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.