Audrey Reta Jennie Harper (nee Patterson)
September 9, 1923 ̶ March 28, 2023
Reta Harper, deeply beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, sister and friend, passed away peacefully at Third Crossing Manor on March 28, 2023.
She was 99 years young.
Reta was known to be strong of will, fiercely independent, tenacious, capable, energetic, having an inquisitive mind, an incredible memory for detail and a beautiful smile.
Reta was born to parents Dave and Vera Patterson, in a log house in the Helston district of rural Manitoba. The third of twelve children, Reta grew up on the family farm working with her parents and siblings growing food and caring for livestock.
Through the great depression the family remained hard working and self sufficient, values that Reta would adhere to throughout her life.
Reta attended Bear Creek Elementary School. In spite of being absent from school a significant amount of time in order to help out at home, she was top of her class. After completing elementary school, Reta remained at home to work on the farm and care for her younger siblings. Her sense of responsibility, commitment and caring for others remained strong throughout her life.
Reta continued working thus throughout the Second World War. A rare treat during those difficult years was a dance. Reta loved to dance and at a dance at Sinclairville she met James (Jip) Harper. They married in 1944. Together they raised two children, Judith and James (Jim). Reta found leaving her family home difficult as she was very attached to her younger siblings for whom she had been so involved in providing care. Nevertheless, she threw herself into working with her husband on the Harper farm. In 1947, Jip became seriously ill with rheumatoid arthritis. As his health deteriorated, Jip was hospitalized for extended periods of time and was admitted to East View Lodge until his death in 1977.
Reta continued to operate the farm, caring for livestock, putting up hay, sowing crops and harvesting. Money was tight, so in 1962 Reta went to work as a waitress at the Vivian and Hamilton Hotels in Neepawa to supplement the farm income. In 1971, she became employed as a nurse’s aide at East View Lodge until she retired in 1987. Reta loved her cows and it was a particularly sad day for her when she sold them November 19, 2004.
In 1983, Reta met Ken Smith and they married November 10, 1984. They started their life together residing on Ken’s farm west of Arden. The farm was perfect with a well- established garden, and Reta was soon planting apple trees which were bountiful and produced the best apples for apple pie, for which Reta was renowned. During these years Reta derived much joy and satisfaction spending time and being involved in the care of her grandchildren, Shawna, Derek and twins Curtis and Janis.
In 2001, Reta and Ken purchased a home in Neepawa. Settled there they continued to visit the farm to cultivate apples, raspberries, vegetables and flowers. Both the house on the farm and the house in town could have been mistaken for grow ops with the number of seedlings nestled under grow lights. Reta maintained a perpetual enthusiasm for life and a determination to be active. At age 86, she took delight in telling how she stood on the top step of her stepladder to pick apples from the highest branches.
In later years, never one to sit idle, Reta enjoyed being active at the Yellowhead Seniors Club, where she and Ken participated in floor shuffle, crib tournaments and social events. Reta enjoyed many trips with Ken to visit friends and relatives in Ontario and Alberta.
Ken was admitted to Third Crossing Manor in 2010 and passed away in 2015. Reta continued to live in her home in Neepawa. She enjoyed the company of friends, neighbours and family. Reta loved telling stories about the past and was interested to learn about what she did not understand by reading, asking many questions and sharing her views.
Reta leaves behind her daughter, Judith Harper; step-grandchildren Rhodes (Laura) Brown (and their children Callum and Noah), Noel (Ashley) Brown (and their children Hudson, Ellis and Oliver), Mya Brown; granddaughter Shawna Kelly (and her son James); grandson Derek Harper (Mary Elliott) (and their children Bodie and Lila); grandson Curtis Harper; granddaughter Janis (Derek McKelvy) (and their children Kara, Hayden and Riker); sisters Joyce Johnston, Norma Wiebe, Catherine Smith; brothers Alex (Elsie), Alan, Frank (partner Joan); brother-in-law John Uhrin; and many nieces and nephews.
Reta was predeceased by her father David and mother Vera, her husbands James Harper and Ken Smith, son Jim Harper, son-in-law Hart Brown, brother Robert (Esther), sister Alice (Grant) Harper, brother Donald (Lena), brothers-in-law Bob Johnston, Bill Wiebe, sister Jean Uhrin, brother-in-law Grenville Smith, brother Jim (Jean), sister-in-law Joan Patterson, sister (infant) Linda Ruth.
A celebration of life will be held at 11:00 am, April 14, 2023 at Neepawa United Church, 475 Mountain Ave., Neepawa, Manitoba.
Interment will precede the service at 10:30 am at the Neepawa Cemetery.
The family would like to express their heartfelt gratitude to Dr. R. Poettcker, the staff at the Neepawa Hospital, the staff at Third Crossing Manor, Helen Drysdale and Mona Johnston for their care and support.
As an expression of sympathy, if you so choose, you may make a charitable donation to the Beautiful Plains Museum.
Email money transfer: email@example.com, or by cheque payable to the Beautiful Plains Museum, Box 1732 Neepawa, Mb ROJ 1H0.
Reta may your timeless spirit live on and propel us into the future. May you rest in peace.
Beautiful Plains Museum
91 Hamilton St, Box 1732, Neepawa MB R0J1H0