What is a remarkable life? Some would say that it’s having loved ones close by; that it’s having family members and friends who care about us and are there with us during both the trials and celebrations of life. If that is, in fact, the case, then Molly Kootnekoff lived an extraordinarily remarkable life. Molly was a true example of, and the epitome of, unconditional love. Whether it was through a simple, kind word, or through the delicate touch of her master cook’s hands, she would extend love through many of the daily actions we call small. And sometimes, even when it was hard to extend that love, because of grief, pain or the challenges of life, she was the true family matriarch who, in her own simple way, guided and grounded her family.
Molly, at a young age, deeply connected to the Doukhobor saying “where there is love, there is God”. And then she lived that way throughout her lifetime.Molly was born on November 4th, 1926 in Grand Forks B.C. to Nick and Molly Elasoff. She was the eldest of five children: Alec, Lois, Alice and Bill. The family grew up in London Village, which was located in West Grand Forks, just off of Hardy Mountain Road. Molly attended school until Grade 3, and then had to stay home to help look after her siblings and assist her mother with daily life chores. Her childhood was one that required her to become responsible at an early age: hard work, dedication, family and the Doukhobor community were vitally important. Education back then took the form of connecting with others, deep spiritual understanding, and the knowledge that it is simple, hard work that brings people together. In 1942, Molly met Bill (William) Kootnekoff and they fell in love. She was 15 years old. They got married in February 1943 and moved to the communal home of the Kootnekoffs when she was just 16. Molly continued to participate in the daily and weekly chores of communal living.
Molly and Bill lived together in Grand Forks for the rest of their lives. They had three children: Vera, Laura and Katie.
And then life got busy. Molly would keep their homestead organized: cooking, cleaning, looking after children, gardening, canning, growing, and seeding. But during that busy time, Molly still found time to participate in all USCC activities and groups. One of Molly’s greatest involvements was with Doukhobor choirs, as Bill had a great passion for singing. Molly was a very strong-willed person, and she would find ways to empower herself. One time, much to Molly’s dismay, Bill left Canada on a USCC delegation trip. In defiance, Molly had her long braids cut off and her hair permed. Another time, when Bill had left for an extended period, she was determined to get her driver’s license, so she did. Molly and Bill made numerous trips with choirs and on their own with friends and family, including trips to Russia, Hawaii and Mexico. Molly and Bill were especially fond of Mexico and spent time in Acapulco, Melaque and other destinations. But there was one special talent Molly had that the entire family came to appreciate: her love of cooking. Molly had a way with food. Somehow it just tasted better when she made it. Her secret ingredient being love. Molly made the best whole wheat “Pride of the Valley” pancakes with her famous blueberry sauce and sour cream. Bill used to say she should open a restaurant called Molly’s Pancake House. But she refused. It was through food the Molly would extend love, welcoming family and friends into her house on countless occasions. In the later years of Molly and Bill’s life, they enjoyed going to casinos. After the sale of their farm in the early 1990s, they bought a condominium in Grand Forks, near the Kettle River and facing the Grand Forks City Park. They thoroughly enjoyed their life there and they thought they were in heaven. After Bill’s passing in 2004, Molly courageously continued to live on her own for several years. Molly loved to be with people and was a “social butterfly”. She truly detested being by herself. In her later years she met a friend, John Koftinoff, and they enjoyed spending time together and developed a good friendship. In 2009, her health started to deteriorate. Consequently, in December 2011, she moved to Boundary Lodge Assisted Living, where she had the most excellent and compassionate care imagined. On June 15, 2014, she was admitted to Boundary Hospital and passed away peacefully surrounded by her family on June 19. Molly was predeceased by her parents Nick and Molly, her brother Alec, her son-in-law Basil, and Great Grandson Daniel Kinakin. Molly is survived by her three children: Vera Jmaiff (Harry), Laura Kootnekoff and Katie Chernoff (Wally); 10 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Molly’s family would like to take the opportunity to thank all of her family and friends. A special thank you goes to all the staff of Boundary Lodge and to Molly Skerritt for always being there. Also, a special thank you to all the nursing staff at Boundary Hosptial and Dr. Nathan Dalla Lana for all the wonderful care Molly received. And a special thank you also to the USCC organization. Molly transitioned very peacefully to her spirit life in the same palliative care room her husband Bill did 10 years earlier. Now, if you listen closely, you can hear Molly singing, laughing and enjoying herself. You can smell her Pride of the Valley pancakes grilling on the stove. You can feel her warm arms wrap around you as she sings a Doukhobor melody. And you can see a beautiful woman, that despite the many challenges of a life-fully-lived, smile and look at you with her deep, understanding and unconditional eyes: the eyes of Molly the daughter, Molly the sister, Molly the mother, Molly the grandmother, and Molly the great-grandmother. It is Molly’s smile that we embrace and take with us as we continue on our own life journeys.