Memories of My Much-Loved Martin on reaching this Momentous Milestone

I find it sad that very often someone has to die before a eulogy or tribute is written for him/her and read at a memorial service. We really need to tell our family members and close friends how much we love and appreciate them when we are still able to do so and never let anyone or anything disrupt our commitment and love for each other. They are all God’s wonderful earthly gifts to us. Martin and I are so blessed that we have no problem in regularly expressing our love to those who are important to us and these thoughts are also reciprocated. I have often told Martin that I would like to write a eulogy to him not at the time of his death, if of course I survive him, but while we are both alive, so I am going to take this opportunity on his 80th birthday to try and describe my remarkable husband who is unique and so very special. Yes, I am bigoted concerning Martin but it is alright to be bigoted when you know you are right!

Martin and Grace in 1956, shortly after they met and began courting.

Martin and Grace in 1956, shortly after they met and began courting.

It has been so heartwarming to both of us to receive countless wonderful birthday cards, letters, tributes and Facebook greetings which have all expressed their love, appreciation and thanks to my darling husband which proves that I am not the only one to recognize how special he is because he has had such an influence and impact on countless lives. Thank you very much for all your generous comments; it has made January 12th, 2015 an encouraging day for us both. Nothing makes me happier than hearing such gracious and warm hearted comments about the one whom I love with all my heart; we have been really touched by the abundance of love shown to Martin at this present time.

Our wedding day - July 26. 1958

Our wedding day – July 26. 1958

Nowhere could I have found a husband so perfectly suited for me. It is so true that opposites attract; in temperament we are poles apart, but in interests and in other ways we are so alike. Martin is Mr. Diplomacy. I tell it like it is. Martin is calm and laid back. I am intense and enthusiastic; Martin is more cautious, I more spontaneous. Believe it or not, we are both good talkers. After all, how otherwise could Martin be a preacher and teacher? I have often told folk that Martin talked every Sunday as a preacher and I talked the rest of the week! By the way, although retired, he still does some itinerate preaching, officiates at funerals and the occasional wedding and has recently done two series of expository teaching at our Sunday morning adult bible study where they clapped him indicating their appreciation. In February, they have asked him to do another 4 week series. I am so pleased about this and very proud of him. Martin is an excellent conversationalist and always interesting. If a heated discussion erupts, Martin will just sit there and listen, even if he is far more capable than I; he can’t be bothered to argue, whereas I am in the middle of it all with all “fists flying!” Some years ago, our friend Frances, who knows us so well, said that I was a total extrovert and Martin an introvert. I have never considered him an introvert because he is outgoing and very much a people person and certainly not shy or withdrawn. However, I have to admit that I am the noisy, more aggressive one and Martin is the more passive, gentler and quieter spouse. He probably prefers to listen and take everything in and sometimes just lets me do the verbal work which may also be indicative of a little laziness or lack of interest. However, he is certainly no push over as I well know and will not fail to correct me if he thinks I am being too blunt or insensitive. I love him all the more for that. He too is a strong personality but happens to be more diplomatic than I.
Martin has a terrific sense of humour and is always making up jokes, which make me laugh a lot and I at least, appreciate his humour. Some do not always understand his clever remarks and I have to explain what they mean. He is also a marvellous impersonator and is able to mimic all sorts of accents. His Punjabi accent is perfect and always amuses everybody even our Sikh, Hindu and Muslim friends. I never tire of his company. It seems that he succeeds at anything he tries. Martin is a fountain of knowledge and I never cease to be amazed at his ability to recall events in the minutest detail. He is multi-talented; he is a perfect gentleman, fabulous preacher, high school teacher, counsellor, theologian, well read, adventurous, musical, self-taught mechanic, pilot and was a skillful gymnast and good tennis player. However with all of his achievements, he is very modest but I think that I have the right to boast about him because it is all true. He is my total point of reference and it is rare that he is not able to answer all my “whys and wherefores” and I often ask him where he did he amass this knowledge. I think he is like a sponge and absorbs everything. He has a phenomenal photographic memory; he can, for example, without any hesitation, reel off in what year we visited each country over the past five decades, and is able to recall where and when we purchased certain objects even to the exact place, month and year as far back as our first major purchases for our first home when we were married. I think he suffers from involuntary, information osmosis. Whenever I relate an occasion, situation or event, I can’t remember names, places, dates but just tell the story. Martin however, can recall exact statistics and intricate detail as if it just happened a day or so ago. If an occasion arises which reminds me of a joke, for example, Martin will immediately be able to tell the joke and manage to keep the punch line until the end! Martin says that I always have a simple solution for every problem – I call out, “MART, please can you help me?”

