Mary passed away peacefully at Mount Saint Mary Hospital, Victoria, BC, on September 7, 2020 after a dignified battle with Alzheimer’s.
Mary was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, November 13, 1926, to the late Jobe Tanus and Lily (Khattar) Abbass. She was predeceased by her loving husband of 66 years Malcolm, her infant son Gerard, born 1960, her brothers Joseph, Ferris, George, Rev. Francis and John, and her sister Philomena Hanna. She is survived by her daughters Honora Johannesen (Sigurd) of Victoria, Lillian Szpak (Robert) of Langford, BC, Ann-Marie (Alisa Palmer) of Montreal, her son John-Hugh (Mary Johnston) of Orillia, ON, and nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, as well as brothers Tony of Moncton, NB, and Cyril (Susan) of Toronto, and sisters Annie Hashem, Katherine Huskey and Simone Abbass, all of Sydney NS. Also left to mourn are her many cherished nieces and nephews and relatives.

Mary was a vibrant, lively and creative go-getter with boundless energy who drew others with her radiant empathy, sincerity and joie de vivre. Raised in a large, hard-working Lebanese family on Cape Breton Island during the Great Depression and Second World War, she overcame challenges to become a Registered Nurse at New Waterford General Hospital and a uniformed member of the Red Cross. It was at the dances in Glace Bay that she met her future husband Malcolm, with whom she shared a storybook life filled with love, romance, adventure, world travel and a burgeoning family, accompanying him on RCAF postings to Edmonton, Baden-Baden Germany, Centralia, ON, Hamilton and Kingston, before settling in Ottawa for over 40 years and eventually resettling in Victoria.

Mary was a devoted Catholic who lent her considerable energies to organizing and supporting parishes wherever she lived, including erecting two new churches, and she remained a tour-de-force in the Catholic Women’s League most of her adult life. She worked as an OR nurse at several hospitals during her career, practised private palliative care, and served more than 20 years as the public health nurse at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation head office where she was cherished and respected for her open door and sincere counsel. She was also active in politics, helping organize successful federal and provincial Liberal campaigns, and together with Malcolm served meals at the Shepherds of Good Hope soup kitchen in Ottawa.

A gracious “hostess with the mostest” who loved cooking, entertaining, reading tea leaves, playing Bridge and Tarbish, singing and dancing, her exuberance spilled over into everything she did and she was sought after for her counsel and support. She made everyone who confided in her feel special, loved and capable of achieving anything. Mary’s greatest treasure was her husband and their ever-expanding family. Our beautiful Mum and Sitdy instilled in her children, grand and great-grandchildren a sense of limitless potential, plucky resilience, can-do energy and that each was loved thoroughly.

The family wishes to thank the Sisters of St. Ann and the staff of Mount Saint Mary Hospital for their unfailing medical and spiritual care, kindness and love, and Louisa Peters, Mary’s faithful and devoted Companion.

A Private Funeral Mass was held at St Patrick’s Church, Victoria on Friday, September 11, 2020.

Interment to be announced, at Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa, at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to Mount Saint Mary Hospital, 861 Fairfield Rd, Victoria, BC V8V 5A9.  Condolences may be offered to the family below.

McCall Gardens


  • Betty Anne Brown Davidson

    I was saddened to read in the Globe & Mail of Mary’s death. I knew her in the CWL nationally several years ago. She would bring such joy and enthusiasm to our national conventions. She always had a rollicking story to tell. Actually, I had thought of her recently, perhaps the angels were preparing her place in Heaven. She added so much to life! Know that I will remember her in my prayers and I thank the Lord that our paths did cross.
    Sincerely, BettyAnne Brown Davidson, CWL past national president 2012 – 2014

  • Elizabeth Bernard

    Dear Honora, Lillian, Ann;Marie and John-Hugh, As you so well know, your Mother was a dynamo. One of our fondest memories is when she spontaneously serenaded my Mother at the celebration of her 90th birthday back in 1987. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Our deepest condolences to you and your families.

    The Bernards – Bette, Mike, Martha & Matthew

  • Louise Duprey-Duval

    The description of your mother as a tour de force, was very apt. Your Mum was a short, formidable ball of energy.Over the years, from Centralia to Victora, Mary and Mac were part of the fabric of my parents lives and I was sorry to hear of your Mum’s passing.
    My deepest sympathy to Honora,Lillian,Ann-Marie and John-Hugh …her greatest treasures and to all her extended family who loved her so well.

  • James (Jim) Murphy

    Honora I wanted to extend my sincere condolences to you and you family on the passing of your mother. We appreciated their friendship over the years through AolP. Please know you are in my prayers during this difficult time. Take comfort from those many wonderful memories you had with such a wonderful lady. Blessings on all.

  • Phyllis Macleod

    Mary was a kind and generous neighbour. Remembering her neighbourhood coffee parties and the annual New Years Eve event when she banged the pans at midnight and shouted “Happy New Year everyone”. You will miss this lovely lady.

    with love to your family,

    Phyllis Macleod

  • Carmel Holgate

    Honora, Lillian, Ann – Marie and John-Hugh,
    Mary loved and was proud of her family! I know your loss is great, even though you were fortunate to
    have had your loving mother for so long! Now she is at peace with her beloved Mac! You have so many
    memories to help you through your grief! Sending our love and prayers to you as you cope with life
    without her!
    Carmel and Bud Holgate

  • Marilyn and Allan Dolenko

    You captured your mom in that lovely tribute to her warmth and kindness. Our condolences to all of you.

