Cover photo for Nella “Iris” Thomas's Obituary
Nella “Iris” Thomas Profile Photo

Nella “Iris” Thomas

March 31st, 1925 – May 19th, 2023

In the late afternoon of May 19th, 2023, eight days after admittance to St. Paul’s Hospital, Iris died peacefully in her ‘home away from home’ in Palliative Care. Mourning her loss are her family: daughters Norma Emerson (Don); Paula Lucak (Norman); Bonnie Chapman (Philip Cameron); Pamela Chapman (Mike Burr); grandchildren: Jenny Emerson (Josh Goard-Baker); Clayton Emerson; Cade Salerno-Lucak (Cris); Cole Lucak (Michelle); Julia-Anne Morris (Geoff); Anne-Isabelle Cameron (Julien Simoni); and great-grandchildren: Lulu; Addie; Leo; Alejandro; Oran; Esme; and Arlo. Iris was predeceased by her sister June Bush; husbands Lorne Chapman; and Dr. Garth Thomas.

Iris was born in Briercrest Saskatchewan to Mary Isabelle (Norman) and Allister Lorne Barker. Her childhood included growing up through the Great Depression in Nipawin and Tisdale; which included painting on calendar pages with flower juice, loving the sound of the wind ‘sighing’ in the birch trees, the meadow larks singing her to school a mile and a half away, her cat Billy Boy, and her grandmother’s Gaelic lilt that made her and her sister June laugh. There were also winter adventures in her Dad’s truck with a warm stone at her feet; playing cards with close neighbours; and excelling in her schoolwork when not eating unset toffee out of jars with her best girlfriend Muriel Roach.

Iris came second in the only provincial university scholarship available, and, as there was no money for university, Iris’s first paying job was at a bank, and any ‘mad money’ she had was spent on clothes! One day the ‘new man in town’ entered the bank with his rakishly angled hat who read and recited Robbie Burn’s poetry to Iris on picnics. Iris married Lorne William Chapman July 2nd, 1948, in Caron, SK. They settled with their family in Tisdale where Lorne ran the Monarch Lumber Yard. After raising their four daughters in Tisdale, Prince Albert, and Saskatoon Iris returned to work in yard goods, cosmetics, and jewelry at Simpson Sears, tactfully easing the Christmas eve panic of husbands needing a gift for their wives! Iris’s hobbies included: interior design, painting, baking, sewing clothing and doll clothes beloved by her daughters, copper tooling, arranging flowers, square and round dancing, travel, attending operas, designing furniture that Lorne would build, and collecting large rocks for landscaping the yard that Lorne would roll on two 2×4’s into the trunk.

Iris revelled in her many circles of friends that included: a woman’s retreat group of 35 years; bridge parties; a painting group; and neighbourhood friendships. She also enjoyed ‘Whee Weekends’ with her four daughters for some 30 years.

Two years after Lorne’s passing, Iris was enthusiastically pursued by Dr. Garth Thomas, professor of mathematics at the University of Saskatchewan, remarrying at the age of 72. Iris once said, “A good marriage involves sharing, being open, trusting each other, and respect.” Far-flung travel adventures, BBQs with Garth’s first wonderful stepfamily, the Panchuks, Bridge, park walks, rescue cats, concerts, country drives, operas, crosswords, and books made up a rich life together.

Iris spent the last nine years of her life independently, in her ‘perch in the sky’ condominium on the North Saskatchewan River, marvelling in its constant seasonal activity and enjoying the unparalleled Saskatchewan living sky sunsets. She said the best thing about growing older was “people pamper me!” Iris was a loving, loyal, resilient, artistic, fun-loving, generous, adventurous, and quick-witted matriarch. Iris desired to remain in her own home until her passing, therefore, her devoted daughters interchangeably lived with Iris for the final three years of her life. She had no regrets, and her pearls of wisdom were, “Always tell the truth, and if there are times when the truth will be hurtful, trust your heart to guide your words.”

Thank you to the many people who cared for Iris in her home for her final three years, including Village Rose Service, Kim Zaleschuk, Chéri McPhillamey, Jen McClelland, and Tina Monz. Thank you to the compassionate and holistic St. Paul’s Palliative Care team.

There will be no Memorial Service at Iris’s request. Iris, believed strongly in giving back to community. She would delight in having you donate to Camp fYrefly, SPCA, the Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan Inc., or a cause of your choice. You are dearly missed…we love you!


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