Our 25th Wedding Anniversary - July 26, 1983

Our 25th Wedding Anniversary – July 26, 1983

When in a conversation with someone, I sometimes go off at a tangent and then can’t for the life of me remember what I was relating previous to my diversion. As soon as Martin realizes that I am going on to another subject, he makes a mental note of my point of departure so that once I am completely lost he can immediately veer me back on course to my original subject. I find this phenomenon wonderful, hilarious and unique. So do others who are present. I doubt very much if there is another husband who comes to the rescue of his wife in such a situation. One of my mother’s most common phrases to Martin was, “Whatever would I do without you Martin?” I feel exactly the same way. The Lord certainly knew whom I needed when he gave me Martin and I only hope that I can be as great a blessing to him as he is to me. I honestly believe I had the best side of the bargain. I tell folk that there are only three things which I can do better than he; speak French, play the piano and cook, but the latter is only because I have taken on the responsibility of cooking and I know that given the chance and practice Martin would very quickly become a first class chef because he does everything by the book and is such a perfectionist whereas I am a more spontaneous cook.

Our 50th Wedding Anniversary - July 26, 2008

Our 50th Wedding Anniversary – July 26, 2008

It is true that we both have totally different personalities, which is a great blessing because we complement each other so well. I dread to think what would have happened had I married someone with my personality; we would have driven each other around the bend! Martin and I have the same tastes in music, history, literature, travel and adventure. We love people and have spent our lives working with people of all ages but many years exclusively with teenagers. Above all, we love the Lord and have always wanted to serve Him and others. The Lord’s ways are perfect. It has been a sheer joy to be involved in the lives of others and having the untold pleasure of seeing so many people come to know and love our Saviour. We worked hard and long in West London for fourteen years as well as both teaching in high schools and in Canada, Martin pastored a church for 14 years among wonderful Mennonite folk as well as working part time for a while in a garage and then teaching for 2 years in the MEI (Mennonite Educational Institute) where I taught French for 12 years. We wouldn’t trade those precious years for all the money in the world. Serving the Lord is not drudgery but a joy and an exciting adventure.
When we first came to Canada, we were members of a group of adult Christians who used to meet with inmates in our local Matsqui Penitentiary where Martin not only participated in these meetings, but he and the male members of this team used to spend a weekend in the prison from time to time to lead bible studies, have times of singing and worship, praying and having fun and fellowship so as to encourage the inmates who regularly attended our weekly Monday evening meeting. On such occasions the volunteer Christians used to sleep on the floor of the chapel and there was always an opportunity for any inmate to be baptized by complete immersion in a deep laundry container during such a weekend. Many of these guys turned their lives around. Martin also regularly used to go through AA and NA twelve step programmes with many inmates on an individual basis. Later, I taught in three jails and then we both had thirteen years of visiting inmates in three local jails, one in Victoria and 2 in Agassiz, an hour’s drive from our home. We are still in close contact with a number of these inmates who have successfully adjusted to living productive and successful lives in society.

