HILL, Margaret M. –
Margaret Maud Twyman was born in Sherbrooke, Québec on March 13, 1933 to Minnie and Fred Twyman. She and her older brother John grew up in the Eastern Townships, as it was then known, and in Montreal. Mom attended McGill University with multiple scholarships, and obtained a BSc in Microbiology. Photographs of her in that era show a lovely, smiling woman with a strong sense of style. Mom worked initially with Molson Breweries, and soon after graduation married Owen Smith, whom she had met at McGill. I and my younger brother Neil were born shortly after. While we were young we moved to a lovely property on the shore of Lake St. Louis, outside of Montreal. Family life included sailing and all kinds of boating in the summer, skiing in the winter, and close relationships with both sets of grandparents. Mom’s artistic side, perhaps hidden while pursuing a degree in science, began being expressed through decorating our home and as a volunteer guide with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Upon the breakdown of her marriage to Owen, mom, Neil and I moved from the Montreal suburbs to a more rural setting in Hudson, Québec where we lived in what we called “the Green House”. Endless hours were spent sitting in front of the fire, surrounded by cats, reading books, listening to records, and drinking tea and eating muffins until it was time for a pre-dinner glass of sherry. Mom rejoined the workforce as a microbiologist at MacDonald College in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and there had an eclectic social circle of colleagues and graduate students. In time she married Hudson Goodbody (yes, same name as the town we lived in) and they went back and forth between residences in Hudson and in Toronto, finally moving full time to Cambridge Ontario. Mom again created a lovely home with extensive gardens. Mom and Hudson divorced, and mom began working freelance as a researcher in the field of architectural heritage. Through this she met her third husband, Nicholas Hill, an architect and heritage planner. Mom often said that it was a mystery to her how a shy bookish young woman ended up with three husbands.
After living in London Ontario, Saint John New Brunswick, and Goderich, mom and Nick settled in Guelph Ontario where I was already living with my then husband Brian and our first daughter, Elizabeth. Mom and Nick worked together in the heritage planning field; for many years mom was the secretary of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, known for her “just-right” meeting minutes, as well as being involved in the Guelph, Cambridge, and Huron County branches. The ACO created the The Margaret and Nicholas Hill Cultural Heritage Landscape Award to honour their extensive contributions. Dear to mom and Nick was their property on the Maitland River, initially camping, and eventually in a cozy cabin, where they were content to putter the days away, summer and winter. After Nick’s death mom continued to reside in her Grange Street cottage until three years ago when she moved into her own “wing” of the century stone home renovated by Sid and I.
Mom was a kind, caring, warm-hearted, gracious and intelligent woman with a wide group of friends whom she met through a range of activities, but particularly through the Guelph YMCA. When some of the group left to join other gyms they continued to meet socially as the “ex-Y’s”. At one point mom was involved in two book clubs, a scrabble club, the “Honey I’m Home” dinner group, and was a volunteer at the Macdonald Stewart Art centre, now the Art Gallery of Guelph, where she helped run the Gardenscapes annual garden tour. Mom and her friends had many adventures, including hiking the entire Bruce Trail, and spent happy sojourns together at various cottages. Mom was a member of St. George’s Anglican Church in Guelph, although we always suspected it was for the music and architecture as much as the religion.
Mom loved fine art, literature, music, and gardening and flowers, and her home was replete with all of them. At various times she had season’s subscriptions to the Guelph and Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony orchestras, the Guelph Chamber Choir, and was a regular attendee at the Stratford Festival with one or more of her friends. She had a deep interest in history and architecture; regularly registering for lectures such as the Third Age Learning series. Mom’s garden in Guelph was a source of flowers, orchard fruit, and rhubarb for many friends and neighbours. Mom’s pies were legendary – it was always a tossup between apple and rhubarb from her garden, or the famed pear-ginger. Mom was an excellent cook – her Sunday night dinners were a delight with candles, cloth napkins, and wine in crystal glasses, and a special dinner was always held for family birthdays.
While mom wouldn’t have called herself a dedicated “traveller”, she still racked up the miles. While carrying only a tiny suitcase she managed to be well dressed for every occasion. Mom took tours with friends to England and Italy to see museums, gardens and cultural events, and to Japan where highlights were Mount Fuji in full sunshine and the cherry blossom festival. One memorable trip was taken by mom and I to make a surprise visit to my brother Neil who was living in Wales. Co-organized with his flatmates (one of whom he married years later), he was taken to a pub where he was heard to say – “those people look just like my mother and sister – wait, they ARE my mother and sister”. Mom also visited my family and I on our various trips or sabbaticals – in Zimbabwe, California, Costa Rica, and Australia. The Blue Mountains of Australia became mom’s second home after multiple visits to Neil and his Australian wife Susan (the ex-flatmate), and in no time she established a web of good friends there as well. Mom also managed to see a fair bit of Canada – living in the Maritimes with Nick, making regular visits to Victoria BC to visit a long-time friend, and almost annual trips to Calgary to see her brother John, his wife Marion, and their children Kristina, Geoffrey and Nicholas.
And last, and certainly not least, my mom was a wonderful mother and grandmother. Mom was a best friend to my brother and I, and provided endless support and a sympathetic ear until the day she died. She would have done anything for us. I’m not sure how I will get by without her to remind me not to cut my bangs too short and to wear some lipstick once in a while when I go out in public. Mom was a wonderful grandmother to Elizabeth and Sarah, she loved them deeply and they adored her. Elizabeth braved COVID-infested airports to come home and be with mom for her last birthday and her final weeks, and Sarah spent most of mom’s last weekend sitting by her bedside and holding her hand (and talking, non-stop).
Mom, passed away April 19, 2021, a month after her 88’th birthday, as the result of a cancer-induced bowel obstruction. People write about battles with cancer, but for mom, by the time of diagnosis it was nothing but an endurance event. In seemingly almost an instant she went from “perfect health”, with nary a medication in sight and daily exercise with the YMCA on-line, to having the diagnosis of a terminal illness. Despite having a vomit bag as her most essential accessory for the past three months and having to watch her family eat meals in which she could not partake, mom maintained her sense of humour and never complained. At the end the only evidence of the degree of her discomfort was the alacrity with which she chose to ride out the finale under palliative sedation.
Mom appreciated her long and rich life; she just wished it could have continued longer. That sentiment is most intensely shared by her family and many many friends, all of whom will miss her deeply. Although a funeral will not be held, we will join together in a celebration of mom’s life when it becomes safe and appropriate to do so. We will definitely have wine and good food, although I can’t guarantee the cloth napkins.
~ Margaret’s daughter, Dale
A tree will be planted in memory of Margaret M. Hill in the Wall-Custance Memorial Forest.