April 6, 1935 - June 21, 2021
Irene McKenzie passed away peacefully at home at the age of 86, on June 21st, surrounded by her family.
Irene was predeceased by her husband of 59 years, John, in 2016, and her grandson Scott, in 2013. She is survived by her sister Myra (Perce); sisters-in-law Mary and Sally; children, Ann (Chuck), Lesley (Brian), Alison (Chantal), Robert (Melanie), and John; goddaughters, Patti and Lisa; grandchildren, Maia (Aidan), Dave (Judith), Brittany, Paul, and Liana; as well as great grandchildren, Theo, Jasper, Cora, and Edmund.
Irene was born in Scotland, and moved to New Zealand at the age of 12 with her family after the war. She excelled in sciences, and after spending some time in Medical School where she got to know John McKenzie, she taught math and sciences at high schools in Wellington and Whangarei as John continued his medical training. Irene and John married in 1956, and over the next few years they had three girls while living in several different locations as John worked, researched and received additional training. During this time, Irene had another chance to teach – this time 6 and 7 year olds at the local community school in Cassington, England. Irene often commented that this job was a joy and perhaps the most satisfying paid work she did throughout her life.
The family moved to Canada in 1969, and was soon joined by two boys. As they raised their family, Irene finished her B.Sc, at University of Winnipeg, worked as a lab technologist and then as a medical researcher in nephrology.
Irene and John enjoyed many outdoor activities together and passed along a love of the outdoors and of being physically active to their kids. They both read voraciously, and passed on a love of reading and learning to their children. Irene enjoyed traveling and hosting family and friends at home and at the cottage at Minaki. In particular, she loved to host a group of friends called the Celebration Group. She loved all kinds of music and in her final years sang with the Joie de Vivre Choir in person, and then during COVID, through Zoom. She encouraged her children to think deeply about their values and to stand up for the things they believed in. She had a special gift for being with little ones and took a lot of joy in her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Irene loved learning and remained curious about people and how the world worked. Throughout her life, Irene continued to believe that change was possible through collective efforts. She was passionate about social justice and worked tirelessly for change for women and men locally and globally, including: working to support LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriage in the United Church; as an NGO representative to the UN Decade of Women, travelling to Nairobi and Beijing to advocate for global gender equality, and serving on MATCH Global Fund for Women for many years. In 2010 she was honored by the Winnipeg Council of Women who described her as “... a quiet force who had the ability to speak the truth without being confrontational.”
Irene and John were devoted to each other, and this was obvious during Irene’s fierce (and successful) battle with cancer in 2012. She knew that John needed her care, and she was determined to be there for him.
Through all the joys and sorrows in her life, Irene remained hopeful and thankful. In almost every situation, she could see the bright side. Irene made the world a better place. Her joy, compassion and laughter will be deeply missed.
We wish to thank all the caregivers and medical providers who brought their love and skillful attention to Irene over the past few years, especially the staff at Home Care, Home Instead, and the Home Palliative Care Program, as well as Dr Ajao (her family doctor) and cardiologist Dr John Rabson.
Donations in Irene McKenzie’s memory can be made to: Alzheimer Society of Manitoba; Klinic Community Health Program (designate for Suicide Prevention Services); or a non-profit charity of your choice.
Due to COVID regulations, a private celebration of life has already taken place. Friends and relatives are encouraged to take a few minutes to honour her memory by watching the photo-biography above (once it has been added to this page). Please, also consider sharing your own photos, memories, and stories by making use of the comment section on this page.
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