Patricia Pearl Humphrey (1916 – 2013)

Written by Harold McNeill on October 26th, 2013. Posted in Biographies


Patricia Pearl Humphrey (Schirrmacher/McNeill)
(1916 – 2013)

The youngest child of a family of
Canadian Pioneers

On Saturday morning, October 26th, 2013, our dear Aunt Pat passed away at her home in Stony Plain, Alberta.  At age 97, Aunt Pat was the last of eleven siblings of a family that pioneered in South Dakota in the 1800s and then Saskatchewan at the beginning of the last century.

Her parents, James Wallace McNeill (1866-1938) and Martha Ellen McNeill (Church) (1874 – 1958) married in 1893 in Chamberlain, South Dakota, then, 17 years later, after facing an ongoing drought and constant unrest in the Dakotas, pulled up stakes and headed to Canada. After entering through Peace Portal in Manitoba, the woman, including Martha’s mother (her husband had passed away), and the youngest children caught a train west while the father and older boys, Clifford and James, drove the wagons and cattle. They all landed in North Battleford, Saskatchewan in the spring 1910.

On departing from South Dakota, the couple had seven children in tow – Dave (2, my father), Elizabeth (5), Hazel (8), Irene (9), Ruby (12), Clifford (14) and James (16), not a move many of us would ever consider tackling . Not only that, in the fall of 1910, after arriving in North Battleford, the twins, Armina and Almira, joined the family.

After checking out the lay of the land, James and Martha selected a homestead in Birch Lake, about 60 miles north. It was there the final two children, Floyd and Patricia Pearl, were born. The family worked the land until the father, James, passed away in 1938. A few years after his death, perhaps the mid 1940s, Martha moved back to North Battleford where she remained until her passing in 1958.

The 11 children of James and Martha, and 40 grandchildren, are named below:

(Mac) James Claude McNeill (1894 – 1959) married Blanch Jewel (children: Lorraine, Verla and Rex).

Clifford Curtis McNeill (1896 – 1974) married Frances Tobin (children: Elva, Edward, Clifford, Donald and Frances)12164_221668202528_6142502_n

Ruby May McNeill (1898 – 1987) and Edward Bethall (children: Marsha and Brian)

Irene Ulena McNeill (1901 – 1964)  and Stanley Johnson (children: James and Joyce)

Hazel Belle McNeill (1902 – 1990) and Denny Dewan (children: Evelyn and Helen)

Elizabeth Burleigh Ellen McNeill (1905 -1985) and Warren Harwood (Tart Dewan) (children: Marge, Albert, Eldred, Emerson, Betty, and Stanley)

David Benjamin McNeill (1908 – 1965) and Laura Wheeler  (children: Harold, Louise and Dianne)

Armina Fedilia McNeill (1910 – 1990) and Ned Crocker (children: Charles, Jimmy, Joan and Barbara)

Almira Claudilia McNeill (1910 – 1982) and Alex David  (children: Audrey, Cyril, Margaret, Myrna, Dennis, Darlene and Dale)

Floyd Clarence McNeill (1914 – 1976) and Alice Roske  (children: Robert, Eileen and Susan)

Patricia McNeill (1916 – 2013) and Jim Humphrey (Art Schirrmacher)  (children: Ellen, Garry and Merv).

Photo (above): Aunt Pat in one of the only photos I have with a few of her brothers and sisters. Top: Dave and Floyd, Bottom, L to R, Hazel, Pat, the twins Mina and Lola, and Irene.

Note: Names and dates were copied from a Geneology Booklet prepared by Carrie (Dewan) Goldsmith, Clandonald, Alberta, for the McNeill/Dewan/Harwood Family Reunion which took place in Bonnyville, Alberta, July 5, 6 and 7, 2002). The book also contains a full list of the children of the nieces and nephews listed above.

Aunt Pat is survived by her eldest son, Garry, and his wife, Edna Schirrmacher of Stony Plain, Alberta, and seven grandchildren: Leslie, Curtis, Colin, Patricia, Lynn, Kim and Mervin.  She was pre-deceased by her second husband Jim Humphrey, first husband Art Schirrmacher, three of her children; an infant son, David James, daughter Ellen, son Merve, as well as two grand-children, Marvin Boser and Dawn Emmanuels.

