In Memory of





Obituary for Anita Theresa McDermott (Champion)

In the words of friends and parishioners, Anita was kind, loving, generous, funny, entertaining, a jewel of a lady and a beautiful soul.

Anita was born April 5th, 1940, around the start of war. Her parents, Ann, and Fred Champion, lived at 46 Gautby Rd. It was a very small ground floor flat nearby an industrial estate and the Birkenhead docks. Anita spent her life there prior to her marriage to John, and it was where her parents remained all their lives. She was one of four children, elder sister Elaine, younger sister Hilary, and brother Gary.

Anita’s mum disciplined the children, which was difficult to do living in a small flat. Her dad was soft with them, taking them out of the area to parks to play and to the seaside to paddle. The family was happy as were the neighbours in the adjoining flats. The children made their own fun. Hopscotch, skipping rope, rounders, football, cricket, all in the street. It was a good, simple, and happy childhood. It was this type of street upbringing that gave Anita the inner toughness to call on during the difficult times she was to face later in her life.

Anita’s early years were hard with the long spells of nightly bombing. Her parents took advantage of a government evacuation program to move Anita and Elaine to safety on a farm in North Wales. Anita was grateful for life at the farm, and the generosity provided by its caretakers. The experience later inspired her to sponsor disadvantaged children overseas through charities. She loved the farm’s animals and later had pets including dogs, cats, fish, and budgies, all of them she cherished.

In recent years, Anita’s first job was to feed the cats and dogs, followed by checking in on the various bird feeders around the garden, then later in the day looking after the fish. She had names for all the fish and sang and hummed hymns to them. She talked to the families of racoons and skunks that strolled through the garden each day. We called her St. Francis. She’s left that task for John to carry on. And we know he will.

On her return home from the Welsh countryside, Anita attended primary and secondary schools in Birkenhead. She admitted she was not very good with numbers or the Queen’s English, but Anita was amazingly gifted with her own creative flair. She was an artist, a designer, anything with color, material, paint, she knew what to do. Her daily turn-out of clothes was a walking example of her skills. She had a knack at putting things together. Limited in her education by circumstance, but a beautifully skilled and talented person. In those days, opportunities for her to develop these skills were scarce, but over a lifetime, she expressed them in so many ways. She was always humble about her talents.

At 15, she left school, which was normal and the law those times. She went to work and held different jobs, in shops and factories, one of which was on a production line at Cadbury’s where she was working when she met John and before moving to Canada. Most of her earnings and savings back then and later in life went back into the home and family needs.
Anita’s way and her upbringing on the tough streets of Merseyside, and the even tougher schools in the area were to shape how Anita handled issues in life. A soft caring, understanding person with a strong, inner self prepared her to handle more difficult issues that lay ahead.

1950s and 1960s

They were good times in the 1950s. Rock-and-roll was born, led by the arrival of Bill Haley and Elvis Presley, and Anita was an instant fan. The packed dance halls called. Anita and her friends often went to Liverpool or strolled along the New Brighton pier, all dolled up in their best gowns, their long curls flowing under a marquee, and they were ready to rock the night away. Anita’s wavy black hair and eyes as blue as sapphires turned many heads. Over the years, dress hem lines raised, and dance changed from jive to the twist, to a Disco bump, but one thing remained the same: Anita could groove and was happiest when dancing.

At the start of the 60s, the Beatles came on the scene and the Mersey beat was all the rage. It was an exciting time to be in Liverpool and Merseyside. Youthful energy, culture and life, pride had finally returned after the dark days of the war. Anita like many started to dream of the future. She started venturing out more from Liverpool and New Brighton to surrounding towns like Chester and Blackpool, as well to London.

Blackpool was famous for its waterfront lights. It was one night after seeing the Blackpool lights that she met John on the coach trip back home. John switched seats with his friend to get close to Anita. The simple change of seats put them on life’s journey together. They married in 1962. The wedding wasn’t a big affair, but it was a happy one. Shortly thereafter, her sons Philip and Russell were born.

Her new family had a good and happy start in their first home, but John was getting restless at work. This led to a move to Canada in 1967, arriving in St. Albert, AB, Canada. It was bold to leave the larger family behind, but Anita and John, with the full support of Anita’s parents, set forth across the Atlantic.

Nothing however prepared Anita, John, and the boys for their first severe Canadian winter. Anita was determined to make a go of it, only to be hit by another bombshell, which required immediate surgery to treat cancer, just eight months after their arrival. Anita soldiered on.

In time, a Merseyside social club was started for biweekly dances at the exhibition centre. Anita carried on dancing and there were happier times again. Friendships blossomed in St. Albert and remained steadfast throughout Anita’s life. Anita’s visits back to England in 1969 and then from Anita’s mom and dad to Canada in the years that followed made home seem less faraway. The early family holidays and road trips to the Rockies and West Coast were great adventures.


Anita and John decided to move to Vancouver in 1973. Vancouver did not exactly roll out the welcome mat. The first day in Vancouver was a cold, wet, Canada Day. It poured. The moving truck didn’t arrive. For a time, Anita missed friends in St. Albert. It took a while for her to settle. Her holidays became trips back to England to care for her mother, who was afflicted with the same health issues Anita faced in St. Albert, and then her brother Gary was killed tragically in a work-related accident in Alberta. He was only 28.

