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Jean Kathleen Grevstad

September 23, 1927 - August 14, 2020

Tribute

My Life
Jean Kathleen Grevstad

My first memory is a vivid one. I am in the back seat of my parents car puttering through southern Saskatchewan on a journey from Assiniboia to Lac Vert, a long days drive back then. It’s the height of the depression and my parents are fleeing the dust and grasshoppers devastating the southern prairies, for the relatively lush central part of the province.  Lac Vert, due north of Regina even has it’s own lake, two of them in fact: Lac Vert and the much larger Lac Vert Nord where the cluster of small homes and farms they considered a town is situated.

The central part of Saskatchewan with it’s scattering of small lakes and slews only hints at what lies to the north, thousands upon thousands of lakes and rivers. So many, most don’t have names. The south was dry and getting drier by the day, a slow building calamity devastating prairie towns and families.

This must have been a traumatic time for my parents, having to pull up roots and leave their home and quarter section behind to move some 200 miles (we still spoke in miles) north where the drought and vicious winds had not yet reached.

Lac Vert, though sheltered from the ‘dust bowl’ was a much smaller place than Assiniboia which had it’s own post office, hospital, stately government buildings and churches.  It was quite the little metropolis, or so it seemed to a five year old.

Assiniboia was on the southern rail line and even had a pivotal role in the history of this country as a fleeting seat of government formed by the rebel, Louis Riel.  In November 1869, the Riel-led resistance replaced the paternalistic Hudson’s Bay Authority with the first of several provisional governments, the democratically chosen, 28-member “Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia”.

Heady times indeed.
They would not last.

This was long before Saskatchewan joined Canada and half a century before my parents made their fateful journey to tiny Lac Vert, which had no noted contribution to the history of this great country. The only thing higher than two stories was a grain elevator. Though Lac Vert did have those two lakes.

To a five year old in the back seat it was all a great adventure as we slowly rambled along rutted prairie roads. Our meagre possessions sent ahead of us by box car along with the farm animals so crucial to life back then.

I sat in the back seat, holding my toy horse out the window, it’s tail and mane flying in the wind as we drove through the lush rolling hills of the Quapelle Valley, one of the prettiest spots on the Canadian prairies. In my mind, this pretend horse danced along the green rolling hills to valley’s of lush open fields and eventually a well stocked  paddock with a quaint barn and farmhouse.  Oh, The imagination of a child.

I Imagine my parents had more practical things on their minds. They were both born and raised in the east, in Renfrew, Ontario at end of the 19th century.

My father Ernie Albert Pickens (Born June 2, 1894) the second son of William and Mary Pickens, must have found Renfrew somewhat stifling.  The picturesque community is between Ottawa and Algonquin park, just south of the Quebec border.

Even back then it was a bustling agricultural service centre for the many farms in the area as well as a summer getaway from Ottawa for people seeking the serenity of the outdoors (Renfrew also eventually became the ‘hockey tape capital of Canada’ but that was long after my parents time).

All the best farm land around Renfrew had long been claimed and cleared by settlers and soldiers would soon be pouring home from Europe to take the best jobs too.

The war was winding down and the government in nearby Ottawa was trying to encourage settlement in the vast western provinces it had recently coerced into being part of Canada (Saskatchewan joined Confederation along with Alberta in 1905).

Ottawa was offering loans to men like Ernie Pickens with the catchy slogan, ‘Go West Young Man, Go West’. My father eagerly took them up on it, purchasing a quarter section of land with a modest home and out buildings.

He set out for an unknown place that must have been little more than a mark on a map.

How was he to know it would only last a decade or so before he’d have to move his young family further north to escape the dust and grasshoppers?

I remember my father as a tall, fairly lean man who worked the farm from sun up until sun down, the way people did back then just to feed their families and scratch out a living on the prairies. He was kind to me and my mother but could be short tempered with the animals. He was not much of a drinker, nor a church goer either.

He wouldn’t sit for pictures and to this day I have a single photograph of Ernie Pickens. He’s on the business end of a plough with a draught horse pulling. His head is down and you can’t see his face. Ernie loved to tease, especially little kids.

