June Duncan, known best to most of us as June Rowbottom, was born Harriet June Lapp; at Fawn Lake, Alberta, on June 23, 1927. June was born into a family that would grow to include eight boys and six girls. Throughout her life, June’s family remained the closest of friends, keeping in touch and visiting as often as possible, despite being widely separated in their adult years. June spent her younger years in and around Edmonton. She lived through and remembered well the hungry years of the Great Depression. She would recall, sometimes with tears in her eyes, the worry of having several of her brothers “overseas” during World War II, and the relief and joy of welcoming each one home when peace returned. In her mid-twenties, June met and married Harold Rowbottom. In the early years, Harold’s employment in the oilfield resulted in many moves for the couple and their first three children, Henry, Laura, and Bruce. Shortly after the children started school, the couple bought a farm and settled down at Stauffer, Alberta. The youngest two daughters, Sandra and Isobel, were born on that farm, and all five children grew to adulthood there.
Life on the farm was busy for June. Each morning and evening for many years she helped milk the cows. She grew a large garden, and spent many hours freezing and canning. In her front yard, she had fruit trees, and a large, productive patch of domestic strawberries. June made use of all the produce in her yard and garden. She also had an eye for beauty, and tended and loved the many flowers that she grew there. June kept busy in the community, too. She was active in the Stauffer 4-H sewing and beef clubs. She was a member of the Caroline chapters of the Legion and the Royal Purple; and she volunteered for a time at a local tourist information booth. She served at many weddings, funerals, and other community events, usually staying long after the event had ended, in order to help with the cleaning up. A long-time friend and neighbour commented this week that she remembers how hard June worked, spending long hours and much energy in helping others. In her spare time, if you could call it that! June worked on a variety of projects. She sewed, embroidered, knitted, crocheted, and did leatherwork; she washed, carded and spun raw wool into countless miles of yarn for soft, warm mitts and socks; and she made hooked rugs, little smocked dresses, and tatted doileys. June gained great pleasure from her handiwork. It gave her a way to express her creative side, and at the same time to care for her family. June passed her love of handiwork on to her daughters. Each one enjoys at least one or two of the skills at which June spent so many happy and productive hours.
Speaking of productive…June was a baker on a massive scale. Each week she baked 20 loaves of homemade bread. Very good bread it was, too; June’s family and friends would look forward to June’s fresh bread, and still comment on it today. June would make cookies in batches large enough to fill the large, deep oval roaster found in every farm kitchen, and when she made doughnuts, it was dozens at a time. She had a few “signature” dishes and desserts, too. Her chocolate pudding, steamed carrot pudding, shortbread, soft molasses cookies, porcupine meatballs, and special turkey dressing all remain family favorites.
As happens to all of us, June experienced some hard times in her life. She suffered the loss of a limb in her mid-fifties. She was saddened by the break-down of her first marriage. She mourned the loss, just a few years ago, of her younger son, Bruce; a loss from which June never completely recovered. Shortly after that, she became a widow at the death of her second husband, Jack Duncan. In June’s senior years, she was beset by multiple health problems. Throughout all these trial some times, June shed few tears, and she shed them in private. She complained little, and got on with the business of getting on with things.
The size of June’s family while she was growing up, and the world economic climate at the time, dictated that material things where often somewhat hard to come by. June and her family dealt with that by learning to stretch a dollar to the very limit, and then to look elsewhere, predominately to family and friends, for fulfillment and satisfaction. Those early lessons stayed with June. Throughout her lifetime, June’s family and friends were most important to her.
Money and material possessions were far down on her list of priorities. Consequently, it was natural for June to be generous with what she had. She always had an eye out for some little – or not-so-little – thing that she thought someone else could use. In later years it became a running joke in the family, “How long will Mom keep this microwave oven?” She must have bought at least a half-dozen of them, kept each one for a little while, then passed it on to a family member or a friend who she thought needed it more than she did. Several of June’s grandchildren got their first microwave oven this way. Some of them still have it. June was generous with her time, too. She was hospitable. Nothing pleased her more than a visit and a good chat. Her door was always open. She would keep several different types of cookies on hand, and liquorice for the younger set, “just in case.” Just how many pots of tea did June brew and serve in her lifetime? No one knows. Those pots of tea have made their mark. Her daughter Sandra is an avid collector of teapots to this day!
In later life, June found the faith that sustained, comforted, and gladdened her to the end of her days. She first studied the Bible in Red Deer with Greg and Marie Merrill. After June moved to Stettler in the early 1990s, her studies continued with Judy Bennett, who remained a close friend for the rest of June’s life. June was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses on January 19, 1993. Her worship, and those with whom she worshipped, held great value for June, and they gave her much happiness. June wanted to share that happiness with others, so she spent a lot of time talking to her family, friends, neighbours, and others about her deep faith in the Bible, and about the treasures she had found there.
After a brief illness, June passed away at her home in Heritage House, Stettler, in the very early hours of September 25, 2009. As a sister, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, friend, and neighbour, June will be sorely missed by all of us, and we are many, who knew and loved her.
June is survived by one son, Henry Rowbottom of Hinton, AB; three daughters, Laura MacMillan of Stettler, AB; Sandra Cech of Stauffer, AB, and Isobel Rowbottom (Jim Treibner) of St. Claude, MB; eight grandchildren, Harry (Sheri) MacMillan of Calgary, AB, Danny MacMillan of Calgary, AB, Russell MacMillan of Stettler, AB, Christopher (Terri) Cech of Stauffer, AB, Joey Cech of Stauffer, AB, Cassandra MacMillan of Stettler, AB, Jacqueline MacMillan (Terry Lyle) of Red Deer, AB, David Steffensen of St. Claude, MB, Helen Treibner of St. Claude, MB, and Thomas Rowbottom of Powell River, BC; two great-grandsons, Aidan Lyle of Red Deer, AB and Jackson Cech of Stauffer, AB; three sisters, Isobel Devine of Vancouver, BC, Millie Stefanick of Edmonton, AB, and Iris Mather of Edmonton, AB; very special friends Millie Howlett, Lydia Morlock, and Elsie Flack, all of Stettler, AB; numerous nieces and nephews, and many other dear friends. June was predeceased by her son, Bruce; son-in-law; Mac MacMillan; parents, Emmett and Isabella Lapp; eight brothers, Bud, Frank, Thomas, Harvey, George, Bruce, Ken, and Alan; and two sisters, Marg Lapp and Vera McKay. June’s memorial service was held in Stettler on September 29, 2009, at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, with Mr. Les MacMillan officiating. Her eulogy was lovingly prepared and delivered by her sisters, Iris Mather and Millie Stefanick. Services were followed at the Legion Hall in Stettler by a brief memorial tribute and a luncheon.
A private family internment will take place at a later date.