Friday, 22 August 2014


(The Pedagogue?)

Within the icy clinic of his mind a tiny spark endures,
Encompassed by a wall of puerile trash.
He sees a child-and to his clinic comes a view envisioned by the wall.
The wall:So thickly cluttered with the garbage
Of a thousand empty verbal cans that jangle in his brain.
And round this pile the vile stench of jargon permeates and cloys.
The spark flickers, but still breathes.
The wall responds-and from this mess erupts the plaintive babble:
Evaluate, structure, socialize, ready, organize, label-and pass on.
The precious spark glows wanly in the gloom.
Louder now the cacophony of verbalism in his sterile world
Drowns out the faint sound of the pure breath of air.
He sees another child.-The spark quickens to evoke the paralyzing evolution of a thought.
But through the clanging fetid hole no fruit is born.
Once more the wall responds and does its hollow job.
The label pinned-the spark goes out.
The garbage heap will rot for years to come
And to this steaming pile will children come to learn.

Written by my father George Hartford in 1956 when he attended a post-secondary course on special education in Syracuse New York.  My dad hated educational jargon throughout his 38 year long career as high school math and physics teacher, special ed teacher, school and central office administrator.

Thursday, 21 August 2014


Beloved. If I should die
leaving unsaid, the many things
my heart would say
But lips refuse to utter
Think well of me
and in the silence of the night,
Think of those days not so many years ago
when you and I were wed
The world at war
The wonderful times we had
The precious hours snatched
as best we could
Then came the time that I must go
To where the war was real
and you remain to do your best
In my own native land.

My grandfather came from England as a young man and worked for the Bank of Commerce in Lake Saskatoon. He married my grandmother, a third generation Canadian in 1915.  After my grandfather enlisted to fight in WW I, my grandmother went to England to be near him. She lived with his brother and sister-in-law and worked in a munitions factory.  My grandparents were married for 62 years.

I found his poem in my mom's papers. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014


by Elizabeth and Jordan Ramsey

Grandmother with Jordan and Elizabeth

The one thing that always sticks out to me about my grandmother is her stubbornness. If the woman had made up her mind about something, that was it. Grandchildren were to be spoiled. If you’re going to have a party, you have to invite every possible guest. She was not sick. She did not want to eat…unless you were offering her cookies or coffee. She did not need a walker, she didn’t need help with anything. Even when maybe, she might have needed a little help, and she might even have eventually accepted it, but she would never admit to it. I might relate to this a little.

I think this got everyone a little annoyed, from time to time. Especially towards the end of her life. Or ask my dad about what she’d do when he told us we couldn't have ice cream before dinner. But actually, I think that was one of her more admirable qualities. According to my sister, she did her Master’s thesis before Cambridge even recognized women as full students. Despite being a fairly shy person, she still seemed to belong to every organization. She married late and still had a full family. She did what most people wouldn’t have had the courage to do.

Some of my happiest memories as a child were visits to their house in Tumbler Ridge. We’d arrive late at night and I’d  wake up to see their big brown house on the hill lit up by the moon, and quickly pretend to be asleep again so my dad would carry me inside. In the morning we would have our mandatory bowl of cereal with granddad while he entertained us with what were apparently inappropriate songs and stories. Grandmother would scold him as she scurried about preparing for whatever her next event was. Even as I kid I knew she was trying not to laugh.
Kieran, Jordan, Hart, Eric, Kyla, Darby and Elizabeth
Their job was to spoil you, and they did that job very well. I remember one time they took us to the grocery store and let us pick out whatever kind of cereal we wanted: even one Mom and Dad would never have allowed. The box of Trix came with a fee toy, so of course they had to get a separate box for each kid. Turns out Trix is actually a terribly disgusting cereal, and we rediscovered the boxes of Trix months later in the cupboard. This time the box came with a new surprise: moths. Our trips to the store always took what seemed like a lifetime. They knew everyone. And everyone needed to meet their grandchildren. I felt like a celebrity.

Jordan and Elizabeth with Grandmother
Chaos reigned in their house. There were no rules, and an endless supply of sugary treats. There were treasures and half-finished projects everywhere that you were free to explore. No surface, horizontal or vertical, remained uncluttered with books, paintings, old photos, old newspapers, stuffed toys, and potted plants. Everything had a place. And everything had a story. Jordan and I were once told to go through my grandmother's mugs with her, to make more room in the cupboards. None of them were particularly nice. But every single one had a story. Which she told us. After a few hours of this I think we finally gave up. There might have been a couple she allowed us to remove. And to be clear we weren’t planning to throw away the mugs, we were just going to put them in the basement.