It’s the only picture of him that exists that I know of.

The homestead we rolled into in Lac Vert was less grand then the place they’d built up back in Assiniboia. It was about four miles north of the village of Lac Vert. It was on a quarter section with Barrier Creek cutting through it, separating the house, barn, granaries and vegetable garden from the farm land where my father would grow wheat and oats.

The buildings were weather worn and unpainted but that was typical. Any place you saw with a post card red barn and nicely painted home you naturally pegged as being owned by rich people who could afford paint and the time to work with it.

Our house consisted of two small bedrooms and a combination kitchen and living area which would be considered ‘open concept’ now. Back then it was a way to conserve heat as the cook stove doubled as a heat source in winter for both living room and kitchen. My mother used to say the only true warm spot on the coldest winter days was between the cooking stove in the kitchen and the wood stove in the living room.

Of course the privy was outside and there was no luxuries like running water in the house. That too was for the rich and almost unheard of in rural Saskatchewan.

For bathing, an old round laundry tub would be placed on the floor between those two stoves and water heated up on the cook stoves for soaping and rinse. Bathing was a once a week ritual usually reserved for Saturday night.

My mother made all her own soap and hung our clothes out to dry on the line in both summer and winter. They froze still in winter and I can vividly recall the long underwear standing on it’s own in the house before those two stoves took care of that.

The house had a summer porch that served as a handy place for refrigeration in the winter.

Some nights it got so cold in my tiny, spartan room in winter my blankets froze to the wall, yet somehow I felt cosy and protected in our tiny house. It was a home my mother cared for and worked on as hard as my father did in the fields.

My mother (Born, April 13 1899) was a quiet, gentle woman who never shied from a days work. Before moving west to join my father she worked in Renfrew in a munitions factory, putting together shells for the men fighting that awful, bloody war in Europe. She had graduated high school and liked to read and crochet on those cold winter nights on the plains.

She made her own aprons from bleached flour sacks and ordered our finer clothes from the Eatons catalogue. What a pleasure that day was when the parcel was picked up in Lac Vert and we had fresh new clothes to wear and admire.  Though my mother often just ordered material and sewed new dresses for me by hand.

She also raised bees and we had fresh honey which was a treat. Twice I recall her taking in neighbour women and helping them through child birth in that tiny home. I was ushered away to my room as the women suffered through the birth with my mother giving words of encouragement and getting ready to bring newborns into our world.

It was a simple, difficult life but I don’t remember thinking we were poor or in any way, or missed out on things.

My only complaint was loneliness. I could not understand at the time why I was an only child with the closest neighbours miles away. Most young farm families had herds of children who looked after each other, helped raise one another and were groomed to one day take over the farm.

Out there, miles from Lac Vert  I was the only person under 10. To amuse myself I’d dress up the smaller farm animals or my trusted dog Ben. Ben was a German Sheppherd and constant companion who was both my best friend and protector. Once I remember I’d done something naughty and my mother motioned to give me a tap on the bottom. Ben got in between her and me and she did not dare touch me.

I used to hitch Ben to an old sleigh and he’d drag me around the farm house property and over our frozen fish pond. Ben was my best friend out there. Every now and then caravans of itinerant families would camp adjacent to our farm. My parents called them ‘Gypsies’ but I’m not sure if they were true Roma people from central Europe or just poor families fleeing the dust and depression the way so many people were back then.

I didn’t really care, those caravans often had children and they were a welcome break from the games Ben and I got up to.

I know my parents had a difficult time scratching out a living from that quarter section of land. The ploughing, cultivating, seeding and cutting was all done with horses or by hand, and often solely by my father. The exception was threshing time which was one of the most exciting times of year on the farm. Threshing teams would move farm to farm helping bring in the crop before the fall frost hit. There would be eight or ten men per crew, itinerant workers or other farmers who’d brought their crop in already. Lunches would be taken out to the men in the fields and as it began to darken they’d come into the house for evening meals prepared by mother. There was always loads of food which was welcome after a days hand threshing in the fields.

There is a rhythm and sense of satisfaction with bringing in a crop even a young girl could understand. And all those new faces around the house made life seem so much more exciting.

