Margaret Agnes (Purves) McPhee

January 24, 1920March 22, 2020

Margaret was born a long time ago in Marlefield, Roxburghshire, Scotland on January 24th at 6AM to a Scottish father, John Purves, and an English mother, Daisy May (Cook) who had met and married in Ottawa, Canada on February 24th of 1916. Her Dad was a blacksmith who had returned to Scotland with his young pregnant wife and son Wallace thinking to find a job more easily there, but was disappointed. Work was scarce and poorly paid. During the 6 months that her parents were in Scotland, Margaret was born. But with job prospects dashed, they came back to Canada and settled in Cornwall, Ontario, where thankfully her father was able to find employment. When Margaret was under a year, her 18 month old brother died of an accidental burn, devastating this young family. Thankfully, another child was born a few years later, a daughter, Isabel. Margaret shared that the death of Wallace was the cause of her father turning to the Lord.

Margaret grew up in a Christian home and attended a United Church during her childhood. Although there was a good Sunday School, it was a traveling evangelist, actually a man who had been imprisoned for murdering someone, who brought 13 year old Margaret to a commitment to the Lord Jesus. There was no youth group that she could attend, but when she was 16, she took a correspondence course from Moody Bible Institute. Margaret’s parents hosted a monthly prayer meeting for the Sudan Interior Mission and it was Tommy Titcombe, one of its missionaries who spoke on Margaret’s behalf and arranged a summer job for her at the Canadian Keswick Bible Conference Centre in Muskoka, Ontario. The following two summers as she was completing high school and doing her senior matriculation(equivalent of Grade 13), Margaret worked at this camp and met Edith Martin and her twin brother, Emerson, Tommy Titcombe’s children. These camp experiences exposed Margaret to good Christian teaching and wonderful fellowship, both which helped to grow her faith. There was opportunity during the day to swim and canoe along side one’s allotted camp duties. (Across the lake from this particular camp was Pioneer Ontario where Cathie Nicol was busy mentoring other young Christian leaders.)

Just as the Second World War was beginning, Margaret left Cornwall for good and went to Toronto where she entered the Woman’s College Hospital to begin her nurses’ training. She was 19 years old. The hospital provided room and board for their nursing students. When she completed her training 3 years later, she began almost right away to work mostly nights. The hospitals at this time were staffed largely by students and new grads as so many of the more experienced RNs had signed up and joined the army to help the war effort overseas. As a result these new nurses had very little time off and within 15 months of graduating, Margaret was feeling very worn out and spiritually disconnected. Her friend Edith suggested that they get additional education with the School of Nursing on the U of T campus enabling them to be qualified for administration and a chance at better working hours. After a year of university taking additional nursing courses, Margaret’s first job was head nurse of a Men’s as well as a Women’s Surgical Unit numbering 80 patients in total at the Toronto Western Hospital. It was a daunting assignment for a young woman, but she capably rose to the challenge.

Margaret spent her twenties nursing in Toronto, eventually being promoted to the position of Supervisor with all its associated responsibilities. Thankfully during this time she had the fellowship of a Christian Young People’s group. In 1948 some of these young friends had arranged to take a month’s vacation together and drive across Canada to the West Coast. One of the drivers was a young man by the name of Ted McPhee who was studying theology at Knox Presbyterian Seminary in Toronto. He had been parachuted into the arrangements at the last minute, but happy for the opportunity as his family lived on the West Coast and this meant a free trip home.

By the end of the trip, unbeknownst to her, Ted had singled Margaret out as the one for him. He wrote her a letter declaring his intentions of “desiring to row across the lake of life with her” which he gave her as she stepped on the train to spend time with her parents. Margaret knew that she needed to give this proposal a little thought as she would be committing to being a minister’s wife, no small assignment back then, or even now. But she assented and Ted and Margaret were married approximately six months later, April 14, 1949, only two days after Ted had graduated from seminary. The first year and a half of life together for these newlyweds involved getting ready for a missionary placement and then living in Guyana, formerly British Guyana. It was a challenging but productive time as Ted learned some basic skills in Christian ministry and Margaret worked along side him supporting him in this work, but also learning important skills of cooking, sewing, running a household and looking after small children. After 14 months they returned to Canada and came out to Vancouver where Ted got a position on staff at an interdenominational Bible School. In addition to work at the Bible School, Ted would take preaching assignments at local Presbyterian churches, eventually accepting a pastorate with the small congregation of St. Columba in East Vancouver where they stayed for a couple of years. By this time Margaret and Ted had bought a home at 14th and Highbury and Margaret was mother to two young boys, Ian and Gordon. And then they accepted a call to go to Trail, selling their home and moving away from Vancouver and all that was familiar to go to a church in a small community where they spent 4 ½ years. Something that was an important part of life at home with the McPhees was a devotional time in the morning with the boys where they would have a chance to read portions of the Bible and to pray. Later when the boys got older this time was changed to the evening.