The first time I realized something wasn’t right with my grandmother was when I saw her napping one day. She rarely sat, so sleeping was pretty alarming. She was never quite the same after that day. She still tried to do everything she did before, but it became a struggle and frustration was not something she liked to deal with. My granddad bought a smaller house without telling her. Eventually she agreed to move into it. As long as she got to renovate it the way she liked. The day I saw her actually watching television was even more alarming, and not just because of the volume.  We used to dread grandmother coming into the television room. She’d walk in, coffee in hand, take one quick glance at the screen, and you knew your television programme was about to come to an abrupt and unsatisfying end. Grandmother would immediately turn to the person sitting next to her and begin to regale them with tales of Jean, Aunty Peggy and the Beaverlodge crew, or something happening in the community. It was astounding how long she could carry out a conversation with little to no encouragement and undeterred by the television, three grandchildren running through the kitchen and Granddad yelling after them, two dogs barking, three more family members barging through the door, and countless other distractions that were common occurrences at any family gathering. At the end of her story Grandmother would always pause and laugh, she would reflect on what she’d just said, another thought would come to her, and she’d be off again.

Through the breast cancer, her days with the walker, her stroke, and her dementia, certain key traits of grandmother always came through. Her stubbornness was one, of course. Another was her love for her family. I wouldn’t call her affectionate (that’s an understatement), but there was always an unspoken understanding that nothing could ever be more important than us. We saw it when Grandmother and Granddad would drive for miles and miles for the ‘Ramsey family birthday’ and Christmas concerts; we saw it when she would proudly show us off to anyone we encountered in town; we saw it in her face when we showed her our latest report cards or shared our latest achievement (let’s not count the time Hart failed Grade 3 Social Studies). And we saw it in the understanding that we would always be together for Christmas, playing canasta until late, surrounded by family, accepted and loved. 

Jordan and Grandmother
Other people have a granny or a grandma – I had a grandmother. For some reason, that name was what suited Janet Hartford and for that – with everything it came with: the stubbornness, the stories, the competitiveness, the hoarding, the altruism, and the loyalty – I am grateful.   

Monday, 18 August 2014

Janet Isabel Hartford

Janet Isabel Hartford

July 9 1922-July 16 2014
Eulogy by Nicola Ramsey and Crosbie Bourdeaux

When I was a kid, every summer we would go to my grandparents farm now owned by my cousin  Peter and his wife Eileen.  My cousins Sarah and Jansi and I used to play dressups in a room upstairs that was called “the long room”.  One day we were poking through some boxes and we found a box of dolls. Beautiful old china dolls. Knowing these must have belonged to our moms, we took them to our grandmother. Ah yes, she said, this one - a beautifully dressed blonde with perfect hair- is Peggy’s. The totally bald, undressed doll with broken fingers and a cracked finish on her face was my Mom’s. Why were the nice dolls all Aunty Peggy’s and the old broken one was my mom’s? It wasn’t fair! My grandmother told told me “Your mother was hard on her things. She played hard. She loved that doll to death.”
Mom and Peggy with their dolls
That doll told me something about my mom. It’s just taken me a few years to know what. Mom did everything hard. Everything she chose to do, she did full tilt, with all of her amazing energy and intelligence and determination. And although she didn't show it, she threw herself into everything she did with love-love for her family and love for her community.

Janet Isabel Martin, or Jimmy, as she was known to her family, was born July 9 1922 in Delia Alberta. Her dad was an orphan from England who worked for the Bank of Commerce and her mom was part of a pioneer family who settled the Beaverlodge area. Gramain, Grandad, Aunty Peggy and Mom lived in a few small prairie towns until they ended up in Edmonton. Every summer Mom, Peggy and Gramain would come back to visit the farm. After suffering from meningitis as an infant, Mom was small and frail, but according to my aunt, no matter what they did, Mom was always one step ahead. She ran faster, climbed higher, and was afraid of nothing. She was an excellent student, skipping several grades in school. She graduated early and took a secretarial programme. Then she completed a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Alberta and worked for the American Army during WW II. She went back to school to become a teacher. She taught school and was girls’ guidance counsellor in Athabasca and Grande Prairie before returning to the U of A to obtain her Masters degree- in which she tried to discover what qualities make a person a good teacher, finding that aside from spelling and overall intelligence, it’s almost impossible to predict what people will become good teachers. 

At their wedding in Beaverlodge
She moved to Dawson Creek where she met my dad. After an on again off again relationship, my mom took a cruise to Alaska. While she was gone, my dad wrote to propose. They got married and moved to Victoria and then Trail BC where I was born. 

Then it was back to Dawson Creek and the birth of my brothers Rob and Doug and my sister Crosbie.