Aunt Pat faced many more hardships than most of us have or will face in our lifetimes, yet she has overcome those hardships with a determination that we would be hard pressed to match.

The greatest of those hardships was having two of her children and two grandchildren pre-decease her, deaths that she would have gladly exchanged for her own. Having now reached that peaceful plateau for which she longed in recent years, the fond memories we have shall become a part of her legacy.

Game Player and ardent Blue Jays fan

Aunt Pat was a wicked card and board game competitor with scrabble, bridge and cribbage at the top of the list.  Even at a point in her life when her eyesight was failing she was always up for a scrabble game on her special board. When she was no longer able to distinguish the letters on a regular scrabble board, a friend at the lodge, Irene Ewort, made her a board about the size of a card table with corresponding sized letters. On that oversized board, she often bested excellent players such as my sister, Louise Yochim, and my wife, Lynn.

During family visits to Cold Lake, where Aunt Pat lived for many years, it was not unusual for Louise, Lynn and Aunt Pat to start a game of Scrabble in the early morning, then continue until the last drop of coffee was gone in the late evening.

On occasion, Aunt Pat would pick me up as a partner for Bridge games at the Seniors’ Centre in Cold Lake.  She was a most gracious partner as she always managed to overcome the glaring errors of my game and ‘finesse’ us to a respectable finish.

She was also a long time supporter of the Blue Jays baseball team and even when her eyesight failed, she could easily follow the game on television as she knew all the sports broadcasters and players by their name, voice and position on the team.

A Love of Music

Across the McNeill family of mother, father, brother and sisters, and most certainly a good sprinkling of first cousins, musical instruments and singing has been a large part of our lives.  Aunt Pat, as a little girl, clearly remembered how her mother could tune the piano by ear…her mother would plunk a key while her father turned the tuning key up or down as directed. (2010 notes from discussions with Aunt Pat). It seems that at least one neice, Helen Pylypow, has inherited this ability.

My own mother (Laura Skarsen (McNeill/Wheeler)) remembered how it was common for her neighbour (and later, mother-in-law), Martha McNeill, to have her husband and sons load the piano onto the back of a wagon or sleigh and transport it to the community hall for dance.  For a first hand sketch of those dances and box socials, including comments by Aunt Pat, link here: Birch Lake: A New Beginning

I still have fond memories dating back to the 1950s while living in LacLaBiche when everyone would gather at the Schirrmacher farm for a party. The music would begin in the early evening and continue into the wee hours of the morning.

Today, many of the cousins regularly play in bands at country dances and church gatherings and a few have become noteable music teachers. For those who may have lacked the ability to play an instrument, their voices often carried the day. In recent years, whenever nieces and nephews, and their spouses, gathered for one of Aunt Pat’s birthday parties, an ad hoc band would emerge and the celebrations would begin.

Expressions in Prose and Poetry

Aunt Pat also loved writing, as did many of her brothers and sisters and a good sprinkling of nieces and nephews. We are fortunate to have written material (extending from 1965-2010) from both Aunt Pat and her older brother, Floyd.  The hand written work of Aunt Pat was lovingly typed by her daughter in law, Edna Schirrmacher. In her writings and poems, Aunt Pat spoke lovingly of family and friends, and of the peaceful end she sought.

Untitled (series in April – May, year u/k)

Spring has come but the wind’s still cold!
Or is it that I’m getting old!
The Canada Goose has winged its way
To the North and West —
To find itself a place to nest.

Soft and furry little pillows
Have popped out on all the willows
Today I heard the Robin Red Breast sing
A cheery little ode to spring.

(plus six more verses and 10 more sections)

Untitled (1996)

Each summer night
As I go to sleep
A soft cool breeze
Through my window creeps

The smell of flowers
Sweet and clean
Comes drifting through my window screen

(plus five more verses in this poem and perhaps a hundred verses in the series of poems)

An Old Fashioned Christmas (a note to family and friends, sent for Christmas 2010)

It’s time to start Christmas shopping! the Xmas cake is baked and wrapped in rum soaked cheese cloth and stored. There’s lots of short-bread and mincemeat tarts and pull-taffy.

Carols are being sung on the radio and T.V.  Deck the Halls, O’ Holly Night, Good King Wenceslaus.  Children are singing – Away in a Manager and Joy to the World.  I’ll be Home for Christmas by Bing Crosby.