I was a good but not great student. I started school at age 7 and it was a four mile trip from our farm to the one room school house in town.

In winter my parents hired a man I called Mr. Blackstock to pull me into town in a horse covered wagon we called the ‘caboose’.  Mr. Blackstock was somewhat of a rough man who chewed and spit tobacco and spoke very little.

I’d describe the caboose as a small wooden hut sitting on a sleigh, not unlike a fishing hut. Mr. Blackstock would sit up front driving the horses and chewing and spitting. I would sit inside and watch the prairies go by. Doing homework on those rutted prairie roads was next to impossible.

At times it was such slow going I’d jump down and run ahead of Mr. Blackstock and the caboose. Impatient as a school girl because that’s just what I was.

When it became warmer I would often ride my bike into school, or at times my parents even bridled a horse to a toboggan and I’d be pulled solo to my studies.  Quite a few kids came to school that way in those days.

Of course that often led to horse racing among the children on their sleds. We’d rush out ten minutes before the school bell, get the bridles on our horses in preparation for the days race. And off we’d gallop, bundled up kids on our sleds being pulled by our trusty nags.

My mother always used to say I could ride and handle a horse before I could walk.

The school house was one room with a wood stove the older boys used to have to chop wood for and maintain. No small task in a prairie winter.

The subjects were the usual reading, writing, arithmatic, health, music, art, geography and history. British history I might add. Canada was so new and unsure of its’ young self teaching our history was not deemed important or relevent.

The aforementioned Louis Riel was certainly not talked about it that one room school house. Riel was still considered a tyrant, though he was a hero to the many Indian bands of the prairies and beyond. The surname Louis is (often spelled Louie) is among the most popular among First Nations. I imagine when they were asked what ‘Christian’ name they wanted attached to their people, many chose the name of one of the only white man who fought on their behalf.

They chose Louis!

Geography was my favourite subject. I marvelled at all those foreign sounding places on the classroom map. How could it not pique the curiosity of a girl who’d never seen anything but endless prairie and the rear end of a horse.

I did my homework by coal oil lamp and was a courteous, shy student. I only got the strap once, meted out by my teacher Ms. Speak. The whole episode is a mystery to me because I was such a quiet, studious girl and Ms. Speak was a beloved teacher.

But I still remember the sting of the strap on my hand though my discretion is long forgotten.

Ms. Speak lived at the school in what was known as a ‘teacher-age’ which was common in those days and later immortalised in W.O. Mitchell’s Canadian Classic, Who Has Seen The Wind.

She was kind and thoughtful and later married a farm boy from the area and went to live at his homestead. There were about 13 students at a time in that one room school house ranging from grades 1 to 7. My best friends at school were sisters named Iris and Marguerite Graham who were close in age to mine. They lived the opposite direction from the school to our farm house but I loved visiting their farm because they had a large piano Mrs. Graham would play.

It was a joy to hear that beautiful music coming from Mrs. Graham’s fingers. Keep in mind without electricity there was little music in our home, so hearing it was a treat. As was having two eager young friends to play with on my visits.

My father used to play the comb using a rolling paper against it as a reed to entertain us. He got pretty good at it but it was no piano.

My father also called square dances which were held in the school house or what ever public space could be secured. There was usually a fiddle, accordion and guitar player or some combination of them making the music while father called the tunes.

They were lively affairs those dances which would often result in some kind of dust up amongst the young men (usually over the attention of a girl).  The ladies would stand up on their chairs as the boys punched it out, the band playing a tune called out by my father while the fists flew.

We’d often bake pies,  put them in boxes and wrap them in colourful paper to be auctioned off at the dances. It was called a  ‘pie social’ or ‘box social’.

When I was about 10 years old something happened that altered how I looked at life and viewed my family. In fact it shattered my little world. My mother’s cousin Melinda was visiting from somewhere and I was outside playing with her daughter who would have been about the same age as me. We got into some kind of disagreement they way children do and nasty words were exhanged. Finally in disgust, this girl said to me.

“I’d go tell your mother but that is not your real mother.” Or something to that effect.

