It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of the woman that helped inspire Donna's Vintage Emporium. My grandmother was in her 100th year and we had shared a home for more than 20 of those years. I was her "chief cook & bottle washer" and she was my "partner in crime".
She was educated in a one room school house, graduated at 10 years old and started a commerce program at Central Collegiate high school at the age of 11. It was a tremendous culture shock when she landed in among over 1000 students. If the weather was bad she stayed in the city with her sister Vanessa and her husband. Otherwise, Grandma was making the trek from her rural home into downtown Hamilton. She graduated with her office certificate at age 15 and ironically wasn’t old enough to work in an office yet!
So was never one to shy away from adventure so she packed up and went to Syracuse, New York to spend the summer with her sister Myrtle. As the Great Depression started to take hold, Grandma’s mom insisted that she get back on this side of the border...so Grandma left Syracuse and moved back to Ontario. She lived with her sister Vanessa, got a job and enjoyed life in Hamilton.
I'm not sure which brother in law taught her how to drive but I do know that a Model T Ford was the first vehicle she ever drove...considering it was around 1929 it’s amazing that she was learning how to drive at all!
They were supposed to be enjoying their retirement and instead she was alone, no one would have thought any less of her if she had allowed herself to become bitter and shut herself away but she chose to continue the only way she knew how. She put on her determined face and carried on. She started volunteering at Participation House. She called up a long time friend and they became bus trip buddies (it still makes me smile thinking that we let those 2 loose to travel the country together!). They travelled by train to BC, took a cruise up to the Alaska coast and on the train ride back, they stopped and took in the Calgary Stampede. Grandma took another trip to Moosonee, and rode the Polar Bear Express.
By the time Grandma was in her mid 70’s she had logged over 1000 volunteer hours at Participation House, she was driving and delivering Meals on Wheels, was active with the Women’s Institute and was crocheting lap afghans for the Cancer Assistance Program. In her 70’s she bought an exercise bike and would log on 10 km every day...because she felt she needed to stay active! She went on more bus trips, New York City, Boston, Montreal, Quebec City, Nashville, Myrtle Beach and I was her bus trip buddy for the excursion to the east coast of Canada.
At age 81 she got her first pacemaker and when she nervously asked how long the battery would last they patted her on the head and told her not to worry about it (yes, she did wear out the battery and needed a replacement in her early 90’s!). At age 83 she was awarded a Guardian Angel award because of the many items she knit and contributed for hospitalized premature babies. She was 85 when she got her first pet cat (she told me that her mother would never allow a cat in the house and she always wanted one, I suggested that there was precious little her mother could do about it now so get one!). Spike and I had an uneasy truce for years! She was 86 when she got her first computer (she wanted to be able to go online and look up the links she saw in the newspaper and google crochet patterns!). She was 88 when she received the Devoted Service award from Binbrook United Church. She was also visiting the Binbrook library on a regular basis and reading 2 books every 3 days, I was kept hopping as I tried to find books that she hadn’t read.
At age 94 Grandma won the prize for being the oldest person to exhibit items in the ladies division at the Binbrook Fair, that was the year she also won the prize for most points in the knitting & crocheting category as well! She was 95 when she stubbornly gave up her cane and begrudgingly started to use a walker (they were for OLD people). Max would mow the grass nice and short along her “route” and she’d wander over to the barnyard, out back behind the barn, down the lane and back up to the house to check out the lilacs. She was 97 when she was awarded the Woman of Excellence award from the Woman’s Institute.
She was 98 when she moved into the Riviera Retirement home in Caledonia, she was still doing the daily crossword puzzle (in ink!), teasing the staff and living life. When Tilly & Allie and I went for a visit the first thing we would do is close Grandma’s door because we usually got loud. Maria, the head nurse used to tell me that she loved walking by Grandma’s room during our visits because she could hear our laughing even though the door was closed and the ruckus always made her smile.
And, she was 99 when she passed away. I was delighted to hear that her last meal was from the sweet’s tray after entertainment on Friday night. I can see her taking her favourite treats and putting a couple of extra bits on her walker to take back to her room for a bedtime snack.
The 20 years between Boxing Day 1993 and June 8, 2013 have been gifts. Grandma got to know our daughters, and our girls got to have their lives shaped immeasurably by one of the most interesting women to ever walk this planet. They’ve grown up knowing that even as a girl you’re allowed to be seen and you’re allowed to be heard, you’re allowed to have opinions and allowed to share them ...and if no one likes it “they can do the other thing”. She led by example, and taught them that a gal can be tough as nails and still have a heart of gold. And, her life has shown them that instead of standing aside and wringing their hands they can be the change they want to see in the world.
And , by contrast, our girls kept Grandma young, she loved watching them play, provided them with endless rice krispie squares, and enjoyed telling her friends about their latest antics. She adored our girls and was so very proud of each and every one of their accomplishments. Grandma’s eyes would dance when she told me that Tilly and Allie took after her! I think she was content with the knowledge that her legacy was living on in the form of these two beautiful young ladies.
Grandma taught all of us many lessons. One that has always stuck with me, was her saying that there were times in her life when she needed a hand and a kind person helped her. When she explained that she couldn’t immediately repay their kindness she was told “pass it on”. That story is the reason I'd like everyone reading this to consider honouring her memory with a random act of kindness, I love the poetry that even in death she’s able to “pass it on”.
She was a heck of a gal and we're going to miss her.