Rita Lorene HYKAWAY
Rita Lorene was born to Vivian (née Reeves) and Albert Jordan on the first day of summer in 1937 in Swan River, Manitoba. She was the oldest of eight children, with Mavis (Tiny), Elaine (Bob), Terry and Tim (Pat) predeceasing her, and Peter (Rama), Larry (Marsha), Janis (Dale), and Terry’s wife Louise remaining with us.
Rita married Morris Anderson in 1955 and leaves behind Kenton (Heather) from that marriage, with her eldest child Debbie predeceasing her in May 2022. After Morris’ death in 1964, Rita married Jack Twilley in 1965 and leaves behind the six children of his first marriage to Marjorie (née Henderson): Sharon (Gerry), Carol (John), Beverly (Don, deceased), Diane (Brian), John (Lorna), and Lauraine (Gord) as well as the child of her marriage to Jack (Leslie (Seán)). After Jack’s death in 1966, Rita married Adrian Hykaway in 1968 and leaves behind their son Shaun (ex-wife Connie). In a steady stream from 1979 to 2005, these 10 children became parents to 20 children (Gladys, Danny, Michael, Kurtis, Shawna, Marisa, Tyson, Heather, Christine, Caitlin, Kevin, Brittany, Rebecca, Caitrin, Benjamin, Jackie, Conall, Aislinn, Morgan, and Colton) and there are several great-grandchildren (Parker, Tapwehta, Cassidy, Violet, and just-arrived Felix).
Rita grew up on a farm in the Egilson district west of Swan River, attending Egilson School. At the age of 12 and 14, she contracted rheumatic fever, which caused undetected damage to her heart that was to come back to haunt her many decades later. That same year, her father Albert died. She did go to high school and finished grade 10, but as the eldest child, left school to earn an income to help the family by supporting herself, at first working at the drycleaner in town.
In 1955 she married Morris; Debbie arrived in 1958 and Kenton 19 months later. Rita stayed at home with the kids, in a house in town. Morris died in a construction accident when the Kelsey Heights area was being developed, just weeks after Debbie began grade one and Kenton was still a preschooler.
In another part of the Swan valley, Jack Twilley lost his wife Marjorie in a tragic accident in 1961. Rita and Jack married in April 1965 and Rita, Debbie, and Kenton moved to the Twilley farm just outside of Swan with eight children now in the home. Early that summer Jack was admitted to hospital with equine encephalitis, and he died in Brandon, Manitoba the next year, eight months after daughter Leslie was born. Rita and Adrian were married in 1968, following the birth of their son Shaun. They remained married until Rita’s death.
Rita’s life was dominated by raising children, determined that those under her care would be educated, healthy, good people. This is her life’s legacy. Every child did indeed finish high school and successes abound. Grandchildren provided joys unfettered by responsibility and the many grandchildren and great-grandchildren were thoroughly enjoyed by Rita. She loved babies, loved watching little ones grow and learn, loved hearing what teenagers were doing and thinking, loved watching young adults find their ways and get into adventures. All who visited Gramma’s house graduated from the Lego bin under the couch to the craft drawer to raiding the cupboard to visits with the sheep and horses then later Dexter cattle and a llampaca, and special dinners out.
In later life Rita took office administration and insurance training, working for several years in an insurance office once the youngest children were in school. In recent years, she was at the Fort Saskatchewan library at opening every week, being the first to borrow whatever new books had arrived that week. She read everything and anything (mysteries and cookbooks preferred) and did not miss the daily crossword.
Rita and Adrian were able to return to rural living in 1983, after moving from Swan in 1973 to live in Gillam, Winnipeg, and Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. They built their own house in entirety (only the pouring of the foundation was done by others), raised sheep and then moved on to Dexter cattle at present. For a time, they had horses again. They always kept their saddles, though they never rode again after leaving Swan. A large garden was planted each year, with daily visits during growing season to admire the new growth and to pull weeds. Flower gardens were planted, rose bushes flourished by the back door, trees grew tall, a dog and cats came and went, sheds multiplied, fences were erected, Adrian’s auction purchases took up more and more space, and they established themselves as part of the surrounding community. They were closely involved with the Dexter Cattle Association and the Josephburg Ag Society and took special enjoyment of their roles in choosing and scheduling entertainers for Josephburg Presents events.
They travelled to the Maritimes and Maui in addition to many shorter trips on the prairies and to BC, and would have liked to have travelled more but some responsibility or other always called. They were rarely apart and made a good team, facing ongoing challenges and finding many joys. For years and years, Friday was date night for dinner out and dancing. One of Rita’s greatest sadnesses was being unable to dance in the final part of her life.
Rita left us on July 2, 2023, just days after a family dinner celebrating her birthday. May she rest well knowing that she was a positive source of strength and resilience for so many. Her family would like to thank the nurses and doctors at Fort Saskatchewan Community Hospital, who tried so hard and with such kindness to keep her with us for longer.
A celebration of her life will occur in mid-August; please email email@example.com for details and to RSVP.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, consider a donation in Rita’s name to your local food bank or women’s shelter.