MOLLIE “BONNIE” VILJOEN
August 7, 1923 - January 12, 2021
Mollie has very sadly passed away at the age of 97 but left a great legacy to those who knew, loved and admired her, most notably her daughters, Kathy (Richard) and Philippa (Rodney), grandsons and great-grandchildren.
The daughter of a banker, Edwin Atkinson, Mollie and her brother John enjoyed an early privileged life. Sadly, the devastating illness of their mother, Millicent (nee Wright), and her death three years later had a profound impact on their lives. Mollie went to boarding school which proved to be a happy experience. John enlisted in the airforce in WW2. The act of landing a burning plane rather than bailing out, caused him life-threatening and life-altering burns. He was awarded for his bravery.
Mollie went to a teachers’ training college in Grahamstown, South Africa, as her mother had a generation earlier. Mollie turned her training into a career. She taught all her married life combining it well with raising her children. Advancing from classroom teaching, Mollie became a well-known art teacher and lecturer.
After retiring, Mollie enthusiastically turned her newly acquired farmhouse into a guesthouse and the garden into a botanical wonder. With the help of Elizabeth, she ran the guesthouse for some years before immigrating to Canada when she was 79.
Moving to Canada enabled her to spend years of very happy quality time with Philippa pursuing mutual interests, like cooking and gardening. Philippa enriched Mollie’s life with wonderful travel experiences in addition to taking care of her every need with Rodney’s support.
As an immigrant, Mollie wanted to be involved in her new society and volunteered to conduct art lessons for the elderly at the Misericordia which she did for a number of years. Her love of teaching art inspired her to organise an art group through St Lukes church.
Every year when I (Kathy) visited her from Australia, Mollie set up a magnificent balcony garden of flowers, herbs and salad vegetables. We ate our salad from there every lunchtime sitting at a table amongst the flowers. As avid scrabble players my mother and I spent many happy hours on my visits to Winnipeg playing our favourite game. Ethan kept up Bonnie’s scrabble skills by offering stiff competition in my absence.
Mollie’s grandchildren Reuben and Ethan, who lived in Winnipeg, had the advantage of seeing her regularly and knowing her well. They enriched her life as much as she did theirs. Australian grandsons, Ben, Jamie, Oliver and Alexander were equally fond of her and enjoyed her annual visits while growing up. They think of her as an adventurous traveller who enjoyed music, theatre and fine art, not to mention dressing up for an occasion! Oliver remembers her whole heartedly investing in their development, initiating fun, creative activities like making a cowboy out of old newspaper and string. As parents they fully appreciate Bonnie’s unique contribution to their education.
Bonnie, as Mollie became known after becoming a Grandmother, would always ask after her “Greats” (6 Great Grandchildren, Sasha & Olivia, Will & Imogen, Freddy and Winston) when chatting to us in Australia. She maintained a keen interest in all their lives and reveled at the opportunity to speak to them. Her Australian son-in-law, Richard, always remembered to call her on a Sunday when they both enjoyed a good “chinwag”.
Throughout her life, Mollie was a highly sociable person. She didn't let vast distances allow her to lose touch with far flung family and friends, writing long letters and spending hours on the phone. She would often remark that the telephone was the best invention ever! Wherever she went, Mollie made new friends and it was unusual for more than a week to go by without a social visit. Close friends, Peggy and Alan enriched Mollie’s life with their wonderful hospitality at their lake cottage, as did Vivien with her delightful weekly teas and unfailing companionship.
To those who had the pleasure of knowing her well, it was clear that Mollie conducted herself according to strongly held values. Some she would express often, having found the perfect turn of phrase to encapsulate them. It wasn't unusual,’ for Mollie in the midst of a current affairs debate, to remind others that: "A mind is like a parachute, it works best when open".
Other values were expressed in deeds. Mollie believed in the importance of paying respect to the many people who made her life better, and would never hesitate to praise them or express gratitude. Her consistent appreciation for the support she was given was matched only by her commitment to paying those kindnesses forward. She was always contributing to worthy causes, whether that was volunteering with the CNIB, knitting blankets for the Humane Society, or showing hospitality to friends and neighbours.
Mollie’s belief and advocacy in “saving the planet” by planting trees, growing her own food and flowers, and conscientious recycling was an example and inspiration to us all.
Her dedication to creating and appreciating beauty around her influenced all of our lives. How lucky we were to have had her influence.
Mollie never sat on the fence when it came to holding an opinion on the important issues in life. She had the courage of her convictions to write letters of protest and the determination to make changes. She never gave up her opposition to graffiti and had the traffic light pole on Wellington Crescent moved off the road to a safer position on the sidewalk. She took up such causes well into her nineties.
Mollie’s love for animals was often evident when she recounted stories of her beloved pets, her dog, Shadow, and cat brothers, Cinnamon and Ginger, who were her companions in Darling, South Africa.
At the closing of Mollie’s extraordinary and long life, let’s celebrate her generosity, intellect and joie de vivre. May we all remember the vibrant, inspirational person she was throughout our lives.
Go in peace dear mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
You will be remembered with great affection forever.
Bon Voyage Bonnie! (As you exit the planet.)
Now that’s it’s time to say goodbye,
There are words to be said of days gone by.
Mostly I wish to say Thank You,
For all you shared with me as I grew .
Thank you for sharing your passion & caring
For nature & beauty, gardening & preserving.
Thank you for sharing your love of fashion & styling,
for teaching me knitting and sewing, which took lots of trialing .
Thank you for loving our two sons
With whom you had such fun
Teaching them the intricacies of scrabble
Without too much babble .
I will remember you well when I look up at the sky
And when I am walking by
All those favourite places
We would happily find our picnic spaces
I know you were “ ready to go “
Recently you told me so ....
And so farewell ......
I will Remember you well
With love & affection
ETHICAL DEATH CARE
Cremation & Life Celebrations
530 St, Mary Avenue - Winnipeg
Memories, Stories and Condolences
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