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LISA ANN MONTGOMERY
May 3, 1965 - January 27, 2020
Lisa Ann Montgomery was born May 3, 1965, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She died January 27, 2020, at the age of 54. She was too young. She left behind her husband of 35 years, David Montgomery, their only child, Matthew, her sister Shari, along with countless family members and friends who grieve her passing. Her life was too short. She still had things to do, but cancer is sometimes merciless, cruel. But this illness does not define her. She was more than a victim of a disease. She was more than a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend. She was all these things and more.
She was fiercely loyal, to her family, to her friends. When they were in elementary school, Lisa found out a student was picking on her sister, Shari. She beat up this guy because though Lisa (at the time) could barely tolerate Shari, she didn’t want anyone to hurt her. This is how she was for the rest of her life. Shari was one of her best friends, her closest friend. They spoke every single day and when Shari suffered some heartbreak, out of loyalty, Lisa refused to speak to the person who hurt her sister. They were incredibly important to each other’s lives, not just as sisters, but as confidantes, friends, travelers. And Lisa was this loyal to all she loved, especially her husband.
She had long, thick, red hair, and David says that is the first thing he saw when he met her. They were at a typical Manitoba social. Lisa was 16, David was 21. He was wearing a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. It was the whole “urban cowboy” look of the 80s. She saw him and stole his hat, giggling the entire time. He stood there, mouth agape. Later, when he was sitting, she returned and asked if he still wanted his hat. They talked. One of them fell in love. David called and called and called but Lisa’s sister, the young Shari, played gatekeeper until finally Shari believed he was serious (or perhaps she got tired of him calling). The rest, as the cliche goes, is history.
But again, this does not define her. She wasn’t just a love story, a relationship that lasted 38 years, more than half her life. In 1984, only a few short years after meeting, David and Lisa were married, with family in attendance. She was already pregnant with her only child. Matthew was born in November of that same year, left in the oven a bit too long. The three of them lived in an apartment with two cats (Midnight and Sybil) until they moved into their first house on Cathedral Ave in the North End.
When she had a son, she was still young herself, and her proximity to youth culture meant he was always dressed well as a child. He was often at the forefront of fashion such as denim jackets and moussed hair. He was the first kid at school to get airwalk high-top sneakers. In 1989, the family of three flew to British Columbia for David’s brother’s wedding and Lisa dressed Matthew in a grey and pink pastel suit like on the TV show Miami Vice.
Lisa left high school after Grade 11. The structure of high school and Lisa rarely agreed, so she went to Red River in 1989 to finish high school and start courses in accounting. She was a quick learner, and figures and budgets were her métier. Her family jokes that she was “frugal,” and being a trained accountant certainly helped hone her frugality skills. Her budgeting acumen was of great help in the early years of her marriage and her career as times were tough and money was tight. But she persevered.
Perseverance was Lisa’s watchword. Though things could go wrong in life and in jobs, she steadfastly looked to her goals and maintained them, adjusting as obstacles presented themselves. Her first significant job was working for Dave’s Quick Print (where David also worked; no relation to the titular Dave). There she learned some valuable skills which were put to good use when she got a start with the company she worked for until her death. She began at Freightliner Manitoba in 1994 as a receptionist, but it did not take long for her rise in the ranks.
An obituary like this can’t possibly do justice to the impact this job had on her and she on the company. She worked up the ladder quickly and efficiently, two words that describe her general work ethic. She managed the inventory, she managed the staff, she managed the managers (she would often joke). She assembled a network of colleagues and clients, many of whom she was happy to call friends. She considered many of her coworkers to be family and Freightliner treated her such.
She worked hard because she wanted what she wanted, which is to say, a home, a family, nice things, vacations. Lisa didn’t have ambitions to conquer the corporate world or become a celebrity as she enjoyed her anonymity, her quiet life with her pets, her husband, her son, her vast network of friends. She worked two or three jobs at a time to make this happen, including marking papers for teachers at Herzing College, working bingo at the community centre, doing folks’ accounting. She and David worked these multiple jobs so that their son would want for nothing. So that he wouldn’t feel cheated or deprived. He never did. Lisa persevered to acquire the comfortable life she enjoyed, even through the harder years, the lean years, when money was tight and vacations weren’t feasible.