    Allan and Marilyn

  • Stephanie Coolen (Khattar)

    So sad to receive the news of Mary’s passing. I have such fond memories of many shared times in our lives. I spent a wonderful week with her as a young girl looking for work in Ottawa and I have always remembered her love, warmth and kindness. Another fond memory is when she sang “My best to you” at my wedding. Mary was fun, full of love and joy and will be greatly missed.

    Sending my love to all of you,
    Cousin Stephanie

  • Richard and Edith Mockler

    Mary will be remembered by many in the Catholic Women’s League. She made friends all over the country while attending National Conventions. One vivid memory of ours is sharing a lobster dinner in Charlottetown. Lots of fun!
    Our deepest sympathy to all Mary’s family. God bless, Edith & Dick Mockler.

  • Randi Helmers

    Dearest Ann-Marie, Alisa, Isabel, Lora, and your families, with whom I’ve shared some very special and spirited occasions,

    Those tender words you shared about your dear mom made me laugh, cry, sigh and want to dance exuberantly, all at once. That’s the kind of energy she inspired and has passed along through all of you.

    My heart goes out to you as you walk through the grieving time. Love, Randi

  • Christine Williams

    Honora and family,
    I remember being inspired by your mother – and knocking on doors to support her liberal party work! Her commitment to community and family were evident in how you lived your life here in Blackburn Hamlet. Thinking of you,

  • Elie and Elaine

    Mary was a wonderful lady and a great friend, our condolences to the family, wish we lived closer, Mary,Mac, Elie and I spent many happy evening in Ottawa playing cards.

    Elie and Elaine Thimot,

  • Margaret ( Cain) McDonald

    Honora , Lillian, Ann-Marie , John -Hugh and all your families.
    So sorry to read of your mom’s passing.I remember her well as a beautiful , joyful woman with a most delightful laugh. What a lovely tribute to her and I know her spirit lives on in each of you.

  • Janet McCarthy

    I was so sorry to read of Mary’s passing after living a long and wonderful life. I was so happy to meet Mary again, after many years, at several CWL functions! She was a warm presence who made me feel like she had been my friend all my life. Extended family was so important to Mary!
    On behalf of my husband, John, I offer heartfelt sympathy to Mary’s immediate family, siblings and all who loved her.
    Sent with Love,
    Janet (Abbass) McCarthy

  • Trish Gnidec & Family

    My gosh Mary lived a full and wonderful life and loved her family so much. I remember having a girls pj party in Victoria at cousin Lillians and another time celebrating Mary’s birthday. So much fun and laughter. Mary was the life of the party. She will certainly be missed but has left so many memories and love on those she touched throughout her life.
    Sincere condolences to the entire family.

  • Diane Nealis

    I am sure your Mom revisited the wonderful, full life experiences she was so fortunate to enjoy, as present day happening eluded her. sounds like she was well loved by so many. Sorry to hear of her passing. From this moment on you will all enjoy her ever lasting warm embrace and the sparkle of her loving smile! your Mom will be with each of you always and forever. My hugs and thoughts go out to all those left here. Extra thought of love to Anne Marie, Alisa, Isabel and Laura.

  • Bunny Rhodes

    What a fantastic life she had! It certainly seems that not a minute was wasted, she seems to have left some wonderful memories for her family . Thoughts and prayers go to all those who will miss her terribly.
    Much love
    Bunny (UK)

  • Deanna

    What a beautiful homage. I’m inspired by such a great life lived to live mine as well and fully as possible. Condolences to Ann-Marie, Alisa, Isabel and Lora and the entire family.

    Deanna and Jason

  • Elise Moser

    I have a lot of vivid memories of Mary, and feel lucky to have had the chance to know her. Once touched by the spark of her electric personality, you could never forget her!

  • Odette Yazbeck

    These fierce Lebanese women show us all what we need to know about resilience, love and laughter. I can feel her energy living on in her family. My love and best wishes to AnnMarie and Alisa and the whole family.

  • Leona and Donnie Fewer

    Our sincere condolence to Mary’s immediate and extended family. Her obituary was beautifully written and exemplifies the wonderful person Mary was. We always looked forward to seeing her at St. Mary’s Church in East Bay when the Abbass family gathered for their annual reunion in Ben Eoin each summer.

  • Debra A Bennett

    Deepest sympathy to Honora, Lillian, Ann-Marie and John-Hugh. Much love to you all. And to the grandkids.

  • Jean Stutsman

    Dear Ann-Marie and Alisa,
    Heartfelt condolences on the loss of such a vibrant force for good in this world. May you find comfort and inspiration in your memories of her. A mother’s love transcends time, space and physical being. May you access her love in times of need now and evermore.
    Cheers through tears,
    Jean Stutsman

  • Bill BENNETT

    My childhood memories of Mary, she was a wonderfully kind person, with a lovely twinkle in her eyes!

    My deepest condolences to the MacDonald family.

  • Bruce and Barb McGivern

    I will always remember with great fondness being welcomed into Mary and Mac’s home as I popped in at any time day or night unannounced. Mary was always smiling and delighted to see me. Food and bed was always available.
    My condolences to my cousins.

  • Alanna Palmer

    As soon as our families met, Mary spread her love with each of us-from my parents to my children to me. Thank you for sharing her with us. Much love being sent.

  • Thamara and Mike Laredo Fredson

    What a great woman she must have been! One can feel her energy just reading this. Our condolences to all the family in this hard time. All the love.

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