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July 15, 1924 - April 30, 2024

In loving memory ~

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved mother Leida Rei (nee Äär) on April 30, 2024, just short of her 100th birthday.

Born July 15, 1924, in Kaimre Kula, Saaremaa, Estonia, Leida grew up on the family farm. This peaceful existence was shattered by the advent of World War 2, which saw the family caught between battling armies on two occasions. Leida and our father Aleks fled the impending Soviet occupation of the region during the final months of WW2 - an exploit worthy of a Hollywood action film. For the next seven years they lived and worked in Gotland, Sweden.

In 1951, they, along with our Aunt Aliise and Uncle Valdur Nomme, decided it would be prudent to emigrate to British Columbia, Canada, in order to 'get away as far as possible' from the dangers of Soviet tyranny - in the midst of the 'Cold War' rife with much fear and political uncertainty.

During her travels, Leida mastered five languages - an accomplishment of which she was very proud.

After the long journey across the Atlantic and across Canada, Leida and Aleks settled in Steveston, B.C. where they raised their two sons, John and David. Aleks worked in the fishing industry and Leida kept house, raised us boys and tended her beloved flower gardens - which were the pride, and envy, of the neighbourhood. Leida was an accomplished seamstress, knitter and macrame artist. Her "fisherman sweaters" were popular items sold in a local gift shop.

Leida loved singing. She often told stories of how she and her sisters would sing while working around the house and farm - much to the annoyance of their father who preferred peace and quiet. Leida was a founding congregant of the Vancouver Estonian United Church and a long-time choir member.

In 2018, after experiencing a series of health issues, Leida moved to Smithers BC to live with John and daughter-in-law Pat.

Despite her advanced age and failing memory, she would often reminisce about the 'old days' on the family farm during the pre-war years where hard work was combined with many country childhood adventures.

Leida was pre-deceased by her parents (Jakob and Triin), seven siblings (Oskar, Arno, Anna, Minnie, Salme, Linda and Olga) and husband, Aleks. She is survived by sons John (Pat) and David (Elaine), grandchildren Anna (David), Alexis (Blake), Cody and Holly (Jake), great-grandchildren Johana and Lyla, nieces Mary (Jack) and Kathy (Wayne) along with their families in Vancouver and many nieces and nephews and their families in Estonia.

Although Leida loved her adopted country, she remained a proud "Esto" to the end. She would often explain to us the significance and meaning of the blue, black and white of the Estonian flag:

Blue - the color of faith, loyalty and devotion.

Black - the often difficult and tragic past of the Estonian nation.

White - the striving towards enlightenment and virtue.

Many thanks to Dr. Shiela Smith, the staff of Wedzinkwah Family Medical Centre and BVDH staff for their awesome care and compassion.

Love you forever mom.

"Eesti vaim elab edasi" ("The Estonian spirit lives on")

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