A Kootenay Artist

Ethel Aleta “Doolee” (Merry) McDonnell

May 15, 1927, Grand Forks, BC – November 2, 2014, Vancouver, BC

When Doolee’s arrival was imminent, her father, D. Bilson Merry had to flag down the train to take her mother (Eva Mitchell Merry) to the Grand Forks hospital. Bilson had a sawmill and logging operation at Paulson. Apparently all went well, for Doolee was born without further ado on May 15, w1927. The family lived at Paulson until 1929 when Bilson decided to return to Trail and the Merry family home in Annabel. There, Doolee and her siblings, Patti (Nocente), Sandy (Bijou) and George lived right next to Trail Creek, which was popular in summer for swimming. Their father, Bilson, had a square hole dug and poured with concrete to create a swimming pool for all the children in the area. Bilson’s grandchildren and great grandchildren are still enjoying the pool. Doolee showed an aptitude for art from an early age. Some of her earliest work dates from the late 30s, when she was about 10 years old. Doolee continued with her art and studied interior design at the University of Manitoba for one year. She attended a session at the Banff School of Fine Arts and met A.Y. Jackson there. She then went to Normal School in Vancouver for teacher training and spent a few years teaching in rural BC. It was in 1948 that Doolee met the love of her life, Basil McDonnell, and they married in 1950. Basil had come to Trail to work as a Chemical Engineer and to ski. This was a passion that both Doolee and Basil would share their whole lives and pass on to their five children. Soon Doolee was juggling the demands of motherhood with her art. Despite her responsibilities Doolee was active in the Trail Art Group, and at the East Trail United Church where she created a puppet group that for many years put on puppet shows for local children. In the 1970s she completed her Fine Arts Degree. When Basil retired after 42 years at Cominco, Doolee and Basil moved to Vancouver to be near the children. Doolee was able to concentrate on her art and the years 1989 to the early 2000s were her most productive years. In 2005, she suffered a devastating loss when Basil died. He had been her helpmate in life and art for all those years. However, Doolee continued to paint, in her studio at The Terraces in Vancouver and during summers at Christina Lake. Doolee’s art truly reflects her love of the Kootenays – the mountains, lakes and forests that were the source of her inspiration. She will be greatly missed by all those who love her work and mostly by her family: Ellen and Peter; Nadine and Katherine; Julia; Basil J. and Maureen; Quentin and Michael; grandchildren Marc, Matthew and Serena; her sisters Patti and Sandy, many cousins, nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Grand Forks Art Gallery in Doolee’s name. There will be a memorial in the summer of 2015 at Christina Lake. Doolee encouraged others to live by words taken from the “Salutation to the Dawn”. “Look to this day for it is life. Yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow is only a vision but today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well to this day.”

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