Before her passing late last year, Phyllis MacPherson’s son Ed didn’t know just how much of a legacy his mom had left in the community of Winfield and the surrounding area.
But it didn’t take long in the aftermath of MacPherson’s death, for Laporte, 58, to start to really learn just how much of an impact his mom made with her work with the Lake Country Food Bank, as its long-time manager.
The late Phyllis MacPherson was honoured July 9 with a celebration of life in Beasley Park, on a day that much like Phyllis’s personality, began with an energetic swirl of crazed weather before turning to sunshine, as the community remembered the lady who was small in stature, but large in life.
“Mom never talked much about all the work she did with the food bank and in the community,” said Laporte, who relocated to Lake Country six weeks ago, joining his sister Brenda in the area. “I didn’t know the level of her passion for it. After she passed I started to go through her stuff and to see all of the acknowledgements and the awards and then to hear people talking about her….she was a busy girl. She was always busy but I think something clicked when she moved out here and she just took to it.”
Among the awards and accolades that Laporte was surprised to find were the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal for significant contributions to her community; the Lake Country Citizen of the Year award in 1998, the Mayor’s volunteer appreciation award in 2002; the Order of Lake Country lifetime achievement award in 2004. The list went on.
“I was kind of surprised. She was really quiet about it. She wasn’t one to blow her own horn, at least to me. I would have loved to hear all that stuff from her,” said Laporte, still emotional after his mother’s passing just before Christmas of last year.
“I think she was just so passionate about the food bank and making sure no one went hungry. Being one of 14 kids, she must have seen what hunger was like and seen enough people in that era of Canada, with the great depression. She must have been really affected by that.”
After growing up in Montreal, Phyllis and her second husband Ian relocated out west, first to Calgary and then to Winfield, where she would join with others in working to help hungry people, volunteering for the Lake Country Food Bank and taking the reigns as manager over the years.
The food bank would become Phyllis’ home away from home and at her celebration of life, Laporte said he was amazed at the mark she made in the community.
“I was so floored, it was just the scale and the scope of it all that amazed me,” he said. “Just to hear the humourous stories of the head-butting that went on between Phyllis and the mayor and Phyllis and Norm Letnick. But Norm said he knew not to argue with her.”
Laporte’s sister Brenda said it was in her mother’s nature to take care of people.
“Mom was always a giver,” she said. “She always helped people who needed it.”
The celebration of life was organized by Phyllis’ grand-daughter Trish Green, who said she received a lot of help putting things together and thanked the Rotary Club, the Lake Country Food Bank, Sysco, Save-On-Foods, and IGA for their contributions as well as everyone else who helped out.
“It was amazing,” said Green. “I don’t have any other words. Gramma had said she wanted to have a big party in the summer and everything came together.”
A portrait done by artist Charla Maarschalk will be hung at the Lake Country Food Bank at a special presentation at a later date.