(plus seven more paragraphs of Christmas’ remembered)


Another of Aunt Pat’s great skills was remembering and telling jokes.

The following excerpt is taken from a story written in 2011 when my son Jay, grandson Grayson and friend Bjorn Simonsen visited Stony Plain and celebrated another of Aunt Pat’s birthdays:


“Today I went to a birthday party of the oldest person I have ever met; well, oldest person next to Grandpa as I always thought he was the oldest person in the world. It was a party for my Grandpa’s Auntie Pat, the last of eleven children on his dad’s side of the family.

At 95, Aunt Pat is not what you might expect.  Although her hearing is pretty much shot and her eyes do not work as well as they did a253109_381847535220969_2060999515_n few years back, she still has a mind that is razor sharp.  She would tease me and the other kids and would tell these funny jokes.

I learned that shortly after Aunt Pat settled in at a new lodge in Stony Plain, she was selected as a “Poster Girl” for a Province-wide fundraising campaign for the Christian Charity that maintained the lodge.

They used her photograph in the campaign so I guess you could say she was a celebrity just like Justin Bieber, only just a few years older.  Grandpa told me that along with her other responsibilities as a poster girl, she had to travel around and speak at various fund raising events.

One time when she was attending a Golf Tournament Fundraiser for the lodge, she became engaged in conversation with a young man, a golfer, who was seated next to her.

After being called to the podium to speak she pointed down at the young man and told those gathered that the previous day the young man was up early getting ready to play a practice round before the tournament. After he jumped up, showered, shaved and began to dress, he pulled on his socks and noted he had a “hole in one”.  So he undressed and went back to bed.”

Pretty funny, eh?    (Grayson Walker, Chronicles of Grayson, 2011)

Yes it was Grayson and Aunt Pat was full of jokes that played on words. Here is another she used to tell:

Two little snakes were hissing near their pit. The mother snake came out and said, “What are you snakes doing hissing near our pit. I told you to go someplace else to hiss as I want to have a nap. Now, go, head over to Mrs. Pott’s pit and hiss. I’m always looking after her hissy little snakes when she’s tired.

So the two little snakes went over to Mrs. Pott’s pit to hiss, but soon Mrs. Pott came out and said, ”Hey you two, what are you doing hissing near my pit? If you want to hiss, go back to your own pit and hiss!” It was not long after the snakes returned to their own pit and started to hiss that their mother came out.

”What are you doing back hear hissing near our pit? I thought I told you to go over to Mrs. Pott’s pit to hiss. They told their mother that Mrs. Pott had sent them back if they wanted to hiss. Mother said, ”Well, I’ll be, I knew Mrs. Pott before she even had a pit to hiss in.”

I bet a good many people would have trouble keeping the pots, pits and hissing in order, but it was second nature for Aunt Pat.

Aunt Pat, as with all of her sisters and a sprinkling of the men, were excellent cooks. She learned to cook while growing up on the farm and continued to practice the trade in work camps and restaurants as well as the excellent meals and pastries she prepared for her family and friends.  As a resident of a number of seniors facilities in her later years, she was never hesitant to share here thoughts on food preparation with the staff of the various facilities.

Memories by Edna Schirrmacher (daughter-in-law)

Aunt Pat’s handy work was award winning. Over the years, dozens of family and friends have many crocheted articles, tablecloths, doilies, table runners plus tatted pillow slips etc. These will be in the family for generations. Aunt Pat is one of the few who knew what “tatting” was, let alone learned the difficult art.

She was also a great cook and was especially good with lemon pies and fried chicken. Aunt Pat worked as a cook in restaurants for years and even had a restaurant in both Irma and Hardisty. She then worked for her daughter, Ellen, as a cook in Fort McMurray, 1422492_10151656518427391_1358253608_nFrank, and Lacombe.

Pat and Jim moved back to Cold Lake, their favourite place, in the early 1980s. After Jim passed away in 1984, Pat moved into a senior’s apartment in Cold Lake and stayed there until she moved into the Cold Lake Lodge in 1996. As a take-charge kind of gal she organized trips for the senior residents of the Cold Lake area to the Mayfield Dinner Theatre and to various casinos – even one trip to Las Vegas. She also drove the bus for the Cold Lake Lodge residents so they could go bowling, shopping, attend senior games and just get out to do things.

