Floral 22

Maria Elizabeth Nilsson

May 21, 1925 ~ December 27, 2021 (age 96)


It is with profound sadness and great love that the family of Maria Elizabeth Nilsson says goodbye and announces her passing in Calgary AB on December 27, 2021. On that day, Maria quietly folded her hands and closed her eyes to join Bjorn – her beloved husband – who left us on December 31st, 2007.

 Born to Frances and Joseph Dahm on May 21, 1925, in Rockyford AB, Maria was sister to Jimmy, Geneva, Donny and Sonny; and is survived by her five children – Lynda (Tom), Michael (Brenda), Ross, Karin and Eldon (Maryjane). She will be lovingly remembered by her eight grandchildren – Shaun, Erin, Melissa, Tyler, Carly, Britt, Ben, and Sam; and stories of a life well-lived will be passed down to her ten great-grandchildren – Brycen, Theoren, Alena, Jevan, Nash, Ryker, Tay, Everett, Leo, and Ry. Maria was also a much-loved mother-in-law, aunt, and cousin, whose memory will be cherished by her many friends. Her powerful legacy will live on through all that she touched.

 A woman ahead of her time, Maria struck out for Bermuda when she was barely 22, working for the Fairmont hotel chain. When she returned to Canada, she married her soul mate, Bjorn Nilsson, and they began a remarkable journey together. From Calgary to Midnapore, to BC – the young Nilsson family grew to include five children and put down roots in the beautiful semi-desert region near Ashcroft. They operated a working ranch under the moniker Barnes Lake Cattle Co. that included the stunning Mesa Vista, ran a world-renowned guest ranch called the Bar Q, and grew hay crops, cattle, and kids.

 Maria’s gardening prowess was nothing short of epic, and even in the area, she was known for her spectacular homegrown vegetables and flowers that she lovingly weeded from dawn to dusk in her sprawling gardens. If the occasional bear tried to poach apples from her fruit trees – well, she had words for that. During wild asparagus season, Maria sent her littles out with pails to pick asparagus from along the irrigation ditches. She kept her grounds as pristine and well-tended as she did her home. (In Maria’s world, if you didn’t want something thrown out, you’d best put it away.) This dynamic woman, who had such an affinity for nature, was a force of nature herself, and the only power that she bowed down for was her God. In that place alone, Maria was a faithful servant, and she was committed to a life anchored by her unwavering belief in a divine being….and even if most in her family don’t find their spiritual connection in a bricks and mortar building, Maria instilled in all of them a reverence for something bigger than all of us.

 Maria and Bjorn spent from 1962 until 1980 in Ashcroft before moving back to Alberta to settle down in Gull Lake, followed by a move to southwest Calgary in the nineties, which is where they were living when Bjorn passed away.

 Maria leaves behind countless indelible memories……….as a mother, a mother-in-law, a grandmother and more. She had many of her family scratching their heads at times, wondering how on earth she raised five kids without the many resources that her own children had at their disposal as young parents, never mind the parenting aids her grandchildren now enjoy.  Maria made raising five energetic kids look easy, and she did it all without baby monitors, disposable diapers, or sleep training tips on social media. We like to think she’ll be a north star for the young families in her family – the Youngs, Savard’s, Neilsen's, Breau’s and counting – who deal with the challenges of raising littles. It’s a different world than when Maria was a young mother, but the basics don’t really change. She modeled how to be rock solid when the chips are down, a non-puller of punches when necessary, fair at any cost and loving with her whole heart – no conditions. She never let them see her sweat, and most of her tears must have been behind closed doors.

Maria’s love of music was lifelong, and whether it was the barbershop quartet that she backed up with such pizzazz on piano or the choir at church, Maria shared that love with her music man – Bjorn. You only have to look around the extended Nilsson family – from children to grandchildren – to realize that Maria and Bjorn’s passion for music ran deep and was truly steeped into their entire tribe to varying degrees.

 Maria was Bjorn’s ride or die, his compass, his Annie Oakley. He was her everything. We like to think they’re lounging around a pool that blows Palm Springs out of the water – clinking his rum & coke with her Crown & 7. They’re reminiscing about some of the crazy times they had with Ken and Eddie, or Cliff and Joan, and they’re musing about which rat pack lounge they might swing by tonight. We know they’ll wind up where the music is the best.

A mass for Maria will be said at Holy Name Catholic Church and the family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to The Alberta Cancer Foundation. In recognition of the current restrictions regarding gatherings, we will be holding a Celebration of Life for Maria in the spring, when the ground warms and her favourite flowers can be planted.

To send sympathy gifts to the family or plant a tree in memory of Maria Elizabeth Nilsson, please visit our tribute store.


You can still show your support by planting a memorial tree in the memory of Maria Elizabeth Nilsson


Alberta Cancer Foundation
1620 29 St NW, Suite 300, Calgary AB T2N 4L7
Tel: 1-403-521-3433
Web: https://giving.albertacancer.ca/donate/in-memory

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