I was floored by the statement but it explained why I was an only child when most families in those days had several little ones running around. It was not unheard of to have 6, 8 even 10 children in rural Saskachewan and there I was an only child on the lonely prairie. It was odd.

I ran inside immediately and put the accusation to my mother. Was she not my real mother and father, not my father? My mother told me the truth. That I had been adopted, was born in Regina and kept at the Salvation Army hospital until I was taken home by her and the man I beleived up until then, to be my biological father.

My mother was tender and understanding telling me this shocking fact and asked if I wanted to connect with my real mother.

I said no. My adopted mother and father had been good to me and raised me the best they could in hard times. I thought at the time reconnecting with a completely diffferent family would be a slap in the face to them. So I declined.

After finding out about my adoption it was put to rest and not discussed for many years unless to inform a doctor or some such professional who needed to know my blood origins.

It’s a decision I regret to this day.

I was always an inquisitive child (some might call me snoopy) and once I came across some business papers pertaining to a Daphne Clingam but I didn’t understand the full meaning of those official looking papers.

After that fateful day I treated my mother as I always had, with affection and good behavior but for some reason I treated my father differently on occasion. If he was trying to get me to do something I didn’t appove of I might just tell him …

“No, and you can’t make me because you’re not my real father”.

I think perhaps I was taking this life altering news out on him more than my mother who I adored.

But life goes on.

Just try to stop it.

The one room school house only went to grade 7 so I took my grade 8 classes by correspondence. Mailing my assignments and projects away to far off Regina and getting my future work by post as well.

High school brought great change to me and my parents. They were struggling to make ends meet on the farm so my father went to work for a farmer closer to Lac Vert. He sold our farm house and land and we moved initially into a log cabin on the farmers land where we stayed briefly, then later to a larger home owned by the same farmer.

That lasted about a year and I went to high school in nearby Pleasantdale. Pleasantdale was just north of Lac Vert on the highway to Melfort and slightly larger. It had a few shops on its main street, a small high school and even a hotel for a while.

I remember the Pleasantdale Christmas concerts vividly. They were one of the highlights of the school year and practices started as early as October. There was singing, dancing and Christmas skits performed for parents and who ever else showed up on a (usually)snowy December night.

One year I sang My Sweet Little Alice Blue Gown from the Broadway Musical Irene, written at the end of the Great War.

What a thrill.

I still hum that lovely tune to myself from time to time.

It was around this time that I decided to join the church full time. I was a regular attendee at the United church in Pleasantdale but not a ‘member’ of the church because I had never been baptised. My father scorned organised religion and though my mother had been a church – goer in her life she didn’t have me baptised, and now I wanted to be a full fledged member of the tidy white church in the main part of town.

So my mother organised the ceremony which meant a minister had to come from outside the area.  And on the appointed day, sure enough a horse and buggy was seen coming toward our home in Pleasantdale (where the baptism would be held).

The driver of that buggy shocked us all.
It was a woman.
A slender, bespecteld woman named Lydia Gruchy.
Lydia Gruchy it turns out was a French-born Canadian and also happened to be the first woman ordained to the United Church of Canada.

One of the most progressive of the prairie churches.

She graduated from a Presbyterian theological college and also was the first woman to be granted an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in Canada.

That made an exciting day even more thrilling. Being baptised along with a second boy from town and having a woman minister perform the ceremony. What an important day.

Woman were still expected to play certain roles back then but women like Lydia Gruchy were helping us shatter those glass ceilings. I like to think I played a small role as well but we’ll get to that in time.

My father got a job in Pleasantdale building grain elevators to hold the crops as mechanised farming began to take over from horse and plough and production rose across the prairires. There was always a new elevator that needed to be built or an old one somewhere in need of repair.  Around that time there were almost 6,000 grain elevators dotting the prairie landscape.  Every hamlet, village and town had its row of them, a declaration of a community’s viability.

But the job would not last long. My father died suddenly at age 50. One night his hand flopped out cross my mothers chest.

‘Oh Elsie,” he moaned. The final words of Ernie Pickens.

