On July 19, with her children by her side, our mother Maxine Geller passed away peacefully at the age of 63. Maxine passed after a brief time with cancer, and a truly beautiful life.
She will be forever remembered by her children Mathew (Madison), Jesse (Brett) and Sean (Cassie); granddaughter Sawyer; sister Shelly (Bill), and brothers David (Jill) and Phillip (Robin). She will be dearly missed by her countless friends both in Canada, Brazil and abroad. Maxine was pre-deceased by her mother and father, Norma & Norman Geller, and step father Vince Hardy.
Born in Winnipeg, Maxine grew up in a busy, love filled household with her twin brothers and older sister. Maxine was always the boss, and ruled with an iron fist - or wooden spoon - by cooking in the kitchen or breaking it over her brothers head. Maxine learned to ride a bike in Transcona, before moving with the family to Garden City at age 7. With devoted parents, her family overcame the hardships of a mixed marriage to build a truly beautiful life with a summer cabin at Winnipeg Beach. She graduated from Garden City Collegiate in 1974 while working as a Winnipeg Beach camp councillor, lifeguard and at Reitmans to support her education. Upon graduation she enrolled at the University of Manitoba to begin studying to become a teacher. She wanted to make a difference.
Teaching was Maxine’s passion beginning in the Winnipeg School Division. Maxine began her career at Sisler, with stops in Grant Park and Stanley Knowles before moving on to become the first female principal of a high school in the Interlake School Division. Forever a learner, she earned her pre-masters while raising her children. Maxine would never accept no for an answer. As a female in the male dominated profession of school administration, she helped write, accredit, and implement the first high school hockey program as a certified course while principal at Warren Collegiate. Maxine created the dream schedule - Home Economics, Hockey, Lunch, Gym, Spare. After accomplishing her goals in the Interlake region, she rejoined Winnipeg as a principal with stops at Gordon Bell, Elmwood, Champlain and Harrow. Maxine was dedicated, respectful, and above all researched - she read, endlessly. Many of her closest friends were met in the halls of these schools, yet it was the children who gave her purpose and her greatest joy.
At Sisler, she met her Old Ladies of the Lake - A group of women dedicated to spending an annual weekend every summer, for over 40 years, laughing, learning and loving the art of teaching together. Maxine was in charge of steaks, tarot cards, and makeovers. She was determined to lead her own school as a principal, and hire all of her friends. Although none of her “ladies” were able to work for Maxine, they all remain honoured to have known her and call her a friend. Rarely can you develop a life long friend, never mind a group of them.
Early in her teaching career on a blind date she met her future husband Ron with whom she would raise a family. Married in 1985, Maxine accepted Ron’s undercover policing career with open arms - and lots of bandages. Maxine said marrying a cop, and a career as a teacher, prepared her for children. Mathew, a gift from god, was the test. A colicky, cluster feeding, never quiet, glued-to-her-side baby was her life's biggest hurdle. Maxine cleared this with ease. Five years later, she took all her new and learned skills to raise Jesse… and never had to use them. Jesse, a sea of calm, was the gift the family needed to help Maxine live with and overcome breast cancer in her late 30’s. The Chemo Savvy dragon boat team was instrumental in helping her recover emotionally and physically from her time with cancer. Maxine, through love of family, came to love hockey. Still unsure of what an offside truly was, she rarely missed a game or a tailgate party during her boys endless hockey ‘careers’. In a house dominated with 3 men, Donna was brought in as a reinforcement. Hired as a nanny to help while Maxine kicked cancer, Donna became a second mother to Jesse, a stern aunt to Matt, and a sister to Maxine in every sense of the word. You can’t mention Maxine’s family without Donna.
Ron and Maxine’s marriage lasted for almost 20 years, due in no small part to Maxine’s kind soul and eternal belief in forgiveness. Although it didn’t last, years later a renewed friendship did. Holding hands until the day she passed, displaying the power of family, and the pride they both shared for their children.
Maxine’s love of travel, adventures and new culture was a life time affair starting with a school trip to England at age 14. The welcome addition of her children was not a deterrent, but rather an opportunity to redefine “road trip”. Driving the family from BC to Ontario to Florida (non-stop) was a yearly occurrence. Maxine visited every province in Canada, and over 20 countries, volunteering at a school in most - whether by design or by simple curiosity. Maxine shared this with her family, friends, and in her later years, complete strangers. She climbed to Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China, by herself, in her late 50’s! Well at least thats what you saw in pictures. Maxine felt her parents every step of the way.
Maxine’s career never ended. Forever an educator, near her retirement from school administration she worked as the president of Canadian Association of Principals before beginning a two year term as the chairperson of the Council of School Leaders with the Manitoba Teachers Society. She gave back and continued to educate the next generation of teachers by educating at the university level in Winnipeg at the U of W. In 2016, Maxine received a Manitoba Education Research Network Special Contribution Award, although she would rather show you the booklet kids made for her when she left Champlain School. All of this culminated with a Director of Academia position at an international school in Brasilia, Brazil. Leading a team of 300 staff and 1600 children seems like an incredible feat, but Maxine handled it with grace, humility, and with the level of dedication required to teach in a foreign language. Maxine brought down Darryl Fox - Terry’s brother - to spread the Terry Fox story and fundraising activities to a new country - Maxine, always moving forward. She held this position up until her passing, only returning to Canada to be with her family when her body finally failed her.
Maxine’s professional achievements pale in comparison to the beautiful children she raised, and family she has built. Her son’s Jesse, Mathew and Sean were the source of her proudest moments. Maxine’s heart only grew with the late addition of Sean. She had three sons, even if she only birthed two. With Mathew married to Madison, baby Sawyer making Maxine a Bubbee courtesy of Sean & Cassie, and Jesse’s engagement to Brett days before her passing allowed her to rest knowing her son’s had beautiful souls to compliment them through this life.
To Maxine, the word family was a verb and not a noun. Friends of different colours and faiths have become her brothers, sisters and children over time. Maxine’s true family stretches from coast to coast and down to Brazil. You didn’t have to be a Bell or a Geller to be family to Maxine.
Mom believed this life was just one of many. In this life, she was the best dressed, fancy hat wearing, stubborn-smart, humbly-always-right, ref-my-son-would-never-take-a-penalty, heels-for-every-occasion, wine drinking, tequila shooting, star chasing, sun kissed, globe-trotting, forever-forgiving, tarot-card-reading, laughing hippie, student, teacher, mother, lover, friend, sister you will ever meet. We don’t know what you will do in the next life Mom, but we know they are darn lucky to have you. We’d like to think that maybe, just maybe, you’ve taught us everything we need to know. But we know that simply just isn’t true. There will be moments when you are here, nudging us in the right direction - stubbornly - and we will smile.
In keeping with Maxine’s wishes, please consider making a donation to the Cancer Care Foundation of Manitoba or your local women’s shelter in her name.
A celebration of her life, open to all friends and family of Maxine, will be held at the Rainbow Stage in Kildonan Park on Friday, July 31 at 11AM. Provincial Covid guidelines will be followed and face masks will be mandatory, the venue has ample space for social distancing. In advance, please bring a signed copy of this form to the venue to allow for a quicker entrance process: https://rainbowstage.sharepoint.com/:w:/s/SDriveFolders/EdEa8U1RZ3FNkP6frn6YCOIBa16bd-Qwmu5Zv66hweeAJQ?e=4%3AoojilQ&at=9 . Please dress casually and colourful in honour of Maxine.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Maxine Geller, please visit our floral store.