The big challenge for both Ted and Margaret came when Ted accepted a position at the Cote des Neiges Presbyterian church in Montreal. It was 1963, Ian was 11 and Gordon had just turned 9 as they arrived at their new home. Margaret has reflected that the politics of Quebec in the 60s and 70s did affect Ted’s ministry. The October crisis was a frightening time for everyone, as no one knew how widespread the FLQ terrorist organization was in Quebec. People came back to church and Margaret reported that there were no empty seats for the morning service.

But that crisis had been preceded by a wonderful time when the whole world came to Montreal for Expo 67. The McPhees opened their doors of their home to a steady stream of visitors, moving into the basement to make it possible for many to enjoy the fair who might otherwise have been unable to afforded to come. Margaret and Ted saw themselves as well as the church family being blessed.

Although at one point Margaret had thought to up date her nursing skills and get a job in a hospital working as a nurse, Ted prevailed on her to work alongside him helping with the Sunday School and various aspects of ministry within the church. However, in April 1975 Ted suffered severe strokes from which he made a remarkable recovery, though not sufficient to carry on as the full-time minister at Cotes des Neiges. Ted resigned his position and he and Margaret returned to Vancouver in late October 1977. Upon arrival they took charge of a half way house for mentally ill patients, Adera House which not only provided them housing but also an opportunity for Margaret to work. Such a big change in their life circumstances and such a challenge! After a year, they found an apartment in South Granville and Margaret realizing that she needed to continue to be the bread winner as Ted’s health was uncertain, now found a position at the Trinity Lodge working as a nurse. Margaret retired from that job after 6 ½ years and had 4 good years with Ted before he had a massive heart attack in 1989. Again miraculously Ted pulled through this health crisis.

Ted and Margaret had always been hospitable to students and when they settled in their apartment in South Granville, there were always young people coming into share a meal, in fact they bought a table to seat 10 for that express purpose. They had been attending Fairview Presbyterian within walking distance of their home. After all they had been Presbyterians all their lives, but Ted particularly was feeling dried up spiritually. In 1990 with encouragement from their young friend, Brian McConaghy, first Ted and then Margaret drove up the hill to St. John’s where they found the teaching a comfort to their souls. They stayed and made St. John’s their new church home. They became interested in Tracey Larter’s outreach to international students and Stella Ting’s work with ESL students. So even into their 70’s they were offering hospitality to young people who would come and have conversations with them. Ted would get the ESL students to read portions of Scripture as a means to they're learning English, but also a way to understanding the tenets of the faith. Many of these students became Christians in this way.

Ted’s health continued to be precarious, but he did live until he was 86, in no small part because of the ministrations of his faithful wife. Margaret shares that she lost count of the numbers of times she had to call the ambulance for Ted. When he finally died in March 2004, although she, of course, grieved his passing, there was a sense of relief, because the last 5 years of his life had been particularly challenging.

Margaret’s oldest son, Ian, died in 1999 at the age of 47 from multiple myeloma cancer but she has enjoyed visits from her two grandchildren’s families, Heather and her husband Keith, David and his wife Janna and their four children, Hudson, Hope, Liberty and Cherish. Margaret continued to live in the apartment that she shared with Ted until May 2018, having moved in when the rent was less than $200 per month. With meeting her own needs becoming more challenging, Margaret moved into an assisted living facility, Bear Creek Villa, in Surrey where she enjoyed almost two happy years looking out of her fourth floor window at the beautiful nature park, being served and entertaining visitors. Her younger son Gordon and wife Rolanda, who live in Chateauguay, Quebec, were happily able to get to Vancouver regularly over the Christmas holidays for some good visits.

On January the 24th of the year 2020 Margaret became a centenarian and was royally fêted by family and friends as witnessed in her 100th Birthday Memorial binder full of pictures and well wishes, even from Elizabeth the Queen and the Governor General of Canada. But having witnessed innumerable joyous and amazing and equally sad and tragic events since 1920, Margaret seemed to say, “That's enough Lord, take me home please”. Margaret was admitted to the Surrey Memorial Hospital on February 12th of 2020 and was destined not to leave. Numerous friends and visitors were able to spend time with her including her son Gordon and his wife Rolanda just two weeks before her passing on Sunday (how appropriate) March 22nd at 4:45PM PST. She was at peace and rested safely in the arms of her Lord Jesus at this time and also through all of her journey on this earth.


No services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Margaret Agnes (Purves) McPhee

have a memory or condolence to add?

Gordon McPhee

April 6, 2020

I stumbled on this email from Mom. It just says so much about why she is so loved.
"Another pair of socks on the way to you and they are pretty but had to make the feet from different wool; mailed them Friday last. Donna had a day off today and picked me up at 3:00 p.m. to take me wherever I wanted to go and we did up Granville Island (smoked hocks) for soup, veggies; then wool shop on 4th and took soups and baking into Edith’s. After that we did another wool shop and ate supper at Burgoos’ at 10th and Trimble. Got home 7:30 p.m. tired!!!! Donna brought it all up into the kitchen including groceries we got at IGA on the way home. We had planned this outing for awhile and I do enjoy her very much."

