“A mother is a woman who has conceived, given birth to, or raised a child in the role of a parent. Because of the complexity and differences of a mother's social, cultural, and religious definitions and roles, it is challenging to define a mother to suit a universally accepted definition”
“Sweater, n.: garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly.”
– Ambrose Bierce
“The real religion of the world comes from women much more than from men – from mothers most of all, who carry the key of our souls in their bosoms.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes
Monday September 23
My mother passed away today. Mary Helen Mousseau (alias; Mary H. Kostuik, The Enforcer, Muh-muh, Mommy, Ma, Mom, Apple Doll) .
She would have been ninety-years-old on January 1st. A New Year's baby. As a kid I felt sorry for her. You get ripped off for presents when your birthday is a week after Christmas Day
Of course she wasn't always a Mother.
Mary was born in Cobalt, Ontario in 1924.
Her dad, Stephen Kostuik came to Cobalt to work in the mines and to escape war torn Europe. He left his wife, Julia (my gramma) behind in Poland, until he could earn enough to pay passage for her and my Uncle John. The first time he sent her the money, Julia bought a cow. The second time he sent it, he added a note, “There won't be a third time”. My gramma sold the cow, grabbed little Johnnie and got on the boat.
In time there were a lot more kids, Joey, Bernie, Rose, Mary (my mom) and Ed.
(mom's on the left…she's holding down my Uncle Eddie)
Living up in Northern Ontario was pretty cool for them (literally)…mom used to tell us about having to dig out from snow that was as high as the old porch roof. These we tough people…mom used to say that she had to snowshoe 10 miles each way to school (uphill both ways).
Mary went to the North Bay Normal School (what an abnormal name for such a normal school). North Bay is ninety miles South of Cobalt (sheesh, she certainly did walk a long way to school). She lived through the Depression and WW2. Mom was in High School for that one…she told us about all the young boys who graduated and then got shot down in flames over France or Germany. Tough Days…lots of death and pain.
After the war, the boys came home and married. This is my aunt Rose and Uncle Carl getting married…my mom was her maid of honour. They were best friends their entire life.
After graduating Mary went to Teachers College. When I first met her she was teaching Kindergarten in Windsor, Ontario. Of course that wasn't her first job. She had taught up in Kirkland Lake, Ontario…that's where she met my dad Bill. He was a French-Irish iron worker…a wiry boxer. They made a great couple. That's why they got married and moved south…to Rivière Canard, near Windsor. Bought a little farm…had some babies.
Eddie (my bro) is the eldest, he's three years older than me (that would make him 32).
Rosemary is next, we called her 'Pixie' when she was little (hey, she looked like one)
I'm the baby…and everyone else suffered for that. Apparently I was a monster…I used to shake at the bars of my prison (playpen) 'cause I wanted out.
(here we are…the original 'Agents of Destruction')
My dad wasn't well. One day I remember the ambulance came and took him to the hospital. He died there. It was 1961. My mom was left with three kids ages four to seven and a mass of debt. She sold the little farm and everything else too…and moved into the core of Windsor. Those were tough times for us all…particularly for mom.
Mary was a teacher. She apparently taught the first Kindergarten class in Windsor and was also one of the first Special Ed teachers in the city.
St. Bernard's School, 1965. Mom is top row, third from the left
She went back to school herself and over a number of years she received enough credits to earn her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Windsor. She was fully stoked about graduating…we were proud of her of course but it wasn't until we had acquired our own wisdom that we fully appreciated the magnitude of her accomplishment
We three kids went to the French school…a nod to my dad's heritage. It wasn't easy being French in our neighbourhood…we fought a lot…with the English kids and with each other. The only person we were absolutely terrified of was mom…the Enforcer. Everybody was afraid of my mom back then. I remember her physically pressing a 6' 4″ cop up against a wall because he insisted that she tell him her age (and she wasn't a tall person). He backed down.
