Jean Sutherland Saunders
1924 - 2021
Jean Sutherland Saunders
Service Information
Service Date
Monday, November 8, 2021
Service Time
1:00 PM
Service Location
First United Church, 711 Prince Street, Truro
Burial Information
Burial Date
Private Interment
Burial Location
Heatherdale Memorial Gardens, Alma Road, Westville
Requested Charity
Isgonish Chapter of IODE, First United Church or Colchester East Hants Health Centre
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Jean Sutherland Saunders – 97, Truro. It is with sadness, but gratitude for a life well lived, that we announce the passing of our Mom, Jean Sutherland Saunders on November 2, 2021, after a brief illness ended her truly remarkable life.

Friends have used many words to describe our mother: grace, humility, elegance, faith, resilience, kindness, generosity, compassion, and dignity. All would be true, but we would place courage at the top of the list. That trait of character was forged early on in a childhood marked by tragedy.

Mom was born in Riverton, NS in June, 1924, to (her father) Hugh MacDearmid Sutherland and (her mother) Annie (MacLellan) Sutherland. She was the youngest of three children, joining older brother, Bill, and sister, Mary. Sadly, Mom’s father, Hugh was killed in a freight yard accident where he worked as a brakeman when Mom was seven, and her mother Annie died when Mom was 12. Bill and Mary – both still in their late teens, and working, were not able to provide for their little sister. Left an orphan, Mom was blessed to be "taken in" by Annie’s dear friend, Margaret (Fraser) Sutherland (no relation, whom our Mom nicknamed "Suddy"), a registered nurse who owned a nursing home across the street. Suddy asked Bill and Mary for their permission to rear our mother as the child she never had. They readily agreed. From that bond, Mom’s education and development flourished. So too did her deep understanding of people, especially those in need, and her habit of always putting the interests of others first. Five years later, when our Mom was 17, she received word that her brother, Bill, then a boatswain in the Canadian Merchant Marine, had been killed when his ship, the SS Vancouver Island, was torpedoed by a German U-boat, when leading a convoy in the North Atlantic. All aboard were lost.

Suddy knew that our Mom also wanted to become a registered nurse, but she insisted Mom start with a solid secretarial and bookkeeping background. So off to Mount ‘A’ she went and completed that two year program. The next year our Mom was accepted into the three-year RN program at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. Sadly, our mother suspected that Suddy was seriously ill and she worried that if she were to move to Quebec, Suddy would not be able to manage her patients’ care. So she declined repeated urgings from the "Head Matron" at the Royal Vic, and stayed on to help. When Suddy died, our mother, only 22, found other facilities for each of the patients and handled the closure of the nursing home. While she was never able to pursue her RN degree we have no doubt that her intellect, empathy and resolve would have made her an excellent nurse.

Happily, and lucky for us, our Mom and Dad (Jim) who were in elementary school together, met again, fell in love and were married in 1948. Our father’s business career took them first to Yorkton, followed by transfers to Winnipeg, Willowdale, Pointe Claire, Oakville and finally, Truro. In each of these communities, our parents made life-long friends, whether through their commitment to the United Church of Canada or the many charitable organizations and activities they joined.

Our mother was fiercely proud of her Scottish heritage and Pictou County roots. She had a vast knowledge of history and current events. Her memory was extraordinary. She was a champ at bridge, crossword puzzles, or games of Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit. Mom was a staunch supporter of the monarchy, and served as Regent (president) of many IODE chapters across the country. Her leadership was recognized in being made a Honourary Life Member of the IODE in several provinces.

Besides being a loving wife and parent to two active children, Mom worked tirelessly with her church, the VON, and the hospital auxiliary. She had boundless energy, and learning to use a walker in her mid-90s hardly slowed her down. She loved to cook and bake and found great pleasure in entertaining family and friends in her home. Her roast turkey dinners, chocolate cakes, peach pies, pickles and jams were legendary. So too was her penmanship and fondness for letter writing. It was only this year that failing eyesight prevented her from corresponding or reading the daily paper. Despite that setback her mind remained sharp, as evident during our Thanksgiving get-togethers just a few weeks ago.

As parents, our Mom and Dad were a team. The love, trust and devotion they shared in their marriage served as an example to us all. In retirement they enjoyed many annual trips to Barbados, United Kingdom, Dominican Republic, as well as wonderful family summer vacations spent at Pictou Lodge, our Dad filling whole albums with the photos and notes he took to capture those special occasions.

In their late 80s they continued to enjoy independent living when they moved to Edinburgh Hall at Parkland Estates in Truro. They settled in quickly, made countless new friends, and felt truly at home. When our father died three years ago, Mom was able to carry on very well, thanks to the kindness and friendship of the Parkland staff and her neighbours.

Mom was immensely proud of her two children, six grandchildren, two great grandchildren, and their spouses. As she often said "You are my greatest joy". When the pandemic made it impossible for us to all be together, Mom was thrilled to be kept up-to-date with our letters, calls, photos or virtual visits.

Mom was predeceased by her parents, Hugh and Annie; brother, Bill; sister, Mary; guardian, Suddy; husband, Jim. She is survived by her son, Jamie, and his wife, Gayle; daughter, Catherine, and her husband, Michael Epstein; grandchildren, Matt Saunders and his wife, Marianne Brassard; Alyson Sturgess and her husband, Hugh Sturgess; Beth Saunders; David, Alexander, and Johanna Epstein; precious great grandchildren, Ingrid and Jack Sturgess. Mom also leaves her sister-in-law, Emily Saunders (and Emily’s four children, including Mom’s dear niece, Joan (Al) Gibson of Truro) as well as a legion of loyal friends and former neighbours across Canada.

We will miss you dearly Mom but shall cherish the memories, lessons, legacy, laughter and love you left for us all. Our faith is such that we can now picture you and Dad walking hand-in-hand, greeting old acquaintances, and catching up on the three years you spent apart. We wish to express our appreciation to Drs. Rideout, Kelly and Henderson and well as the many other physicians, nurses and staff at Colchester East Hants Health Centre for the gentle and expert care they gave our mother in her final days; to Dave Hunt, Darlene Walsh, Bree-Lynn Pelly and other staff at Edinburgh Hall for their extraordinary kindness to Mom; to Reverend Valerie Kingsbury for the spiritual comfort she always provided; to her IODE and First United Church family and to the many longstanding friends (or their children) who took the time to call or visit our mother over the years.

Our mother’s funeral will be held 1 p.m., Monday, November 8, 2021, at First United Church, 711 Prince Street, Truro, Reverend Valerie Kingsbury officiating. (Please note that proof of double vaccination and photo identification will be requested prior to entry to the church for the funeral service and masks must be worn at all times; thank you for your co-operation and understanding.) Live webcasting of the funeral service will be available at 12:55 p.m., Monday, November 8, 2021, and will remain on this site for some time. Private interment in Heatherdale Memorial Gardens.

In lieu of flowers, you might choose to remember our mother by volunteering to help those less fortunate in your community, or by making a donation to the bursary we have established in our Mom’s name at the Isgonish Chapter of the IODE, or to First United Church or Colchester East Hants Health Centre Foundation.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Mattatall-Varner Funeral Home, 55 Young Street, Truro. Private messages of condolence may be sent to the family by viewing Jean’s obituary on-line and selecting "Send A Condolence" at: www.mattatallvarnerfh.com

Jean Sutherland Saunders Jean Sutherland Saunders