Despite these setbacks, Anita kept strong and was unwavering in her care for her family. She had a way of coping with her sorrow, worry, or stress within herself, as to not upset anyone, especially the boys. That is how she was. Things gradually got better with the arrival of friends from St. Albert and her younger sister, Hilary, with her family from England.

In July of 1977, the family were on the move again, this time to Chicago, the same day that Elvis Presley died, which put a damper on the drive across America. It was the first major family road trip and holiday together for some time. She wanted to take in the sights, Yellow Stone Park, the Little Big Horn, and Mt. Rushmore, but she had a severe earache. They drove through fires, like the ones currently in BC, and the firefighters stopped them because able-bodied men were expected to help. Because Anita was in so much pain, they were allowed to drive onto Montana to the nearest hospital. She blamed herself for spoiling everything, typical of Anita. The doctor told her to get to Chicago as soon as possible. There she was treated.

The time in Chicago was short, a little over one year, but consequential for Anita. She had her dream 1920’s brick, peaked roof house, covered in Ivy, on a tree lined street. It was a great old house that she enjoyed. Anita fashioned all the houses into real homes for the family, but the Chicago home was the first one that really allowed to her express her creativity. John did the painting, and hung the wallpaper under her guidance, the boys learned along the way. Anita also recreated herself and pursued a dream of hers since childhood. She learned her trade, hairdressing. John hasn’t had his hair cut by anyone one since, but now he must look for a barber.
Anita enjoyed the neighbours. Next door was Chicago’s top Jazz Radio DJ, and he introduced John and Anita to some Jazz greats like Oscar Peterson. Around the corner was the most boisterous upbeat lady Anita ever met, and next door was a very eccentric collector. Russ was unhappy in Chicago though. Because family ties were not as strong there as in Canada, Anita decided it was best for the family to move back to Vancouver. This time around, Anita had a new perspective on Vancouver.

She was returning to friends and family she loved. It was home now. Anita was involved in the community and got her first hair dressing jobs which she enjoyed. It gave her self-confidence. Even though her earnings were modest, she enjoyed the work. Anita had greater independence and her own resources to add things to the house and help the boys. Hair dressing allowed her that creative expression, with countless hair styles, and a growing circle of friends. Her regular clients trusted her, which is no small feat. Anita was a good listener and confidante to them all.

Later Life

By this time, health issues from the past caught up to her, and surgeries followed. Health-wise Anita had a difficult time. Scarlett and rheumatic fever as a toddler damaged her heart, a major cancer surgery after arriving in Canada in 1967, and major heart surgeries in 1984 and 1994. Other smaller, but critical conditions early in the new millennium. Two major surgeries back-to-back in 2015, plus multiple hospital procedures too numerous to mention.

Anita battled it all without complaint. Her toughness and strong faith in the Lord brought her through each time. After her last major operation, which was just a few days after another surgery, the first words she shared with her surgeons gathered around her was, “Thank you, Jesus.” Her will to fight and faith were truly strong and inspirational.

She suffered for a long period, but you’d never know from the outside. She kept it to herself and was kind and gentle to everyone as always. Anita had many good moments, since the 1980s with friends and family in Canada, England, and the USA. There were many celebrations, birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions.
The last major holiday the family shared together was 1983 back in England. By then, Phil and Russ were young men, Russ was 18 and Phil 20. Eventually the boys left home on their travels and university. The time in England was a happy time for Anita. She saw more of the beauty of the land of her birth and was able to see everyone she loved, together, one more time. The holiday was one all will remember.

Anita has had a good life, a happy life, and she was ready for the Lord. When that day came, as was her way, she didn’t let on to John or the boys. She just said, “Take me to the hospital,” knowing that it was something different. She met it with courage and faith. She will always be remembered as a beautiful loving wife, mother, and a friend. That’s Anita.

Wife and Mother

Anita was a beautiful, loving woman, mother, and a wife. She used her god given talents and humility to the fullest, turning her hand, unsurprisingly, to solve problems. As a mother, she was there to help soothe and resolve the daily problems of the children. As a wife, she was never afraid to face the troubles of the day head on.

She never claimed to have special talents and was modest about them, but John, Phil, and Russ, and many of her friends recognized them, and asked her for advice on many such issues.

For Phil and Russ, Anita was the most special lady and Mum, and will be dearly missed. She was an endless reserve of love, the very pulse of their beings. She graced them with a selfless lifetime of generosity, kindness, nurturing, and love. There was never a day she did not worry about them or strive to provide a better life. She sacrificed her needs for the family’s happiness.

Anita was there for the down moments, the broken bones, and hearts, and around to pick up the pieces. When John was away with work, Anita was their caregiver. No task for them was beyond her. Helping them on early morning paper routes, taking them to soccer practices and art lessons, never missing special occasions, and singing a birthday song on each of their birthdays, Anita gave them her unconditional love. In sickness and health, she was there to get them up, feed and dress them, talk, counsel, and listen to them, and make the bad dreams disappear. She made sure they pursued their talents and experienced life. When they failed or strayed, Anita got them back on track. When they disagreed, she never held it against them, even when she was usually right.

Through it all, Anita never complained about her health and focused her concern on the family. She settled their nerves over hers. With grace and dignity, she courageously fought through her life to be with them and see them on their paths. They will try to keep her proud and live by her example.

Anita often joked about her family name, Champion, and how she was teased about it at school. Champion, “the wonder horse,” some school children would say. For John, Phil, and Russ, she will forever be their Champion, in their hearts, thoughts, and prayers.