She'd teach all day, walk home…yet again,10 miles up hill both ways (now that is a coincidence)…cook dinner and crash on her favourite chair. Twice she changed the school she was teaching at just so she could be closer to our school. She stood up for us when we were right and taught us the value of being honest and a champion of the weak. She allowed us to bring home stray animals by the bunch and she welcomed our friends and adopted them as family. Parents of the children she taught would drop off jugs of homemade wine…which was fantastic once the three of us were in University. Everyone loved our mom.
In 1982 she became a Grand Mother. She embraced that. My daughter Emily (August 11 Post) was her first and she adored her. Em was a very serious kid. One time the three of us were having dinner (Mom, Em and I) and my mom was venting about some other teacher. When she finished, I had no idea what to say, so I babbled, “Well Mom, you live and learn”. Emily (who was three) put down her spoon, looked my mom in the eye and said, “You know gramma, you live, you learn and then you die”. After that, Mom really listened when Little Emmer spoke
William Patrick II (Rose's son) was Mom's second grandchild. It's perfect…he's eleven years younger than Emily so he came along as a sweet and innocent baby just as Em was starting to get on Gramma's nerves (LOL). Oh my mom loved Willie (aka; Willis, The Dude)…he was named after my dad and he was absolutely adorable (still is but he'd be uncomfortable with me telling you that so…shhh). Whenever possible she lavished both kids with food, gifts, hugs and kisses and she was so incredibly proud of them both.
Mom retired from teaching in 1989. I had met Wendy by then and mom's retirement party was Wendy's inaugural Mousseau family outing.
After retiring, Mom dabbled a bit in writing, worked in her garden, cheated at cards, knitted and read a lot (she loved to read Game of Thrones on the IPad Ed bought for her). She traveled a bit…she never did get to work in a leper colony as she'd hoped but that's okay, she'd already been of service to a great many. She deserved a break.
Mom, Ed, Rosemary and Rose
Mary (left) with her beloved Rose
About a year ago Mom went into the hospital. She could no longer get out of bed on her own. Us three kids spent a lot of time with her in the hospital…at New Years, Ed, Rose, Wendy, Emily, Will and I joined with Mom in the hospital to celebrate her birthday.
Finally, Ed arranged for her to live in a beautiful, local senior's home. Wendy and I visited her just before we left to drive across Canada. We talked about the possibly of not seeing each other again. I was a bit worried but Mom looked me right in the eye and said, “Honey, I know how much you love me”. What peace there was in her eyes. What a gift. We love you too mom
Ed was the first to get the news that she had passed quietly in her sleep. A nap after breakfast…isn't that just the best…food and rest. What a gal!
All of Mary's brothers and sisters pre-deceased her. That made her the Matriarch of a large Kostuik family…a position she was most unsuited for, her being rather humble and retiring. Now, her whole generation is gone and it's left to us kids to carry on with what we have learned from those who are our ancestors. Do what you know in your heart to be right. Champion the poor and the weak. Have fun…Be mischievous and Damn The Torpedos.
Mary's Mass of Christian Burial will take place at 10.00am on Friday September 27th at Corpus Christie RC Church (1400 Cabana Rd. West, Windsor). Mom was a staunch Catholic…she'd have liked that. As you read this be aware, time is tricky…in fact, in Windsor, it should be 10am Friday right about…Now (whoa..time warp)…so please take a second and feel all the love that is in your heart for our mom, your mom, all moms.
Goodnight Mom. I love you
Moose and Wendle
“Sincere sympathies on the passing of your Mother. A special lady to all who knew her. Thoughts and prayers to everyone at this difficult time”
“Dear Ed, Rosie and Steve, I should be there. Your Mom was a Mom to me in so many ways. She was an incredible woman and you three are her legacy. With much love, Bob”
“To Mary's family,My deepest condolences to you and the entire family. Your mother, grandmother and great grandmother was my kindergarten teacher 39 years ago. I can still remember how comfortable she made me feel on my first day. Her kind, caring, loving and compassionate ways will always be cherished by me forever. Long live Mrs Mousseau's memory. She was the best kindergarten teacher throughout Essex county!”
Online condolences may be left for the family at