Posted: April 12th, 2017

April 1, 1926 – April 2, 2017
Helen passed away gently on April 2, 2017, one day after celebrating her 91st birthday with us, enjoying cake, ice cream, hugs and memories. She leaves us with an important question: How do we begin to share an exceptionally lived life between the lines of an obituary? For as we grieve, mourn and celebrate, we share her story through our experiences and the way she touched those around her.
Mom was an ordinary lady, but what she did with her ordinary circumstances was extraordinarily joyful. She had high expectations for herself, and these were at the core of everything she did. Her passion and commitment showed in her every involvement; she was an “all in” kind of person. Whether it was during her 25 years working with MHSD 76 in a multitude of roles, as a proud member of ATA Local #1, as director of the MHC Adult Basic Literacy Program, instructor at the YWCA, recreation board member, area captain for various local charities, member of a literary group, working with the Medicine Hat Stampede, or serving as matron with Eastern Star, she always gave her best. Mom ’s contention was that it didn’t matter who was recognized for ‘getting it done’, it was more important that it got done! In her retirement, grandparenting, reading, travelling, gardening, knitting and scoring holes-in-one kept her busy. She continued to gift us with her poetic insights, commemorating special family occasions, or writing thoughtful inspirations about the importance of celebrating everyday life and love. Mom had a never-ending enthusiasm for family, friends, and community.
As our Nan, she had a way of taking something mundane and turning it into something exceptional. As grandchildren we were included in her everyday life: we relaxed with Nan at the family cabin in Elkwater, we rode on the back of her golf bag through the Elkwater Golf Course, picked berries for jams and jellies, helped her turn her ‘back to the earth’ compost, coloured endless Easter eggs, and had a hand in stirring the ever favourite brownie recipe. Nan helped us with our school work, making it fun, even if it involved Shakespeare! She taught us how to recognize the calls of the prairie birds, and how to walk her dogs “just right.” Everyday life with Nan was framed as an adventure and an opportunity to learn; she was always showing us how to be good humans out in the world even when she wasn’t telling us. There was never an excuse to be bored: if it wasn’t books, it was play. Nan’s house was the land of cousins, blocks, blanket forts and sleepovers. She taught us how to get along knowing just when to intervene and when to let us sort it out on our own. Fair but firm, Nan always had the final say. When her great-grandchildren arrived, she loved them with song and story, pots of soup and canned peaches, tradition and belonging.
Mom taught us through word and example to be humble, to give the best that we had to offer, to finish what we started, to forgive others, to be a good friend, and to respect and care for nature – the same principles by which she lived. Deeply loyal and immensely protective, she was our biggest supporter. She always told us that we could do anything we wanted to do….be anything we wanted to be….if we were willing to work for it. She was a pragmatic woman who respected rules and standards, but also kept an open mind and never passed judgment. Her love was ever present and meant everything to those she touched.
Helen’s life will continue to be celebrated by son Ken Appleton, daughters Joanne Stickle and Susan Pahl, and their families. We will celebrate her in the recipes we choose, the learning we strive for, the traditions we keep, and the stories we share. Mom was predeceased by our father, Vic Appleton, her second husband Jim Cantwell, and her beloved grandson Jon, who had a special place in her heart.
Thank you to Mom’s companions Bonnie and Helen as well as her sisters in Eastern Star; she always looked forward to your visits. We also appreciate the care and attention Mom received at Riverview Care Centre, and in the Palliative Care Unit at MHRH. In keeping with her character, Mom‘s favourite charities were the SPCA and the Medicine Hat Women’s Shelter. Memorial donations in her name may be made directly to these organizations. There will be a memorial service in the summer when all the grandkids and great- grandkids can come home to share their stories and memories, and learn more about their Nan. We are proud to carry forth her legacy.
(Condolences may be expressed by visiting the Funeral Home website at www.cooksouthland.com) Honoured to serve the family is
Cook Southland Funeral Chapel, 901 – 13th Street S.W. Medicine Hat, Alberta T1A 4V4 Phone 403-527-6455


  1. Sally Leblanc says:

    Joanne & family

    I’m sorry to hear of Helen’s passing. She was a great lady & my favorite person to visit at the home. My thoughts & prayers are with you.

    Sally Leblanc

  2. Dawn Knowles says:

    Ken, Joanne, Susan and family,

    What a wonderful life. The obituary was a lovely tribute to an exceptional mother. I know that she lives on in the many lessons you have absorbed through her example.She will be missed.

    Dawn Knowles

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