Photo: Pat with her husband, Jim Humphrey and Mark Yochim her nieces son (Photo from her niece Louise Yochim)

In 2003, she moved to St. Michaels Manor in Spruce Grove and was there until 2011 when she moved to The Good Samaritan Care Centre in Stony Plain. During her many years in care centres, she was very involved in pretty much everything: the music, cards, games and whatever else was going on. She really enjoyed the live music presentations especially when her nieces, nephews and their spouses came to entertain – usually on her birthday.

Comments from two workers from the last two centres where she resided summed up her character very well. A dear friend who worked at St. Michaels went to visit Pat at the Good Samaritan Care Centre and arrived at lunch time – laughingly commenting “ I knew I would find you at the head of the table” which she was. The second worker, a nurse, from the Good Sam -when expressing her condolences said “ It was a privilege and an honour to have served your Mom.

The family would also like to acknowledge Alma Morrison  (widow of Stanley Dewan, her sister Elizabeth’s youngest son who passed away at the tender age of 24) and Clara (Gatzke) and husband Mike Marks who visited often and played cards, scrabble and  Skip-Bo with her.

On Her Death

While her death brings to a close another Chapter in the long history of the McNeill Clan, the clan will not soon disappear or be forgotten as the number of McNeills who can trace their roots back to Great, Great Grandfather Thomas McNeill (1766 – 1833) and Elizabeth Sabine (1786 –      ), is legion. Even the 40 first cousins of the children of Grandpa James and Grandma Martha McNeill,  the prolific lot they are, now lay claim to over a 120 offspring who will carry the family into the future.

While Aunt Pat will be much missed, she has made the final transition from life to death in a manner that would suit her just fine. It was a transition she expected and accepted with the peace of mind knowing that she has always done her very best and has loved her family and friends as much as anyone could ever wish.

And in return, we have loved you Aunt Pat and will miss you very much.

Harold McNeill
Victoria, October 27, 2013

Notes: Over the years, Aunt Pat has passed along many stories that have been included in various parts of the McNeill Life Stories, Family Section.  The footnote in the first story of the series, is but one example.  Link here to the Blizzard of 41.   She will again be remembered in a new story that is being written on the LacLaBiche years of the Dave McNeill family.

For those who did not have a chance to read the Geneology Booklet prepared by Carrie (Dewan) Goldsmith, I’ll try to get a copy and post it online for future generations. Carrie did an amazing job of collecting, sorting, writing and printing a rather large volume on the history of the McNeill, Dewan and Harwood families. Carrie is to be commended for this massive task.  

2010 Birthday Party


Link Here for More Photos

Some Comments, received by email, are placed below.

As many members of Aunt Pat’s extended family and friends may wish to see the comments of others, they will be added as received.
Please feel free to use the comments section at the end of this post.

Elizabeth Curtis Dewan-Monroe (second to the left of Aunt Pat)

We were all going to the races in Calgary and Aunt Pat wanted to look at the horses running. Upon seeing them she said: ” Well I’ll be damned, I thought this was an all gelding race and there’s one heifer”

Another time she got so excited, she dropped her purse over the railing and hit a man who was standing below, right on the noggin. Needless to say Del (Curtis) was down there lickity-split to retrieve her purse. We had many a good laugh with her and will miss her jokes (although some were pretty colourful).  (Love, Betty)





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Comments (4)

  • Gertrude Lefebvre Brown
    November 2, 2013 at 12:09 pm |

    My e-mail has changed. And I’m presently living in a Motel or Heritage Inn- because My Mobile Home was Flooded in The June Flood in High River this June 20th. I was in Mexico with my son and his family when IT occurred , but My three Children living in Calgary were there for Me when I returned from my trip. Then we also had the 13th Lefebvre Reunion in Cold Lake -the week-end of June 29,30th and July 1st. Then I flew back to Ontario, via Montreal to meet for three days with my 48 yr. old daughter; then unto Oshawa(Tor) to spend a month with my oldest girl Ida(56) and only returned to High River on Aug. 7th/13. Also lost my car in the Flood.-But My daughter-Gail who lives in Calgary-had a second hand vehicle I was able to purchase from her. A 2003 Honda Odyssey, which was covered by The Ins. I GOT FROM THE ASSESSMENT FROM MY FLOODED CAR. Anyway I am presently waiting for a permanent residence which is being built here soon. Love. Gertrude. Leave a note on facebook if you wish to reach Me. Love to read your messages. And those of your wife too.

