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Born: Feb 11, 1923

Date of Passing: Mar 07, 2020

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Marj left us March 7, 2020. Her departure was gentle and quiet.
Born to Christine, a school teacher, and Robert (Doc), a dentist, on February 11, 1923, Marj was an only child who wrote her story in her own way. Raised in River Heights, Marj was incapable of refusing challenges. The nuns of St. Mary's Academy strived diligently but with limited success to instil discipline - resorting to serial detentions and seating her behind a classroom fern. Later, as she successfully pursued her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Manitoba, her Economics professor agreed to give her a passing grade only if she promised never to take another course in his department. Marj loved to regale friends and family with such self-deprecating stories with a moral attached: it was always possible to rise above.
Marj accomplished much. She raised and loved her four children, had an accomplished career as a journalist, explored the world, made life-long friends, offered her home to foreign students, donated time and money to foundations and causes, hosted dinners and parties, living life intensely at all times. Married to Alastair in 1949, the couple spent the 1950s contributing to the baby boom launching Ian, Marsie, Colin and Nancy into the world. Before she married and again from the early 1960s on, Marj worked as a journalist for the Winnipeg Free Press, St. Vital Lance, The Oakville Journal Record, the Winnipeg Tribune and the Ottawa Citizen. She loved the excitement of the trade, encounters with oddball characters, and the adrenalin rush of deadlines. She supported and mentored many aspiring female journalists. She was editor of the Tribune's family section and, at the time of her retirement, was consumer reporter and covered the "Gray Beat" for the Ottawa Citizen where she acquired the unfortunate reputation for interviewing mature subjects just before their demise. She became affectionately referred to by the staff as the Black Widow. Her favourite opening line after a day of interviews was "you won't believe what just happened to me." She was incapable of burying the lede. Life with Marj was never mundane.
Marj was progressive in her generation. Divorced in 1972, she was predeceased by Alastair in 2002. She was a feminist by her own terms - always independent with the curiosity and courage to be open to new experiences which often sparked enduring friendships. Her sometimes maddening tendency to have an opinion on any topic and a solution to every problem was counterbalanced by her lively presence, generosity, and good intent. She had a temper like a prairie storm - 10 minutes after the thunder, the skies turned blue again. She was proud of her "kooky" reputation.
After retirement she lived a happy, busy life, engaged with family, travel, volunteering, and sharing adventures with her many friends. She found time to write books about the Manitoba Legislative building and an early history of Winnipeg's Broadway Avenue, "Street of Dreams", that for several weeks topped the McNally Robinson best-seller list.
In her last years she was cruelly afflicted by dementia. Those were dark days for her and for those who loved her.
Marjorie Gillies will be fondly remembered and deeply missed by her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, the many wonderful friends she made on her unique journey, and especially by the spouses of her brood: Helene, Don, Sophie and Paul, who all formed special relationships with her.
Profound gratitude is owed to the remarkable, compassionate, exemplary staff at Lions Manor. Marj's family is deeply indebted to you.
A celebration of Marj's life will be held at a future date.
Donations in her memory may be made to the Alzheimer Society or to the United Way of Winnipeg.

As published in Winnipeg Free Press on Mar 14, 2020

Condolences & Memories (5 entries)

  • Marjorie (and Alistair) were close friends of my parents and Margie was always a bright spot at dinner parties with her funny stories and love of life. Her laugh was contagious (and distinctive). Her intelligence was renowned. I’m so sad for your loss and pray your memories of her and her great stories and love for all who got to know her will shine on. - Posted by: Lorna Robb (Family friend) on: Apr 04, 2021

  • I loved when a visit with Ian and Helene included a visit with Marj. She was always so much fun and very generous to me. I realized as I read her obituary that I hadn't known half of her accomplishments. She never talked about them. What a life Marj led! My condolences to all the Gillies. With the sadness must come great pride in, and gratitude for, her life. - Catherine Harris Amen to all of that! Personally, my fondest memories of Marj were some animated discussions of Manitoba politics, conducted in her Winnipeg kitchen. Our views didn't always coincide perfectly, but the discussions were always lively and fun! And she raised four exceptional children. Our condolences to all. Matthew Kiernan - Posted by: Catherine Harris (friend of the family) on: Mar 16, 2020

  • Mrs. Gillies was a vibrant part of our neighborhood. Although she had definite opinions , she always had the time to listen to all of us kids. It made their house a home and a fun place to be. My very favourite memory was her opening their front door and “Calling “ the kids for dinner. Her voice carried well. More recently I was lucky enough to stay in touch with her in the twilight years. - Posted by: Ted Bigelow (Friend) on: Mar 15, 2020

  • Our sincere condolences to family and friends. Our hearts are with you and we hope that you can find solace in the memories of a life well lived. Take care and know that we are thinking of you. Dan and Leslie. - Posted by: Dan and Leslie Stanier (Friends of family) on: Mar 15, 2020

  • Deepest sympathy to all the family. Marge gifted me one of the nicest compliments of my life, saying l Iooked like a person who would be good to talk to. I know she will be missed. - Posted by: Liz Martin (Friend) on: Mar 14, 2020

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