Martin on his 80th birthday - January 12, 2015

Martin on his 80th birthday – January 12, 2015

After fifty six years of marriage, I can truthfully say that I love Martin more than ever. When I first fell in love with him, there indeed was an ethereal magic which is generally the experience of any couple who truly falls in love and that ‘Je ne sais quoi’ cannot be repeated in the same intensity as one’s first new love. Nevertheless the same, indelible deep love and passion never dies. I still can have warm, fuzzy, and emotional feelings toward my husband that I had as a teenager but now there is an extra ingredient – total acceptance and security. In the earlier days of our marriage, there were times when I felt insecure and needed constant reassurance of Martin’s love for me, but after a number of years I had living, practical proof that I was loved, appreciated and treasured. I now possess a total security and complete trust and this has been the happy situation ever since.

In 2003, Marilyn (nee Jenkins), a friend and fellow student with me at Dyffryn Grammar School, South Wales and I were reconnected via the website, “Friends Reunited.” I wrote to her first and then Marilyn surprised me one day by ‘phoning me. I was of course delighted to be in touch with her because we had not seen each other or heard much about each other since we left school in 1955. Marilyn went to Swansea to train to become a teacher and I went to London. Our lives went in completely different directions; Marilyn and her husband Fred also went to live in Chester, far from our native town. I think it was Martin who answered the ‘phone and after preliminary introductions Marilyn told Martin that she would so much love to meet the man who had “tamed Grace!” That same year I had the great pleasure of meeting Marilyn and Fred at the 2003 Dyffryn reunion. Martin unfortunately was unable to go with me to the UK that particular year but I hope that one day Marilyn and Martin will be able to meet each other. I think she will be surprised to find that the man who tamed me is a very gentle person.

I am so happy we did meet in 1956 and life has never been the same. We have enjoyed a very happy, varied fulfilled life and I do not have a single complaint but we can quote Psalm 23 and both independently say with confidence, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

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On Reaching 80

Note: To enlarge a picture, simply click on it.  To return to the former view, click on the back button.

January 12, 2015 I moved, smoothly I think, out of the eighth and into the ninth decade of my life. That’s right, I celebrated my 80th birthday. Grace, my beloved wife, thinks that this occasion merits that I share some thoughts on the subject, so here goes.

Birthday Greeting from Google

Birthday Greeting from Google

I have been asked whether I feel different now that I am 80 years old. I cannot say that I do. I was taken aback when, on my birthday, I turned on my computer and went online. As the browser loaded, displaying the Google home page I immediately saw there was a “Doodle” showing a birthday cake and some other festive items. When I hovered the cursor over the artwork a statement appeared, “Happy Birthday Martin.” This has never happened to me on any previous birthdays and I do not know whether it is something Google has introduced during the past year and, from now on, all Google account holders will get this greeting on their birthdays or, perhaps it is reserved for those birthdays that the folk at Google consider to be particularly significant – like becoming 80.

Gouldthorpe Clan: Back row: Max (Frazer and Beth's son), Frazer (husband of Beth), Doris (sister-in-law), Beth (niece), Jane (niece), Graeme (Sara's husband), Sara (Jane's daughter), Jordan (Jane's son), Front row: Grace, Jonah (Frazer and Beth's son), Martin, Josh (Jane's son)

Gouldthorpe Clan: Back row: Max (Frazer and Beth’s son), Frazer (husband of Beth), Doris (sister-in-law), Beth (niece), Jane (niece), Graeme (Sara’s husband), Sara (Jane’s daughter), Jordan (Jane’s son), Front row: Grace, Jonah (Frazer and Beth’s son), Martin, Josh (Jane’s son)

As I reflect back over the 80 years of my life I immediately feel impelled to say that I have lived a wonderful, full and greatly blessed life.

I feel very much loved. My beautiful family decided they wanted to celebrate the occasion and spoil me and they did this in two parts. On Saturday evening, January 10, at the home of Jane, one of my nieces and her husband Wes, the Gouldthorpe side of the family hosted the event that included a sumptuous supper. I was deeply touched by their desire to do this as well as the love and affection that was shown me.