Me, my sister Crosbie, brothers Bob and Doug
Mom and Dad built a big house in Dawson Creek-at least, it seemed big to me- where our family lived for more than 20 years. It was the setting of coffee klatches, meetings, parties and teacher gatherings. Always one to host big events, Mom wasn't much for housework, saying that “Housework is for people who can’t think of anything better to do with their time.”  So a few hours before any big gathering would come the dreaded cry “All hands on deck’” followed by all of us racing around tidying up.

Mom registered the four of us in almost every activity the town offered. Hockey, lacrosse, curling, swimming figure skating, soccer, boy scouts, volleyball, basketball, guitar lessons, candy-striping, choir, brownies, piano lessons, you name it, we did it.  One of us even took accordion lessons. And it wasn't enough to just sign us up for these activities, Mom had to volunteer herself and my Dad. In the figure skating club, Mom was in charge of the costumes. She and her good friend Jean Cameron would take the Greyhound to Edmonton, returning with bolts of theatrical satin and glitter and our house would be transformed into a costume making factory for several weeks, to the point my dad would answer the phone “Mile Zero Figure Skating Annex.” When we joined the swim team, for years Mom ran the marshalling area swim meets and Dad was the head judge.

She was also very involved in St Mark’s Anglican Church. Among other things she made gorgeous stuffed animals for the fall craft sale with leftover fabric from the figure skating carnival. Through the church, she and Dad helped found an organization called “Fish”. Through Fish, our parents would be called out late at night to help total strangers in need. Once it was a suicidal young mom with no one to turn to. Another time it was a guy stuck at his farm in the bush who couldn’t get his car started- and my cousin Geordie suddenly found himself enlisted to help.

My mom was very attached to her parents, aunts, sister, nieces and nephews and our Beaverlodge family played an important part in our lives. Many Sundays were spent at the family farm. Many summers at the family property on the Red Willow River. Many hands of canasta played around the kitchen table-a game my parents continued on into their retirement and with their grandchildren in later years.

Mom and Dad were partners in everything, including school. Apart from the staff parties, there was the early morning grad breakfast at our house for dozens of grads, once with a rooster. When the high school burned down on a Friday, she spent the weekend creating a mascot, and Palmer the Penguin was ready to greet students and staff at Monday’ assembly. When she went back to work, I remember her dismay at the level of work her students were handing in. Should I lower my expectations? she asked my dad. No, he said, make them rise to yours.

And speaking of high expectations, mom had high standards for her own kids. We were to do our best but when we failed, we were forgiven. If we took on any project, big or small (preferably big), she was there to help. We were to be compassionate. We were to be humble but at the same time know we were just that little bit better that everyone else. And God help the teacher who did not recognize our talents.

Mom didn't do anything by half measures. She did everything with her whole self, including being a mother and a grandmother. She wasn't an affectionate woman and she never hugged me or told me she loved me. She didn't have to.  But she was unwavering and unconditional in her love. She had the kind of love that was expressed through faith, example and action.
Mom was so involved in this community, a community that she quickly grew to love. Her tireless efforts in fund raising and sitting on boards was all done to ensure that Tumbler Ridge became a community that one wanted to settle in and raise their children. Those that knew her well, were never surprised to see her volunteering for yet another project, and volunteer dad to help with her many projects. Often seeing her with Cotton Candy flying in her hair. She dedicated her life to her family and the four of us kids and then her 8 grandchildren. As a teacher and librarian she was dedicated to the youth that she taught, taking personal interest in who her students were, they weren't just names in a role call. She was vibrant, positive, active, energetic, supportive person and dedicated to everything that she did.

Mom was truly her happiest when surrounded by her family and extended family. Mom and Dad were once asked by a reporter, What would you say your greatest accomplishment was? Their answer was not the pool, the numerous boards she sat on, the craft fair that became a huge yearly event, not the Ten Thousand villages sale, the many groups she helped establish or the articles they wrote for the paper their answer was simply "our 4 children"

Our parents were both very humble and never felt that they deserved to be recognized the way that they were here in Tumbler Ridge, through Hartford Gardens, Hartford Courts, the display and story of mom in the foe of the centre here and George Hartford forest of Knowledge, outdoor classroom at the school. When I talked to them both about the naming of Hartford Court, they both said Tumbler Ridge gave far more to us then we did to Tumbler Ridge.

Mom passed away quietly in Victoria on July 16 at the age of 92, she has gone forward to once again be by dad's side, the man she loved and stood beside for over 50 years. She leaves behind to mourn her 4 children and eight grandchildren. Daughter Nicola (Len) Ramsey and children Jordan, Elizabeth and Hart, son Rob (Juanita MacNeil) Hartford and children Kyla and Darby, son Doug Hartford and children Kieran and Eric and daughter Crosbie (Tony) Bourdeaux and child John. Niece Kerry Doidge (Terry Korman) as well as many nieces and nephews great nieces and nephews.