Velma liked to remind everyone that she wasn't a person until she was seven years old. Her lesson to her children and grandchildren on the Persons case of 1929, officially declaring women as "persons," was one of the many ways she imparted a lifelong passion for learning and remained a steadfast feminist.
She wore with tongue-in-cheek pride her distinction of being top of her class every year in elementary school ( a one-room schoolhouse with just one other person in her grade. Sorry, Glen).
The only girl on the school's softball team, she believed in hard work, helping her dad and brothers around their house.
In high school, when she wasn't filling in as the intercity bus driver, she excelled at science. Her father wanted her to become a maid so she could live in a nice house, but she had other ideas. Through the Kimberly-Clark company she won a scholarship to attend the University of Toronto and graduated sixth in her class in pharmacy, a profession that at that point had few women. She graduated in 1945 and was called back to learn about a new drug: penicillin.
Not many women were finding work at that time, with the war ending, but a classmate told her Vern Stead was hiring women at a pharmacy chain in London. Vern did indeed hire her and they married years later, spending a very happy 40 years together - dancing, golfing and having three children.
Velma was active in her church, welcoming new immigrants to Canada and in her home life was always studying. Not many other families likely had to sit through lectures on the snowy owl, a peculiar weed or the Nunavut hamlet of Pangnirtung before Thanksgiving dinner.
She developed a particular fondness for the Far North, learning as much as she could about the Inuit and taking several trips there.
Velma loved nature and was an early environmentalist. Like many children of the Depression she made her own clothes, canned fruits and vegetables, and collected discarded bottles on her daily walks so she could recycle them.
She was loved, respected and admired by her family, her colleagues at Stead Pharmacy and hiking friends.
Velma lived a long and happy life with a wry sense of humour and joy. She is already greatly missed by her son Kenneth, daughter Sylvia (Doug Jones), grandchildren Allison Jones (Garett Fierling), Derek Stead, Marla Jones, Ian Stead and Julia Stead. Predeceased by her loving husband Vernon Morse Stead, daughter Madeline, brothers and sisters Albert, Elda, Max, Kenneth, Anna and Jesse.
Her memory can be honoured through an unyielding commitment to proper grammar, never wasting a bite of food and forever being curious about the world near and far.
Thanks to the wonderful staff at Carefree Lodge in Toronto for making the last year of her life as comfortable as possible.
There will be a private family celebration of life to follow. Notes of condolence are welcome at trullfuneralsyonge.com