LOUISE CREWE HEWSON
December 18, 1927 - December 5, 2022
Louise died at Grace Hospice in Winnipeg just days before her 95th birthday. Predeceased by her mother Florence Myrtle (Cleaveland), her father Lloyd Ernest Crewe, sister Marie Thwaites, brothers Charles Crewe, Richard Crewe, John Crewe, and her partner of 45+ years, Leo Clare Hewson. Louise’s memory will be cherished by her daughters Polly and Sally, many family members, and devoted friends.
Born at home, Louise was raised in the close-knit family community of Crewe Brothers Fishery on Lake Erie. There was music in her home and she began formal piano studies at age 8. After completing middle school, Louise left home at age 14 for a rented room in Blenheim to attend high school. By then WWII was on. Gasoline and tires were scarce, so she didn’t get home often. It was a sombre time where her lifelong focus on reading and learning was forged.
After graduating, she studied classical piano and vocals at “The Pines”, Ursuline Academy, Chatham, Ontario and became a Fellow of the Royal Conservatory of Music. She began teaching public school in Wallaceburg.
One summer she came home and met a scientist from the Fisheries Research Board who had been sent to learn net-making at Crewe Brothers. That Christmas, Louise flew to Winnipeg in a snow storm to marry Leo. It was the first of many adventures in her married life.
While Leo was away researching the fish species of Lake Winnipeg, Louise taught Grade One at Mulvey School. Her students were children of displaced people, resettled in Winnipeg after the war. Somehow by the end of June, she had over 40 children speaking English and reading at their grade level.
The Homestead at Blueberry Mountain Alberta
In September of 1954, Leo drove out to the Peace River Country. He filed a claim for the south half of 1-82-8-W6, and Louise and Leo took up residence in July of 1955. By November they had 30 acres or so brushed, piled and broken, and had built a 12 x 14 granary to serve as a temporary dwelling. At night temperatures were dropping to -20C. A deer shot on November 12 remained frozen under the table while the wood stove burned full blast. That winter, and three more succeeding ones, they went south to jobs in Manitoba or Ontario, living frugally and saving money for the farm.
One summer, Louise remained in London Ontario until daughter Polly was born. When they got home, the granary was full of barley and a small house was ready enough to be occupied. The house was finished a little at a time along with the clearing, breaking, root picking, and farming the cleared acres. Her second daughter Sally was born two winters later.
Louise grew food for the family’s table in large-scale vegetable gardens. Every autumn she preserved her crops along with store-bought fruit from B.C, all home canned in hundreds of mason jars. She managed a flock of chickens, and learned to cook the game that Leo shot – moose, deer, prairie chickens, roasting Canada Goose for Thanksgiving.
She read. Somehow Louise knew that the University of Winnipeg Extension Library would ship to the north free of charge. The exciting brown paper packages that materialized at the Blueberry Mountain post office were opened eagerly and consumed by the light of coal oil lamps.
By 1966, Louise and Leo had amassed 400 cultivated acres, a line of machinery, and a hog enterprise. Even though the farm was making more money each year, the romance of homesteading was over. They decided to quit while they still had a chance to regroup. Leo joined the Manitoba Department of Agriculture and the family settled in Ashern, a small village in the Interlake.
Louise was active in the community, giving countless hours of volunteer work. As organist for the United Church she enriched weekly services, weddings, and funerals with music. She directed a choir — a core group of singers that sang in every church in the village. She returned to the piano and practiced for hours. On cold winter nights she played works by Beethoven, Bach, Chopin and Debussy.
Later, when the family moved to Winnipeg, Louise enrolled as a part-time student at the University of Manitoba. She completed a Bachelor of Arts with a major in History, and a minor in Psychology. In 1975, the family relocated to a new home in Portage la Prairie where Louise lived for the next 46 years.
There were more adventures. Avid campers, Louise and Leo loved the natural world. They took to the back roads of Canada and out-of-the-way places in Australia too. Well into their 60s, they headed north to Great Slave Lake with their sailboat Moonchild. They filed a wilderness report with the RCMP, then sailed the lake until a big storm took down their mast. With barely enough gas to motor back, they waited until the surface of the lake was as smooth as glass, then made a run back to safety.
“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
― Jorge Luis Borges
For more than 20 years, Louise volunteered at Portage la Prairie Regional Library where she mended books. Her efforts returned thousands of injured books to circulation. She became very skilled at this work and mentored other book menders. Her many friendships at the library enriched her life and she remained an avid reader. In the wee hours, seeing a light in her window, neighbour Bonnie Matthews would remark “Louise has a good book on the go again.”
Louise enjoyed decades of friendship with her neighbours on Phoebe Street where she lived until her 94th year. Their countless acts of practical kindness supported her well-being.
“I guess it’s because I’m a gardener, I think of our lives as flowers. We emerge and grow. We put out a flower and we share it with the world. Then, that flower fades away. We don’t live forever.”
— Louise Hewson in conversation, 12 January 2021.
Surviving are her daughters Polly Hewson and Sally Hewson (m. Jeffrey Stiles).
Nieces and nephews Sandy Willis (m. Charles), Susan Thwaites, Jane Rumble, Judith Girty (m. Lynn), Curt Crewe (m. Lori-Anne), Heather Crewe, Sheila Dubyk (m. Wally), Sonja Welford (m. Ross), Jhan Hommen (m. Patricia), Krystyna Hommen (m. Edward), Marilyn Lamont, Greg Lamont, Brock Lamont, Lynda Podgurny (m. Harvey) Patricia Hewson, Maxine Mitchell (m. David) Richard Hewson, John Brookes, Lorraine Saviskas (m. Mike). Sister-in-law Valerie Odbert, and three generations of cousins.
The Matthews Family – Les (Bonnie) Matthews, Mark, Robyn and Scott and The Maxwell family – Glenn, Sheila, Jennifer and Jessica
According to her wishes, cremation has taken place and no funeral service will be held. Her ashes will be placed in the Crewe family plot in Wheatley Ontario.
Remembrances may be made to the charity of your choice.
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