He always had heart troubles. I can clearly remember my father pacing the floor clutching his chest in pain. I suspect it was his heart that kept him out of World War 1, when he was of fighting age.

He died in 1945, the year the next great war ended.

Father never did see a doctor about his heart because we couldn’t afford the bill and there was likely little a small town Saskatchewan doctor could do about a serious heart defect anyway. It would be two decades before Baptist minister (and former lightweight boxing champion) Tommy Douglas would force universal health care on a reluctant province, then an equally suspicious nation.

May they both rest in peace.

My father’s brother and his son came up from Assiniboia to help with the service arrangements and comfort my mother but they soon left and went back to their lives.

I was without a father in my teens and my mother a widow without work in her mid-forties. The words ‘single mother’ hadn’t been coined yet but my mother was one just as boys streamed home from the war.

My mother couldn’t stay inactive for long. So she talked to a Chinese businessman who owned a boarded up restaurant in downtown Pleasantdale. Most prairie towns had at least one restaurant run by newly arrived Chinese people or descendants from those brave fellows who built our national railway and were then despicably ‘encouraged’ to go home. I don’t remember this man’s name but he and my mother came to an agreement. She would re-start his failing restaurant and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner to farm families in the region.

We lived in a single room at the back of the restaurant and she prepared all those meals on her own or with a little help. Then cleaned up afterwards. My mother was not afraid of a little hard work, there really was no other choice.

The restaurant didn’t last long because profits were lean and the accommodations not suitable for a mother and her teeanage daughter but my mother used that experience to get a job cooking at the hospital in Watson, to the south.

Watson is home to one of the longest running Santa Clause Parades in the province and was large enough back then to support a hospital where my mother cooked.

But what do you do with your teenage daughter? Elsie Pickens had a practical solution. She sent me off to Prince Albert to live with a a husband and his infirm wife. I cooked her breakfast and did some light cleaning for my room and board while I took business classes at the Pine City Business college in the booming city of P.A.  Even back then which was the cusp of the 1950’s Prince Albert had a population of 20,000 or so people.

Imagine the thrill for a prairie girl who hadn’t lived in a town big enough to support a movie theatre. In fact, I remember my first movie, the cartoon Bambi which I must has travelled to Melfort to see. It was such a thrill until Bambi’s mother  died which caused all us kids to sob into our popcorn.

Even Walt Disney didn’t spare us the harshness of life.

Like my mother and the restaurant, the initial Job in Prince Albert didn’t last long but like my mother I parlayed it into a situation I was much more suited for.  I went to work for Art Parnell and his wife Mildred. The Parnell’s had two girls, Vivian and Judy and Mr. Parnell had a fairly senior job at the Bank of Montreal and could afford a live-in nanny and cleaner.

That’s what I did.

Looking after those two lovely girls who were around three and five by the time I arrived in Prince Albert and diving into my studies at Pine City. A third child, a boy was to come along during my tenure with the Parnell’s but initally it was me and the two girls which suited me just fine.

Mr. Parnell worked at the stately bank on the corner of a prominent downtown street in P.A. with an equally prestigious law office above: Diefenbaker and Cullen. The Diefenbaker of course was John G. Diefenbaker who’d long since moved onto federal politics. Within a decade the ‘Chief’ as he was known would be Prime Minister of Canada.

It didn’t go so well for him.

I don’t remember ever meeting the only Saskatchewan based politician more famous then Tommy Douglas but it could have occurred on those Prince Albert streets.

Diefenbaker appointed the first female minister in this countries history to his Cabinet, plus the first aboriginal member of the Senate but it was’t enough to save his whopping majority in the House.

Many of his political colleagues turned on him and he never got a second term as Prime Minister. He lost to Lester Pearson in 1963.

But all that was years later. As the 1950’s blossomed I was working for the Parnell’s and learning typing, shorthand and basic book keeping at Pine City Business College which was run by a very able couple.

I sailed through a year of business school and Mr. Parnell must have seen something he liked in me because he arranged to get me a job at the bank below a future Prime Ministers office.