Barb Hogarth

April 1, 2020

Margaret was a loyal friend over the many years I knew her. I remember the meals we had at her (and Ted's) home, some small gatherings and some large celebratory occasions. Margaret loved cooking and she loved welcoming friends into her home. I remember with joy the many walks we took together, beach walks with a picnic lunch, and the trips we took to a ranch resort and to a beach resort particularly. She and Ted loved to go for walks and drives so they provided the meal or meals and I drove. A real pleasure. Margaret will be remembered fondly by many. God bless and keep her and all of you as well.

Paul Bernard

March 29, 2020

"And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Dear family of Margaret McPhee:

We offer our deepest sympathies to you on the news of Margaret's passing.

Margaret, the dear lady we knew growing up in Cote Des Neiges Presbyterian Church, Montreal, Quebec as "Mrs. McPhee", is enjoying the precious company (now in an unfettered way) of the Lord Jesus who she unfailingly recommended to us as a special and worthy Friend and as a Savior without equal.

My parents, Ben and Icilda Bernard, were welcomed warmly to Cote Des Neiges Presbyterian Church where (as they fondly and often shared) they met Ted and Margaret. This warm welcome was so very needful to them as recent immigrants! Under the ministry and care of Ted and Margaret, my parents were invited to take part in Sunday School, the choir, and dad was an elder. I can easily imagine how the acceptance and love of Ted and Margaret mirrored the love of God to my parents.

My own experience with Margaret is also very memorable. I believe I'm correct in saying that my parents rarely (and perhaps never) took a vacation alone when we were young children except in one instance: My sister went to overnight camp, mom and dad vacationed at Fair Heavens, and my brother and I were invited to stay at the McPhee's home on Northcliffe Avenue. To this day I don't know how she did it; but, Margaret somehow kept two fairly "active" boys occupied! Then one day we went out "on the town": We visited Kent Theater to see my first movie, Old Yeller. We loved her incredibly after that visit. Her acceptance and love of us boys stamped deeply in our own hearts the reality of the love of God. I will never forget her; and, I can't wait to see her when I too cross that river from this life to the next, hand in hand with the Friend she introduced to me 50 years ago!

Diane Martin

March 29, 2020

Margaret had a very special place in my life. She and my mother (Edith Martin) met when they were both 16 and were close friends for 81 years….and over the 43 years that I personally knew Margaret (and Ted)….they became family.

I have treasured memories of delicious meals around Margaret and Ted’s large dining room table with my mother and various friends….often roast beef with all of the trimmings and Ted’s home-made buns. For years I led the choir at my elementary school and Mom, Margaret and Ted always came to the Christmas Concerts….then treated us all to a hot chocolate on the way home.

As my mother’s health deteriorated, and Mom found preparing meals difficult, Margaret made home-made soup and shepherd’s pie and apple sauce for Mom to keep in her freezer to use. And when Mom required Nursing Care, I often drove Marg over to visit her. When Marg was unable to visit, she and Mom talked on the telephone….Marg yelling so that Mom could hear! I took Marg over to Blenheim Lodge to say goodbye to my mother in December 2016 when my mother was being called Home. And when Mom died, I felt lost. At this same time, Margaret’s physical needs became increasingly evident. So I began to look after Margaret. This was a gift from the Lord. God provided me with someone I loved who needed my help. We found comfort in each other.

During these last four years since my mother went Home, I visited Margaret regularly. I looked forward to our visits. I knew Margaret’s grocery list by heart…and each week on the TOP of her list: ”Bring me something yummy!”

I LOVE knowing that Margaret is with the Lord, whom she loved and served. I LOVE knowing that she is reunited with Ted and her son, Ian….her parents and her sister. And I can just imagine Margaret and my mother talking and catching up. But now, Margaret doesn’t have to yell.

Rest in peace, Margaret. I will miss you.

Richard Lancing

March 27, 2020

I met Rev. Ted and Mrs. Margaret McPhee the first Sunday in May 1970 upon our arrival to Canada. We received a warm welcome at Cote des Neiges Presbyterian Church. That and the good teaching and pastoral care of this faithful couple kept us coming back (now for the 50th year). When we lived in the district of the church, Ted and Margaret, would pack up our family of 4 in the back of their VW Beetle for the Sunday School classes at 9:30 AM. Our four years old twin children learned English at Cote des Neiges. Two to three years later they had memorized the Shorter Catechism, which was taught by Mrs. McPhee. In 1972 we moved to the West Island. Mr. McPhee informed us that there was a Presbyterian Church in our new neighborhood (Westminster, Pierrefonds). But we continued to drive to Cote des Neiges and, we still do. To say that the McPhees were loving and hospitable is understatement. In 1974 our street was flooded. The McPhees watched in the 6 O’clock news, people travelling on our street in kayaks. Without hesitation Ted drove to the top of the street, waded through the water to our house, grabbed the children under his arms and we moved to the manse for the following two weeks. They gave us Gordon’s room. I don’t know where he slept those days!
The memory of the righteous is a blessing (Prov. 10:7a)