April 13, 1944 - June 25, 2021
Patricia Diane O'Neill was born in Smithers to parents Michael and Gwen O'Neill (née Washbern) on April 13, 1944. She grew up here amongst family and friends until she headed off to Vancouver to attend Pitman's Business College in 1962. It was there that she met Brian Struthers on a blind date at the Aristocrat Restaurant. They were married in 1965, with daughter Kim born in 1969 and son Darryl in 1972.
In 1975, Brian, Pati and the kids moved to Smithers, eventually settling into an acreage with a beautiful view of the valley where they lived for 39 years. Decades were spent walking the loop below the house which passed by the Bulkley River and along Ebenezer Flats. They gardened, enjoyed nature and hosted many epic gatherings with family, neighbours and friends.
Pati was a loving and supportive wife, mother, daughter, grandmother, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, great-aunt and cousin. Her family and particularly her grandchildren, Cassidy and Tyson, were incredibly important to her. She loved being Granny and she spoiled the kids with love, thoughtfulness and of course the odd gift.
She had dozens of life-long friends and was deeply involved as a volunteer and supporter of many causes and organizations. She was a devoted and proud member of the Smithers United Church, starting as a girl in Christian Girls in Training and then as a member of the United Church Women's (UCW) group.
Pati was a long-term employee of School District 54, working at Smithers Secondary School, running the district's Resource Centre and ending her career at the Learning Centre. Pati seemed to know everyone (and everything) and working for the school district certainly helped with this - she always had time for her school kids and loved visiting with them.
At 60, Pati was diagnosed with Scleroderma which eventually led to Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. Like everything else she tackled this head on. She joined the Scleroderma Association of BC (SABC), becoming the Smithers rep. In 2017, Pati organized a 5K walk to raise funds and awareness, and she set a modest goal of $1,000; more than seventy people joined the cause and together they raised more than $8,500 dollars for SABC.
There are many people who supported Pati on her journey, including Drs. Strauss and Scholtz; Nelsie Schaefer, Michael Oaks, Stacey Pederson and the rest of the Smithers home care nursing team; Drs. Dunne, Ryerson and Wilcox and Fran Schooley at St. Paul's Scleroderma Lung Clinic; Dr. Brunner and Lisa Lee from VGH's Pulmonary Hypertension clinic; Karen Janz from McKesson; and Dustin Schibli and his team at the Safeway Pharmacy. We couldn't have asked for a more supportive group to help Pati have the best quality of life for as long as possible. We are also grateful for the caring attention Pati received in her final days from the nurses and staff at the Bulkley Valley District Hospital (BVDH).
Special memories of Pati are too numerous to mention but some things we'll always associate with her include: our cabin at Babine Lake, berry picking, gardening and flowers, fishing, the annual bird count, Wacky Cake, Auntie Cookie, playing Mrs. Claus, her annual reunions with her Peyton Place gal pals, walks and hikes, her Thursday girlfriends, playing dominoes and cards, dogs and cats, epic dinner parties, long (long!) phone calls with out of town family and friends, volunteering, travels to the U.S. and Europe and guardian angels.
Pati passed away June 25 at the BVDH. A beautiful service and tea were held July 3 at the United Church and we thank Shelley Worthington and the UCW for their generosity, care and support.
Pati is survived by Brian, Kim (Mike), Darryl (Lori, Cassidy & Tyson), sisters Sharon Morin (Dave, Glen, Brenda & Scott) and Nancy Comartin (Brian, Quinn) and brother Bill O'Neill. She was pre-deceased by her parents, stepmother Alice O'Neill and brother Michael O'Neill.
While we know Pati is no longer with us in person, we know she is watching over us all in her new role as guardian angel. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Scleroderma Association of BC or the UCW - Smithers United Church.