I became an entry level draft clerk which primarily meant drawing up draft cheques for companies to pay their employees with. A businessman would come into the bank and approach the counter requesting a draft. The teller (almost always a man back then) would shoot his hand into the air and say … “draft’. It was my job to get the particulars and draw up that draft cheque which would be signed off on by the teller. I had other clerical roles but drawing up those drafts seemed to be the most critical since all those workers were depending on my work to get paid.

I was at the Bank of Montreal (thankfully no one called it BMO, or BEEMO back then) from 1946 to around 1951.  Not just as a draft clerk but a teller and loan manager and other jobs as well. I approved mostly good loans to strong business people who paid them back with interest, just happy to get the financial support. There were a few dead-beats too but I didn’t dwell on that.

I guess I had my share of boyfriends and a couple of engagements. Llloyd was a long time suitor who  was very close to my dad. Neal was a high school sweetheart and we kept in touch for decades. He passed away a short time ago. I was engaged to Eddie but we broke up, I think I loved his family more than him. There was Calyton and Al and Barry others who played a role in my life (and yes, love life).

Some people don’t like to think of seniors as having romantic lives.

We did.

Some still do.

My time in Prince Albert with the Parnell’s working at the bank was rewarding and educational.  They are prime growing years but it was time to move on.

In 1951 I moved to Saskatoon for further training and a new job, at Marshall-Wells a wholesale grocery and hardware chain that had stores throughout the Northwestern United States and Western Canada. The company had a history that dated back to 1886 and was considered a solid job, for life, if that’s what you were after. I did accounts and book keeping at Marshall-Wells and  I also had to master something known as the Comptometer, the first successful key-driven mechanical calculator. Imagine just plunking all those figures into a machine and having it spit out a calculation!

And it only weighed about 20 pounds.

The Comptometer training sent me back to school and I walked to the Marshall-Wells office near downtown Saskatoon during the day. I was only there a couple of years when a new opportunity came up at General Motors in Saskatoon.

To meet the heavy demand for new cars in Saskatchewan, General Motors opened an assembly plant in Regina in 1927. The plant produced the first all-Canadian-made Chevrolet with a six-cylinder motor.

At its height of production the plant employed 850 people and had a capacity output of 150 cars a day.  It didn’t last long – but GM had enough of a presence in Saskatchewan that they needed an office in Saskatoon too where I worked doing accounts, listening to dictation in the Dictaphone (which I never mastered) and typing it out.

It was during this time in the early 1950’s that I met a man who would play a huge role in my life, Bill Grevstad. Bill was 22 at the time, four years younger than me, and very handsome. He came from a family of seven children, and all five boys in the family were in the air force. The brothers just kept looking up to one another as role models I suppose, and a career in the military back then was considered a solid career.

Bill was originally from Winnipeg and his people were of Norwegian ancestry, settling initially in North Dakota before taking the Canadian government up on an offer of land in the Interlakes region of Manitoba (as my parents had in Assinniboia).

Bill’s mother died when he was just a year old so he was largely raised by his older siblings.

We had only known one another about two months when we got married. It was so rushed that none of Bill’s family attended. They were scattered all over the place living their lives in the air force and other occupations. I insisted the marriage ceremony take place in the United Church in Saskatoon.

We had our honeymoon at Waskesiu Lake in the centre of Prince Albert National Park.
Bill had his military suitcase and I had an Eatons credit card and we spent a week at a cabin there.

The credit card bills would come later.

Our first daughter Deborah Ann as born at St. Pauls hospital in Saskatoon while Bill was still in the air force.

What a delight she was.

Lisa Christine came along soon after, in 1956 and I took on the role of full time mother which was a change for me since I had worked and made my own way since I was a teenager. But there is no more important job than raising your children so I put my working life on hold. It was rarely boring chasing around two toddlers.

These next few decades were a whirlwind of moving all over Canada, mostly following Bill and a series of jobs.

In 1957 Bill decided he wanted to be a navigator so we left Saskatoon for Winnipeg.

Being a navigator did not work out for Bill.

After dropping out of the navigator program and eventually the air force Bill was unemployed for a while before taking a job doing medical collections back in Winnipeg.
This was before universal health care when people got a bill after needing medical treatment.

