A Tribute to Debbie Stonham

Posted By Lois Lockwood                                 

Debbie died when she was only 44 years young. This is a tribute to her, in the form of the eulogy that I delivered at her funeral.

To my friend who I will always miss...

I have been a close friend of Debbie’s for 17 years. We met through work - she was in marketing at Carma and I was the account person at their advertising agency. We only worked with one another for three years, but we remained good friends well beyond that.

Over time, Debbie grew close to my family and I did to hers, so I was honoured when they asked me to say a few words of remembrance about her. There is an expression that goes “to know him is to love him” and I believe that it really applies to Debbie Stonham---- for to know her was to love her.

Lots of people met and liked Debbie because she was so personable and outgoing but if you took the time to really know her, you couldn’t help but love her. So I decided to talk about some of the things I loved about Debbie and I think all of you, whether family or friends, personal or professional, will somehow relate.

I loved her for her spirit of generosity: I don’t think I have ever met another human being who was as generous as Debbie. She would literally give you the shirt off of her back and you can be sure that she didn’t discriminate. She would give whatever she could to whoever needed it without a second thought, even if it meant she went without.

Debbie was generous with her possessions, but also with her time. She never showed up for dinner without being loaded down with desserts or buns or whatever struck her fancy, and she would drive hours out of her way just to be with you if you asked her to.

She was seldom on time, mind you, but she always came through! I loved her for her huge heart: Debbie had a heart for the underdog. I remember her telling me about a homeless man she more or less adopted when she was at school in Montreal. She would tell stories of their conversations, the lunches she made for him and how worried she was about his welfare. And this is only one story of many like it.

All along her life’s path she adopted animals of every kind. I think she rivaled Noah at some points. When I first met her she had adopted a couple of pot bellied pigs to go along with the rest of her rag tag collection of scruffy dogs, mean old donkeys, cats, cows - you name it, she had it. Her love of animals came naturally, being raised on a farm and introduced to the world of cattle early on. She was compassionate to a fault. No vet bill was ever too high, no food, shelter or creature comfort was ever too much for her menagerie.

And speaking of adoption, probably the most notable one she ever made was when Debbie brought home a young man when she was about 16. His name was Glenn. And although the dating thing didn’t last, Glenn did. In fact, he never left. He became an honourary member of the family and a brother to Deb.

I loved her for her ability to be childlike: Debbie held a special place in the hearts of her beloved pals, Bowen and Lindsay, and she had just begun to build the same deep and special friendship with her two nephews Ethan and Lee and Bowen’s brother Austin, her step grandson Logan and her two new McCutcheon family baby girls, Georgia and Brooklyn.

Technically Debbie didn’t have children but really she did have a bunch of them and they really, really loved her. She was like a female Peter Pan. Kids adored Debbie because she adored them. Kids can tell right away if you are the real deal and she was. She was the first one to get down on the floor or into the game and the last one to quit. She loved toys and magical things, Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh. Debbie was a kid magnet. Who wouldn’t want to be with the most fun person in the room?

I loved her for her sense of humour: You can’t love kids without being equipped with a genuine sense of humour. Debbie was blessed with a love of life. She had that unique ability to tell you a story about someone or something that she had seen in the daily business of life and by the end of the story she would have cracked herself up and you too. She would often call me just to tell me a joke. Most of the time the joke wasn’t even very funny, but she amused herself so in the process you couldn’t help but join in on the fun.

I loved her for her mischievousness: Deb wasn’t all sweetness and light- she was a rascal too, but she always charmed her way out of the sticky wickets she created for herself. She wasn’t beyond a practical joke or two either. When the movie, Babe came out - she came to our family cottage and claimed that she could magically call sheep - just like in the movie. When put to the test with a flock of sheep that did not budge an inch, she claimed victory - saying that they had looked at her, so that counted.

She delighted in giving thoughtful, funny gifts like a singing fish on a plaque for the wall or a rooster crowing alarm clock. She was always so excited to see you open her treasures and have a laugh. I loved her for her laugh: Deb’s laugh was the most unique one I have ever heard. I tried to find the words to describe it, but I really can’t. It was one of a kind, and highly contagious. There is no way on this earth that you could listen to Debbie Stonham’s laugh and not laugh yourself. Her eyes would sparkle, and her smile was a mile wide. She lit up when she laughed.

Deb’s friend Barb told me that since she too has an equally unusual laugh, the two of them tried to change their laughs one time - so as not to be so conspicuous I guess. Well, needless to say, they cracked one another up with the trying and the laughs stayed put - thank goodness.

I loved her for her talents: Debbie was artistic, stylish, an accomplished cook, smart, a quick wit, talented, a quick study, could drive a tractor and AI a cow. She could ride a horse, a dirt bike or drive a truck. She could speak to a room of 200 or write a marketing plan full of complex calculations.

What couldn’t she do? I remember Debbie joking that she had been in her oldest ragged jeans, driving tractor and doing chores one day. She had about a half hour to get ready for a formal evening out and managed to pull it off - exclaiming- “See- don’t I clean up good, Lo?

I loved her for her capacity for hard work: No matter what Debbie took on- teaching, building a home, decorating a show home, running a business, and working for an employer like Carma or Wen-Di, no matter what- she poured herself into it. There was no half way with Debbie- you got all or nothing with her. There were plenty of times she gave too much and worked too hard but she couldn’t seem to behave any other way.

I loved her for her love of family and friends: Debbie was the most loyal daughter to Eleanor, sister to Tom and Glenn, aunt to the children, sister-in-law to Dana, Tom’s wife and to Glenn’s wife Cara, wife to Bob and niece, cousin and friend to so many.

Those closest to her know that she loved deeply and always sacrificed herself for those she cared about. You could tell by the way she said their names with love or worried about their health or circumstances. Debbie really cared for others in so many ways.

I met Debbie after she had just lost her Dad and her brother Jerry, so I regret that I did not know them. I do know that when she lost them it broke her heart and I don’t think it ever really mended. She was surrounded by a big loving family on both the Kruger and Stonham sides and she married into a new family in the McCutcheons and added all of her new friends in Lethbridge these past few years.

She loved Bob so very much and she threw herself into her new life with him, which ended far too soon. If I may quote from 1st Corinthians 13-Verse 13 it says: “There are three things that remain- faith, hope and love….. and the greatest of these is love”. Debbie leaves behind a legacy of love. She will be sorely missed and lovingly remembered by us all.