Martin and his cake

Martin and his cake

The following day, Sunday January 11, a similar celebration, with another sumptuous meal, took place at lunchtime at the home of Huw (Grace’s nephew), his wife Pam and their children. This was attended by my in-law side of the family (the Franklins) and other friends, including Jan and Lada Kylik and family, Janet Hitchcock, Ann King, Gail McKintuck and Don Dirks, all of whom are definitely “family.” Pam, welcoming everybody put it very succinctly when she said that she and Jane had talked about how best to do this and decided that dividing it into two was best. As a result, the “blood” side of the family partied the evening before and now it was the turn of the “grafted in” members of the family. Again I was deeply touched by the love and affection that was shown me.  For Grace and for me it was a double blessing and also, I had a birthday cake on Saturday and a birthday trifle on Sunday!

Martin looking at a book of memories

Martin looking at a book of memories

My life changed dynamically when, at the age of 15 years I, by faith, received Christ as my Saviour and turned my life over to Him. As I look back I can clearly see the mark of the Holy Spirit’s continual guidance. He certainly took me seriously when I told Him that my life was His to use as He pleased. He gave me mature Christian friends who loved, taught and helped me. He placed a calling on my heart to serve Him in full time ministry. When I went off to do my compulsory military service in the RAF the Lord gave me friends who were also believers. We were able to be mutual encouragers in the faith.

L-R: Pam (Huw's wife), Martin, Grace, Huw (nephew)

L-R: Pam (Huw’s wife), Martin, Grace, Huw (nephew)

At a weekly Bible Study that my fellow airmen and I attended it was suggested that we should pray for the girls who the Lord wanted to be our wives, whether we, individually, thought that we had already met her or not.  I had not a clue but it seemed a good idea and I began praying for this unknown young lady. I was in Edinburgh, Scotland and the subject of my prayers was still in high school in Port Talbot, South Wales, oblivious that a young man over 300 miles away was praying for her.  The Holy Spirit organized how and where we should meet almost three years later.  I was now a student at the London Bible  College and Grace was training to be a teacher at St. Gabriel’s College in London.

Martin and Grace with Meghan and Evan (Huw and Pam's children) - Meghan was about to leave to go to work at Tim Horton's!

Martin and Grace with Meghan and Evan (Huw and Pam’s children) – Meghan was about to leave to go to work at Tim Horton’s!

Martin and Grace with longtime friend Janet Hitchcock

Martin and Grace with longtime friend Janet Hitchcock

Grace and Martin with Ann King, one of the founding four members of the Grange Fellowship in 1961

Grace and Martin with Ann King, one of the founding four members of the Grange Fellowship in 1961

We were married in 1958 and now that we were in matrimonial harness together the Lord gave us work to do after our training was done. It was a total surprise, as the Lord’s plans for His children often are. He gave us a ministry among young people that came to be known as the Grange Fellowship. This lasted from 1961 to late 1974 and brought into our life the most wonderful, beautiful, lively and loveable young people imaginable (a description like that is OK to write because I know it is true). As I look back over those years I am filled with wonder and gratitude to the Lord for the torrents of blessing that He poured into Grace’s and my life through those young people, our spiritual children. They remain to this day beloved in our hearts – family. Of course it would not have been possible without Grace, the four founder members (13 year old girls) of the Grange Fellowship were all students of hers at the school where she was a French teacher. Grace was and always has been the perfect godly partner for me.  No one can convince me that God does not answer prayer!

Martin and Grace with our lovely Czech family Jan and Lada Kyslik and their sons Lucas and Mark

Martin and Grace with our lovely Czech family Jan and Lada Kyslik and their sons Lucas and Mark

God’s blessings certainly did not stop when He moved us in the mid 1970’s to British Columbia, Canada. The first tentative invitation was given to us as early as 1970 but it was not until 1974 that we believed the Lord was releasing us from our work in London. We came to the beautiful Fraser Valley, east of Vancouver, to the town of Abbotsford. I came to be the pastor of a country church named Prairie Chapel. Grace, in addition to being a partner with me in that ministry, went back to university for two years extra studies and then became head of the French department of a highly respected Christian school, founded in the 1930’s by Mennonite immigrants from Russia.