That only lasted about 6 months before Bill was hired as a salesman at Johnson and Johnson.

But that too didn’t pan out and I went back to work at the bank and became the breadwinner. This caused some friction in the marriage which only increased when my mother came to live with us to look after the children in Winnipeg.

She was a great help since I was working full time. I had all kinds of jobs with the bank, eventually becoming the first woman manager for branches in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Northwest Ontario. Of course I still didn’t make as much as the male managers and as a woman wasn’t even eligible for a pension. This was the end of the 1950’s which was still very much a man’s world.

Eventually Bill was asked to move to Toronto with Johnson and Johnson again and then we moved onto Montreal where he worked for Cheesbrough-Pond’s, a skin and cosmetic company.

It was a decade of moving around.
It was tiresome and the kids hated all the shuffling from home to another.

I don’t want to go on about it but Bill was a drinker as so many men were back in the 50’s and 60’s. You could still drink at work back then and many of the salespeople in particular were expected to keep a bottle in their desk drawer. Not a healthy lifestyle and it was hard on our family.

All that moving and the problem drinking.
I often brought home the pay check.

We eventually settled back in Manitoba and Bill got into Alcoholics Anonymous for a while which helped. But it didn’t stick.

We separated in 1974 when Debbie was already married and Lisa in her last year at high school.

I sold our house in the Westwood neighbourhood in Winnipeg and Bill was generous with the terms of our seperation. Still it was a lovely home and I hated selling it but Lisa and I moved into an apartment.

Lisa was always a bright student especially when it came to business courses and she won scholarly awards for her hard work.

Lisa moved around a bit as I had during my working years, eventually settling back in Winnipeg where she became a registered nurse. She married twice,  to a man named Gord and then to Mark Groening, who was a stable person to have in her life.

Lisa was diagnosed with cancer and died in 2009. It was an awful time for her and Mark and a terrible time for me as well. A mother is not supposed to outlive her children but Lisa was taken from us at 53.

I don’t want to talk too much about that.

Some scars never heal.

Mark, bless him, stayed in touch and went on to have three children with another woman and still lives in Winnipeg.

After I spilt with Bill I became involved with a man named Barry who was a mechanic with three kids. We’d known the family for several years and Barry and I were together for about 13 years. I took on the role of raising a family again since Barry’s youngest boy was about 7 when we got together.

I saw them into adulthood before Barry and I split up. We remained good friends for the rest of his life.

Barry died in a Winnipeg seniors home in 2013.

Deborah always had skills in business and lived a time in Goa, India running an import -export business. I went to visit them in southern India which was an eye opener for a senior citizen from the prairies.

Eventually Deborah moved to Nelson to help run her son Mykita’s business, selling some of the same Indian goods at the Love of Shiva Boutique in the eclctic BC town nestled among steep mountains.

Deborah helped me relocate from Winnipeg to a lovely seniors homes in Nelson called Mountain Lakes. It’s a beautiful setting just off the forest with views of Kooteany Lake.
I have my own apartment and meals are provided in the common dining room.

This is where I will live out my life, happily with family and friends nearby. Yes, I miss the beauty of the prairies but I am surprised how much I’ve grown to enjoy my mountain home.

There is one more chapter I haven’t gone into detail about that gave me great pleasure as I age. When my mother died in 1983 when she was almost 84 years old. It was a time of sadness obviously.

As I’ve said she adopted me when I was a baby but looked after me lovingly as if I was her own so the question of my birth parents was not pursued.

After she passed away I heard a program on CBC radio about a company called Links that helped people find their original birth parents. I contacted Links and they began looking on my behalf.

Not much came of it.

A short time later I got a call from a young woman I’d never met who said, “I think you are my aunt”. As fate would have it, my sisters and their children were looking for me too. They’d seen their mothers records and were astounded to find she had another daughter when she was young.

That was me.

My birth mothers name was Rebecca Clingam (remember those papers) and she was born in 1903 in Ireland.

She stated to the adoption authorities that my father was a man named Billy Morrison who was Irish and 26 years old at the time.

I don’t know much more about him.

