It's difficult to begin to tell the story of a woman so well known to Cochranites over her years.
Maureen Wills was an independent woman who carried an impressive sense of humor. Her love for Cochrane started when she arrived from England and stood upon the Cochrane Hill. She knew at that moment she would call Cochrane home. Her love for the mountains was limitless as she would frequently pack up her dog and head for Kananaskis. She was entrenched in the local community and was adamant about one thing: "Stop taking life so seriously, lighten up."
Maureen Wills was a strong willed soul with a joke or two always ready to make you smile. At a young age she was immediately involved in the community. Little did she know that on a trip to grab some firewood she would cross paths with her soulmate.
"As I recall, dad had a logging business and where mom was living at the time was kind of in that area and she needed to go and get firewood and somebody said 'Oh Frank Wills has firewood' so mom went there and dad didn't know that she had arrived on the property and he was cursing this machine for not working and she's like 'Excuse me Mr. Wills but I came for some firewood' and that's kind of how it started." explains Kathy Wills, daughter of Maureen and Frank.
After meeting Maureen, Frank was persistent in trying to keep her by his side forever.
"Dad asked mom to marry him 10 times and she was so busy doing things and going places and she was like 'I just don't have time to settle down and be married.' Then she thought, I better say yes or else he's just going to give up," Kathy said.
Frank and Maureen married on Oct. 26, 1968 and went on to have a daughter. The family was happy, and lived outside of town on a farm. Maureen worked as a school bus driver, at a local cafe and was involved in various community groups in Cochrane. Kathy was in Grade 2 when she lost her dad in 1979. He passed away from a heart attack after complications from diabetes and a couple of strokes. Maureen was left with her most important role - being a single mother and raising her girl on her own.
"She did what she needed to do in order to raise a daughter and keep a farm going and be a mom and be a dad," explains Kathy. "She had a job to do and she did it. She was the most amazing role model that I could have ever had."
Many Cochranites carry a memory of Maureen near and dear to them. Whether it is of her breeding corgis or being involved with Girl Guides and Scouts Canada at the local level. She also worked with Cochrane and Area Victim Services and was a founding member of the Cochrane and Area Humane Society. All those who knew her will be reminiscent of her love for the community.
"What wasn't she involved in," laughs Kathy. Maureen was also a member of Town Council. Long time friend and member of Town Council, Susan Flowers says there is no doubt how deeply rooted Maureen was in Cochrane.
"I have known Maureen for 35 years. She was the most community minded person I have ever met, she wanted to make a difference with her life and she sure did. Maureen loved to bring people to the table to solve issues, create relationships and create programs and services to improve the future of our community. She loved Cochrane. Her friendship and contributions will not be forgotten."
A year ago, Maureen was diagnosed with an early-onset of Alzheimers. He daughter Kathy described this as gut-wrenchingly awful. It was hard for her to see her determined and ambitious mother get diagnosed with such a heartbreaking disease. Kathy kept her spirits up and Maureen, the humourous soul she was, was the master of turning to her funny bone in the doctors office to try and cover it up.
"Mom was known for her sense of humour and her jokes whether they were really funny and appropriate, or extremely funny and inappropriate," said Kathy "She used humour in just about every situation."
Kathy married last year and Maureen walked her daughter down the aisle. Keeping her mother and father close to her heart, Kathy chose to get married on Oct. 27. One day after her parents. She also used the same guest book her parents had and claimed "the love story continues". Other artifacts from her mother and father were displayed and although she is unsure if her mother noticed them she is grateful that her mother never lost the memory of her or her groom, Jonathan. This could be because Maureen, like any mother, wanted the very best for her daughter and she knew that Jonathan was it.
Maureen's final home was Big Hill Lodge in Cochrane. It was here where she would ultimately pass, not from Alzheimers but from an instant heart attack on Oct. 16. Kathy feels humbled knowing that the very cruel disease didn't consume her mother.
"I would really like to make note of how fabulous the Big Hill Lodge is. It's not a retirement home it is part of the resident's family. They become family. My mom would tell me the girls would come in to give her vitamins or put cream on her arms, and they'd kiss her good morning or kiss her good night. She wasn't just treated as a resident, she was treated as part of the family. They loved mom, and I can't thank them enough for that," said Kathy.
A celebration of life will be held for the pure-hearted and vibrant, Maureen Wills in the coming weeks. Kathy will announce via her Facebook the establishment where it will take place and added that they will finish off the day with a social at the Frank Wills Memorial Hall. A very fitting place as her mother created the building in honor of her dear husband.
"This is what mom would have enjoyed and liked, for everyone to come together, share stories and toast her."