue. (The Finch subway station is there now.) Mary spent her final year of high school at Earl Haig High School, where she quickly learned that her correspondence course in French had not taught her how the words were supposed to sound! She went on to take her BA at Victoria College, University of Toronto, and then followed in with a 6-week teacher's course - all that was required in those war years. Mary was a beautiful young woman, often compared to actress Elizabeth Taylor. She had many suitors, but was successfully pursued by "Tommy" Thompson, and they were married in August of 1943. Almost immediately, he was shipped overseas with the army, and Mary took up a post as a teacher in the small town of Markdale, Ontario. She was barely older than the big farm boys who attended the two-room schoolhouse, but said she was able to maintain discipline by wearing her hair up, and putting on horn-rimmed glasses! When her husband returned after the war, she left teaching to become a wife and mother in Willowdale, Ontario. Besides those occupations, she indulged her talent in drawing & painting, and developed an interest in photography, as well as gardening. She also took on assignments as a professional square dancer, through the connections of her husband, who was a square dance caller. Principally, she was one of the Bradings Dancers, who appeared at various promotional events. [Bradings was a Canadian beer company in the 1950's] For one of the Grey Cup games in Toronto, her dance troupe was hired by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to wear their colours and perform at media event. Mary was chosen to be interviewed on the radio, by an interviewer who assumed the dancers had travelled from Winnipeg with the team. He asked her how to pronounce the surname of player Kenny Ploen - she bluffed an answer and was never sure if she got it right. Her marriage ended about 1958, leaving her in need of a job to help raise the four children. Her expertise in photography led her to professional assignments; she did mostly portrait work, but also was hired by the Toronto Transit Commission to photograph the houses along the route of the extension of the Bloor/Danforth subway, as a hedge against false claims for damage due to tunnel construction. Having decided to return to teaching, she took a summer job as a guide at Pioneer Village in order to regain her confidence in speaking before people. In her training, the village staff didn't always know the purpose of some of the vintage agricultural tools. Often, having been raised on depression-era farm, she was able to enlighten them! Her return to teaching was in the English faculty of Thornhill Secondary School, for grades 9 & 10. After about three years, she moved to Richmond Hill High School, and taught mathematics. Although she was very knowledgeable in both English & math, her heart was in more artistic pursuits; eventually she was able to transfer into the Art Department, where she created the first photography curriculum for the school. She remained at Richmond Hill, as a very popular teacher, until her retirement in 1986. In her late 60's, she re-met Harold Schmidt at her high school reunion. It turned out that he had worshipped her from afar for some 50 years, and was eventually able to convince her to marry him. They had a very happy nine years of marriage, during which they took many trips, and made a move from her large home of several decades to a new condo, only a block away. Harold's death in February, 1998, was very hard for her. Her own health slowly declined, and she passed away at Sunnybrook Hospital on September 29, 2002.
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