Yvonne Alda Graham MacKenzie

November 15, 1928 — April 9, 2023

Yvonne Alda Graham MacKenzie was the daughter of Honor and Gordon Graham, and the youngest of four children. Born in Pilot Mound, Manitoba, a small settlement that served as a pilot for early fur traders, settlers and explorers in the mid 1800s, she grew up a happy and outgoing child filled with optimism and enthusiasm. Her favourite cheer was: “Hurrah for the Grahams and hurray for Pilot Mound.”

This tiny, historic community was chosen by her grandfather Dugald Graham as the place to bring his new wife Sarah Jane Odlum, and along came his brother Sandy and wife Bessie too. Yvonne used to joke that she felt lucky to have grown up in Pilot Mound, while her “poor cousins languished in Winnipeg and North Dakota.”

While it was a small village, she recalled it as a hub of activity in the mid-30s. Her grandfather ran a hardware store along with other businesses, and at one time these businesses occupied a large section of a block-long brick building. As a child she would stand outside, greet the customers with her grand dad and sometimes received a pat on the head and a nickel, which allowed her to “fly over to Pitch Bros. store for a ginger snap from a big wooden barrel.”

She moved to Regina, married Andrew Taylor “Pat” Paterson in 1952. They had three sons: James, Richard and Michael. Pat bought Woodward’s Interiors in 1963 and later moved it to a new location and renamed it Taylor Paterson Interiors. Yvonne, with her keen eye for decorating, thrived in this exciting atmosphere. She created and expanded the high-quality home accessories’ side of the business and during that time she was also involved with the James Henderson Chapter I.O.D.E (Imperial Order of Daughters of the Empire).

Pat and Yvonne divorced in 1978 and she moved to Victoria where she began working at Standard Furniture, in sales and design. She married Donald MacKenzie of Victoria in 1980 and left Standard to explore their new life together. She and Don enjoyed traveling to Ontario many times to visit his daughters and family and also loved hosting friends and family on their beloved yacht, Palamar. This 50-foot Bill Garden design vessel took them up and down the West Coast and they also circumnavigated Vancouver Island in her. Don MacKenzie passed away in 1989.

Yvonne joined the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria Associates in 1983 and was to have received her 40-year long service award on June 9 this year. She was a passionate volunteer for four decades and was part of the committee that started the Art in Bloom fundraiser at the gallery as well as various fashion shows and more. She instigated and chaired the uniquely-appealing Cuisine Art event and for 15 years she organized the artists-in-the-garden feature of the gallery’s highly-successful annual House Tour. She was program chair of the AGGV Gallery Associates for 10 years from 2011-2021 and one of the highlights of her time was when she invited Will Millar of the Irish Rovers to come and speak to the Associates about his art and music. The event ended with Will singing The Unicorn to the delight of all in attendance.

And that was just the Art Gallery. Yvonne was equally committed to the Royal B.C. Museum for many decades. Beginning in 1981, she was one of the museum’s longest serving and hardest-working volunteers, part of the educational team of docents. As an enthusiastic expert in all kinds of birds, large and small, she inspired hundreds of school children with her knowledge, communication skills, sense of curiosity and fun. She was honoured to be asked to plant a ceremonial tree on the museum property after many decades of service.

As a child, Yvonne had absorbed the idyllic sights of her home’s rich black soil, and delighted in the waving golden wheat, the beautiful lakes and woodlands — perhaps these bucolic scenes provided the seeds for her later appreciation of art, beauty and interior design. Throughout her life she displayed a deep and passionate love of art, literature, travel and natural history, and was always driven to be involved in community service. The United Nations proclaimed 2001 as International Year of Volunteers and on that occasion she was recognized for her outstanding service and contribution the Canadian Government.

Yvonne will be remembered as an exceptional and loyal friend, a creative and polished entertainer, a gourmet cook, an intelligent and interested conversationalist who knew how to draw out even the most reticent or shy person. She was a student of science, a life-long learner, a supporter of many First Nations friends and their art, an extrovert and a live wire who looked upon volunteerism not as a hobby but as a calling and a profession. She was always up for adventure, a forest hike or a trip to Torino to boil up a cauldron of fresh crab.

Yvonne was predeceased by her sister Honor Graham (Carmichael) and brothers Victor and Kenneth Graham. She is survived by sons James, Richard and Michael, as well as many nephews, nieces and their families. She is also survived by her much loved stepdaughters Marilyn Forbes (MacKenzie) and Joanne Moroz (MacKenzie) six step-grandchildren; and eight step-great grandchildren. Thank you to all of Yvonne’s family and friends for their loving care and support.

A celebration of Yvonne’s life will be held May 13 at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. The event will be live-streamed and here is the link https://lumeraevents.com/yvonnemackenzie
In lieu of flowers please donate to a charity of your choice.

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Condolence Messages

  1. My heart goes out to all Yvonne’s family. She was my mentor when I joined the docent association at the RBCM, and an inspiration to all of us.

  2. Yvonne’s spirited sense of pride in her community, unwavering dedication to the appreciation of First Nations art and ensuring friends always felt supported was unique and of another time. I shall be grateful for the lessons she taught me in resilience, fortitude and finding joy in the small pleasures of life.

  3. Yvonne was an inspiring, charming, and helpful neighbour, always ready to invite us over for a glass of wine on her deck to watch the sun set over the Sooke Hills or lend us her steam cleaner for the white carpets that came with our places. No red wine stain stood a chance with her around. And no neighbourhood gathering was the same without her. She loved the CFL and was the one to go to for clarification on game strategies and rules during Grey Cup parties. She dressed impeccably and appropriately for every occasion and her taste in necklaces was fabulous, darling. She gave her energy to others selflessly and had fascinating insights to share on a myriad of topics.
    Our condolences to her family and friends. A bright light has gone to shine somewhere else.

  4. Yvonne was a delightful human being. I was fortunate to have gone on many fun and educational RBCM trips with her. Condolences to all her family.

    • Joan Mogensen

      Joan: Yes, Yvonne was an amazing person. I, too, was lucky enough to go on some of those RBCM docent trips with her.
      I also enjoyed helping her out with some of the Art Gallery’s House Tours.
      My sympathy to her family.

  5. Tristan McInnis

    Yvonne was a dear family friend who played an important role in my life when my own grandmother passed away in high-school. She was very generous in taking me in on weekends, ferrying me to squash tournaments and the like. Just couldn’t have asked for a warmer and nicer person to be around – she could just beam this positive energy to those around her. I think she represents that special kind of entertainer and host who just made even the simplest of things into a real occasion. I have very fond memories of sitting at her place watching wimbledon, french open and other tennis tournies.
    My sincerest condolences to her family and friends.

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