They named me Daphne Clingam but my name was to be changed after I was given up for adoption.

After I was born my mother went to work as a domestic in Alberta.

She had three more girls. Sheila, Rita and Joan.

It was my sisters and their children who would contact me all those years later and arrange a meeting.

They told me my biological mother died at 63 of a heart attack around 1968. They’d done all kinds of research, including back in Ireland where my biological family came from.

My sisters came out to meet me in Winnipeg in 2011 and Sheila’s daughter came with them. We had a marvelous time together and I was taken aback by the phsycial similarities.

They have become part of my life here at Mountain Lakes and though they are scattered around Western Canada they came to my 90th birthday party here in Nelson.

I’ve also visted Sheila and Joan in Edmonton and got to know their families.

What a treat for someone my age to suddenly have this new, extended family.

I’m 91 at the writing of this story and soon to be 92 but in strong enough health that I don’t expect to depart this world any time soon.

I have three lovely grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.

I have a home now in Nelson where it is peaceful and beautiful.

It’s been quite a ride.

And I like to think, a life well lived.

Jean Kathleen Grevstad
July 31/2019

 

Condolences

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From: Thompson Funeral Services Ltd.

Thompson Funeral Service Staff send our condolences to family and friends.

From: Orietta Spence
Relation: Friend

I am so sorry for your loss. I met your mom at Mountain Lakes when my mom was there. She was a very sweet lady. I saw her again a couple of months ago in KLH while I was there with my mom. I was so surprised to see that she had passed as see was so full of spunk. I really enjoyed finding out so much about her. She was an incredible woman.

From: Andrea Nicefield
Relation: My favourite aunt

My sweet Auntie Jean. Thanks for being part of my life. Your laugh I can still hear. Say hi to mum and dad for me. Love and Laughter, Andrea

From: Andrea Nicefield
Relation: My favourite aunt

My sweet Auntie Jean. Thanks for being part of my life. Your laugh I can still hear. Say hi to mum and dad for me. Love and Laughter, Andrea Nicefield. God smiles!

From: Gloria Lasko
Relation: Family Friend

Yes Jean, you lived life well. I’m sure I’m not the only person who can say that you touched my life in the most positive ways. You were a great comfort to me once during my difficult tweens and I always wished I’d had a mother like you who knew what unconditional love meant. I was and remain truly grateful for that. Thank you for that first loan you gave me that helped me establish a credit rating. Thank you for being that role model that showed me a female could be successful in the business world. Thank you for those memorable Christmas Eves with the Knudsons. Thank you for being you. I wish to express my condolences to your family and friends upon the loss of a truly wonderful human being.

From: Helen Hutchinson
Relation: friend

Just heard of Jean’s passing this morning. I am so sad to hear this news; was going to call her on her birthday. Have known Jean for 34 years and we had so many great times together with Bill and family. Jean was one of the nicest and most kind person I knew. My heart goes out to you all at this very sad time. Blessings to all!
Also, Beverly Billehaug sends her condolences to the whole family.

From: Donna Tremblay
Relation: I knew her through her close relatives, her grandchildren and adopted grandchildren.

What a truly amazing life and such an articulate woman. I never had the pleasure to meet her. I know her only through the stories of those close to her, my daughter-in-law Lilina, who lovingly called her Grandma Jean.

From: Cathy Robinson
Relation: Friend

So very sorry to hear of Jean’s passing. My mom was her “tablemate” at Mountain Lakes. They were affectionately known as Jean 1 and Jean 2…. I will miss her friendly smile and her hellos and quick conversations. RIP Jean…my mom will miss you. Jeff and Cathy Robinson and Jean Broster.

From: Lisa Maria Mosher
Relation: Friend

Beautiful lady inside and out, I met Jean when I helped my nona Gabriella Brekka move into Mountain Lakes October 17, 2017. I had the pleasure sitting with Jean at my nonas table. Her eyes were so soulful and she always had a sparkle in her eyes. My mom Mary Larson would play the piano and Jean enjoyed it so much. My nona passed March 21,2019 so I never had a chance to see Jean again. Rest In Peace sweet angel

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