Mary Jane Watkins

It is with sadness that we announce the death of Mary Jane (May) Watkins at the age of 89. May passed away on Wednesday, September 17th at the Chilliwack Hospital. Mary Jane (May) Magee was born in Glasgow, Scotland on May 1, 1925. She entered the world with an irresistible urge to entertain people and, even at the age of three, needed no encouragement to enter talent contests on the pier at the local seaside. Over the years May joined many entertainment organizations and singing groups such as the Cast Offs at Cottonwood Village. She once confessed that when she heard music all her aches and pains seemed to disappear and she could move around the stage like a young woman. At school in Glasgow, May was interested in dressmaking, knitting, and cross-stitching. She planned to become a domestic science teacher. Unfortunately, World War II began before May finished school, and in order to avoid being evacuated to the country, she worked in a hat shop. When May was 17 she was drafted to serve in the civilian war service where she was involved in the intricate and precise manufacture of compasses for Allied ships and aircraft. In 1952 May married Richard William (Dick) Watkins. Five years later Dick and May left Scotland and immigrated to Montreal. In subsequent years they made their way across Canada, via Brandon Manitoba to British Columbia. Dick worked as an auditor for Canadian Pacific Railway and May worked for Fraser Valley Regional Library (FVRL). In 1970 they went to Ontario where May worked first for the Oakville Public Library and later for the Huron Country Library. In 1979 Dick and May returned to their beloved British Columbia and May went back to work for FVRL. They moved to Chilliwack in 1988. Dick died the following year in September 1989. Within months May saw a small notice in the local paper asking for people interested in their local library to form a Friends of the Chilliwack Library group. In the beginning teas and books sales were the main source of revenue. May became President of the Friends group in 1990 and remained in that position for ten years. Under her leadership the Friends instituted raffles, garage sales and various other fund raising events. One event that May started is the annual pet parade. In 2000 May decided to return to Scotland to be closer to the family. May returned to Chilliwack from Scotland in 2005 and immediately rejoined the Friends of the Library. This dedicated group supports library programs and services with innovative projects like Quiz Night and puzzle sales. In 2010, May was presented a certificate by the Friends in recognition of 20 years of service. A proud daughter of Scotland, May was often asked to speak at Robbie Burns and frequently gave the “Address to the Haggis”. May was predeceased by her brother Alastair. She is survived by her sister-in-law Marjorie Magee and nephews Gregg and Graeme (Edinburgh, Scotland). May’s family and friends would like to thank the staff at Birchwood Retirement Residence and the nursing staff at Chilliwack General Hospital for their care and support. A celebration of life tea will be held at the Birchwood Retirement Residence, 45650 Patten Ave., Chilliwack, BC on Monday, October 27th from 1:30 – 3:30 pm. Donations in May’s name may be made to the Chilliwack SPCA or to the Friends of the Chilliwack Library.

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