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WINIFRED PAKTONG Our beloved mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, Winifred Paktong (born Mar), passed away peacefully on Sunday, August 18, 2013, at the Victoria General Hospital in Winnipeg, at 101 years of age. Remaining to cherish Winnie's memory are her brother Francis; five children: Solange (David), Marianne (Li), Josette, Fred (Julie) and Alec; 13 grandchildren: Grace, Roy (Bob), Joanne, Monique, Lana (Chris), Joyce, Jeff (Melissa), Jonathan, David, Lizanne (Gernot), Jenna, Chris (Jessica), and Joey; and two great-grandchildren: Jake and Ethan. Winifred, affectionately known as "Winnie" was born on May 30, 1912. The first person of Chinese heritage to be born in Winnipeg, her proud parents named her after the city. Winnie had one older brother, Roy and a younger brother, George. Sadly their mother died giving birth to George. The family in China sent Joe Mar a second wife with whom he had another five children: Francis, Lily, Alice, Freddie and Mary. In 1936, Winnie's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Mar (Mar Yock) returned to China with most of their children. They stayed briefly in Shanghai and then moved to Nanking where the oldest son, Roy, was already living. In Nanking they stayed with Mayor Ma who, as is Chinese custom, was considered a relative as he was originally from the same village as Joe. The family later settled in the nearby town of Wusih. In the summer of 1937, Japan invaded China. The family escaped and travelled on "refugee carts" back to Nanking where they once again stayed at the mayor's home. Luckily they left Nanking for Hong Kong one week before the city fell to the Japanese. From the beginning of their return to China, Winnie's parents were determined to find a suitable husband for her. Mayor Ma's wife hired a matchmaker who introduced them to a young man, Caven Chan, the fifth of eight boys whose parents operated a tile factory. Caven had been a professor of mathematics at Ling Nan University in Nanking, and later studied architecture and engineering in Paris. The marriage was arranged. When the Japanese invaded Hong Kong in 1941, the Chan family fled to French Indochina. Winnie and the children lived in the south central mountain city of Dalat while Caven worked in Saigon. The family home in Dalat was well-equipped with running water, flush toilets and bidets. The girls, Solange, Marianne and Josette attended a French convent school; the boys, Fred and Alec went to a Chinese school where the method of teaching was memorization. In 1953 the family moved back to Hong Kong where they stayed in an apartment owned by Winnie's older brother, Roy. Caven wanted to move the family back to Nanking but Winnie refused and she applied for Canadian citizenship for all the children. In 1955 Winnie and the children sailed on the President Cleveland from Hong Kong to San Francisco. Then, for two weeks they travelled by train from San Francisco to Winnipeg via Vancouver. It was the first time the children had seen snow. A family friend, May Lee, took them to the Salvation Army to get winter coats. A local newspaper even printed the family's picture. Initially the family stayed with a friend, Mrs. Campbell. After one year, with some assistance, Winnie was able to buy a house on Lipton Street. Winnie supported her family by working in a garment factory, earning about $25/week. This is where a storybook romance entered Winnie's life. While growing up in Winnipeg, Winnie had a childhood sweetheart who was left behind when the family returned to China. However, in 1969, at the age of 57, this romance was rekindled and she married her sweetheart, Louie Paktong. They enjoyed 21 happy years together until Louie's death in 1990. Winnie said it was the best years of her life! Through her amazing strength, courage and determination Winnie managed to raise five well-educated, successful children. She lived to enjoy 13 grandchildren who loved her unconditionally and will miss her terribly. She left them with countless wonderful memories to cherish. Seeing her two very young great-grandchildren instantly brought a smile to her face. Winnie lived a full and long life replete with many hardships as well as many, many happy times. Although her body began to fail, Winnie's mind was sharp right till the end. Winnie and Louie had season tickets for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for many years. She was presented with an autographed Bomber football by two players for her 100th birthday. She enjoyed attending the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and spent many hours working on puzzles, knitting and of course reading romance novels. While in her 80s Winnie volunteered at the Meadowood Manor Personal Care Home. Winnie was very conscious of fashion and always was well-dressed with her hair perfectly styled. Winnie always remained young at heart. We know she is watching and smiling down on us. Dearest Mom, Po Po/Yin Yin, you will be missed but will remain always in our hearts. Cremation has taken place and a Private Celebration of Winnie's Life will be held. The family would like to thank Dr. Cavers at the Victoria General Hospital for his caring support. Flowers are gracefully declined. If anyone wishes, donations in Winnie's honour may be made to the Victoria General Hospital Foundation, 2340 Pembina Highway, Winnipeg, MB, R3T 2E8. The Coutu Family in care of arrangements: E.J. COUTU & CO. FUNERAL DIRECTORS 680 Archibald Street 204-253-5086

Make a donation to Victoria General Hospital Foundation

As published in Winnipeg Free Press on Aug 31, 2013

Condolences & Memories (3 entries)

  • Your mom seemed like an amazing woman. You all should be proud of her. - Posted by: Robin () on: Sep 02, 2013

  • A terrific tribute to a remarkable lady. I am so happy to have known Winnie and her wonderful family. Truly a life well lived. She will be missed but never forgotten. - Posted by: Sue Luchuck (Family Friend) on: Sep 02, 2013

  • If I remember correctly the Free Press ran a story of your mother's life a while back. I was totally fascinated at the time. What a fascinating, courageous, beautiful woman. You were so fortunate to have her to enjoy for so many yrs. - Posted by: Claudia Beischer (Admirer) on: Aug 31, 2013

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