Lisa enjoyed trips to Mexico, going for the first time, with David, about 8 or 9 years ago. She loved the sand, the cocktails on the beach, the sun, the freedom from the cold. She often went to the United States for Minnesota Vikings games and one of the great pleasures of her life, shopping. She adored shopping. She loved shoes and proudly owned pairs from high end brands such as Manolo Blahnik. She watched the Canadian dollar in relation to the American dollar like a hawk, always trying to maximize the cash she could use. She worked hard for those dollars and wanted to get everything she could out of them.
She loved The Little Mermaid and Barbra Streisand. She knew all the words to all the songs in The Sound of Music. She had a crush on Leif Garrett when she was a young girl. She loved Gone with the Wind even though whenever she watched it, she would exclaim of its length that it was “a shift at work!”
She drank a lot of Diet Coke. She would buy a dozen two-litre bottles at a time because that was the most economical. She never drank Pepsi and rarely any other pop. She enjoyed a tall glass with three large ice cubes and she would let the ice melt long before she finished the glass. She liked rye with her Diet Coke when she was drinking as she was never big on beer (but it would do in a pinch).
In the 90s, the TV was set almost permanently to Much Music, because she loved music. Among her favourite bands were Poison and Guns N Roses, but her true love was for Bon Jovi. She knew the words to every Bon Jovi song and sang along proudly and loudly. She thought Madonna was incredibly smart and admired her for that; Lisa was quick to point out that Madonna controlled her own image, her own life, and everything she did. Lisa saw herself in Madonna’s rise from next to nothing to something. Because of their sometimes-strained economic position, Lisa and David were slow to acquire new technology, and so they had cassettes long into the 90s, including a much used and almost worn copy of Alanis Morrissette’s Jagged Little Pill. She confessed a fondness for Peter Gabriel’s song “Sledgehammer” but only for the music video.
David and Lisa bought a Nintendo Entertainment System in the early 90s, somewhat for their son, but mostly for themselves. Lisa loved nothing more than having a glass of Diet Coke, lighting up a cigarette and playing Dr. Mario, a Tetris-clone. She loved smoking. In the 90s, in an effort to save even pennies, David and Lisa rolled their own cigarettes. She switched to vaping in the 2010s if only for health reasons.
She lived almost her entire life a stone’s throw from the Sturgeon Creek in St. James. Lisa never wanted to stray too far from her roots or her family. For many years, Lisa and David lived in a house only one block away from her parents and five blocks away from her sister. Her son was even born on the banks of the Creek, figuratively speaking, at the Grace Hospital. Sturgeon Creek meant a lot to her and she never felt comfortable leaving it behind for too long.
A few years ago, David and Lisa bought a camper trailer and drove to a nice spot in Grand Marais on the weekends, taking the dogs. Though Lisa wasn’t much for actual camping, she did enjoy the beach, the sun, a drink in her hand, and her toes in the sand.
She loved animals. Her entire life has been a series of pets, from the dog she had in her teens (Silke) to the cat she couldn’t bear to be apart from (Sadie). She spoiled her animals, even going so far as to learn how to groom them herself.
Again, an obituary doesn’t quite capture the largeness of a life, the complexity and subtle changes in fortunes. The simplifications are necessary, unfortunately, as Lisa’s whole life would take a book the size of a novel.
Lisa wanted to be remembered for how she was self-made, how she persevered and worked and saved and scrimped so that her family would never starve, never feel uncomfortable, and always have a home. She made immense sacrifices of time and energy for this to happen. She worked damn hard and deserves to be recognized for it. She loved her family fiercely and would do anything for them. She was loyal, stubborn, proud, beautiful, funny, witty, a daughter, a mother, a sister, a wife, a hard worker, a person with complex thoughts and feelings and desires and preferences. We can honour her memory by keeping her in our hearts and never forgetting how important she was to us and us to her.
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