    • Harold McNeill
      November 2, 2013 at 1:44 pm |

      Hi it..will keep you posted via Facebook. H.

  • Tracy Mcewan
    March 16, 2015 at 11:22 am |

    Hi, I have been reading the beautiful tribute to your Aunt Pat. I am sorry if this is not the correct place for this message as I was not lucky enough to have met this obviously funny and strong woman. However, I hope to find someone who may have some information I am desperately seeking. I have been investigating any information regarding one Mr. Warren Harwood . It seems he is my grandfather. He knew my grandmother before he met and married his wife Elizabeth Dewan. They briefly had dated and my mother Twila Ferguson was made from this union. I would love to have any information of him and if there is any other family I would be related to. Once again I apologize if this is not the proper place for this . Thank you for the wonderful stories on this site. Yours, respectfully Tracy McEwan.

    • Harold McNeill
      March 16, 2015 at 8:03 pm |

      It is a perfectly good spot for messages such as you have left. I will send you an email message with more information about Uncle Warren (by marriage to my Dad’s sister. I have several photos of the early years that are linked in various stories, so we should be able to fill in a fair amount of detail. The stories will explain the close connection our family had with Uncle Warren and Aunt Liz. It will take a bit of time to link all the stories in which they appear at various times during our lives. Cheers, Harold

Leave a comment



  • Mike Fedorowich

    September 1, 2023 |

    I have gone through the above noted text and have found it quite informative.
    I am a former member with several law enforcement agencies from across Canada.
    I worked in the First Nations service under the authority of the RCMP with the over sight of the OPP. My law enforcement service was conducted under the authority of the Nishnawbe – Aski Police Service in North West Ontario the Louis Bull Police Sevice in Hobbema AB, the Kitasoo Xaixais Police Service in Northern in side passage on Swindle Island, the Lac Suel Police Service North West Ontario and the Vancouver Transit Authority Sky Train Police Service. I’m presently dealing with an RCMP member for falsifying a report against me for a road rage event. Court case is finished and the charge was dropped but I have an on going complaint with the member and have forwarded to the WATCH DOGS IN OTTAWA FOR the RCMP review and consideration. I believe the said officer is in violation of his oath of office and should be held accountable for falsifying his RTCC all the while dragging me through the court system here in Nanaimo. RCMP continue to stonewall the appeal but Ottawa and the crowns office are still looking into the matter. if your able and find the time or the interest in this very brief introduction, I would very much like to speak with you and would be grateful to hear any wisdom that may come across from your end. I served with First Nations Police Services for ten years in isolation and six years with Transit Police out of New West Minster. I do value and appreciate any time you could spare to chat for a bit on this particular subject matter. Respectfully with out anger but an open mind, Mike Fedorowich Nanaimo BC 250 667 0060

  • Harold McNeill

    February 28, 2022 |

    Hi Robert, I do remember some of those folks from my early years in Cold Lake (Hazel was my aunt and our family spent many fond times with Uncle Melvin, Aunt Hazel and Family. I knew Lawrence and Adrian. Having read a half dozen accounts it is clear their were many false narratives and, perhaps, a few truths along the way. I tried my best to provide an even account from what I read. Cheers, Harold. (email:

  • Robert Martineau

    February 25, 2022 |

    Its been a long time since any post here, but its worth a shot. My Grandfather was Hazel Wheelers brother Lawrence, and son to Maggie and Adrien. Maggie Martineau (nee Delaney) is my great grandmother. The books and articles to date are based on the white mans viewpoint and the real story as passed down by the Elders in my family is much more nefarious. Some of the white men were providing food for the Indians in exchange for sexual favors performed by the Squaws. Maggie was the product of one of those encounters. Although I am extremely proud of my family and family name, I am ashamed about this part of it.

  • Julue

    January 28, 2022 |

    Good morning Harold!
    Gosh darn it, you are such a good writer. I hope you have been writing a book about your life. It could be turned into a movie.
    Thanks for this edition to your blog.
    I pray that Canadians will keep their cool this weekend and next week in Ottawa. How do you see our PM handling it? He has to do something and quick!
    Xo Julie

  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.