Martin with Don Dirks, a very close friend and retired missionary

Martin with Don Dirks, a very close friend and retired missionary

The people at Prairie Chapel were not just a congregation, they were a family and quickly became a family to and for us. We loved them and felt their love for us. The Lord had not finished yet. Within a few years, both Grace’s and my closest relatives in the UK moved to Canada and joined us here, so that we have nephews, nieces, great nephews and great nieces, as well as close friends who we regard as non-biological “family” members. I will not forget to mention that two members of the Grange Fellowship moved out here as well. Ann King was one of the original four and Janet Hitchcock, a teacher who became a close friend in England and moved here the same year we did.

Martin and Grace with Gail McKintuck, a close friend

Martin and Grace with Gail McKintuck, a close friend

Now retired (I really think that is a bit of a joke) we are so, so, so blessed by the gracious hand of our loving Heavenly Father. We are now members of Sevenoaks Alliance Church located in the town centre where we have many brothers and sisters in the Lord with whom we have a close and loving friendship.

He has over and over proved to us that, “He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

Martin with his birthday trifle

Martin with his birthday trifle

I agree with King David (although I don’t feel old the way he said he did) when he wrote, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken …” (Psalm 37:25)

God willing, Grace and I will celebrate our 57th wedding anniversary in July 2015 and we are both ready to handle as much more of life together as the Lord pleases and plans to give us until he takes us home.

Note: Should you be interested in reading more of our story, Grace has written extensively about her life and our life together and published it on her blog: There is too, the Grange Fellowship website, the link to which is:

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Margaret Wallace, member of the Grange Fellowship – at Home with the Lord on December 23rd 2014

The news that Margaret had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on December 23rd 2014 spread quickly via Facebook, emails and telephone calls, producing a reaction of shock wherever it was received. According to reports I have received, a lung infection increased in severity so swiftly that by the time she was admitted to hospital, medical personnel who treated her were not able to reverse her condition and within hours she had slipped away.

I know that I can safely say, on behalf of all members of the Grange Fellowship who knew her, we are profoundly saddened to lose her and we convey to her family and close circle of friends our sincere condolences.

I believe that Margaret’s connection with the Grange goes back, actually, to the 1960’s. We remember her as someone with a firm commitment to the Lord, His Gospel and His people – a reliable ambassador of the Lord Jesus.

She had a bright and sunny disposition, laughed easily, was quick witted and a “fun person.” This, despite the fact that, through the years, Margaret struggled with health issues of one kind or another, including some accidents that resulted in broken bones and damaged joints.

She had a big and generous heart and would not hesitate to help anyone in need who the Lord brought into the sphere of her life.

She worked in the financial industry and after a number of years doing this in London, she moved, in the early 1970’s to Toronto, Canada where she became a much valued member of the staff of one of Canada’s large banks, the Bank of Nova Scotia. In Toronto she met good Christian friends, in particular Harry and Joy Beylerian and their church, the Stone Church, became her spiritual home. She made a good living and enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle. During this time she took opportunities to explore Canada including taking the train from Toronto to the west coast, a journey of several days. Grace and I recall meeting that train when it pulled into the station at Mission, on the north side of the Fraser River, about five miles from our home at Abbotsford, forty five miles east of Vancouver. Leaning out of the window of one of the doors of the slowing train, her arms waving exuberantly and a beaming smile on her face, she was a complete ray of sunshine. She had a happy stay with us and before she left to return to Toronto (by ‘plane) she presented us with an expensive Lladro figurine. This, in our opinion, was way out of proportion to the hospitality we had extended to her – but that was Margaret; as I said above, big hearted and generous.

She was sensitive to the needs of others, particularly her own family. Although she had a secure future in Toronto she became concerned about the well-being of her parents. When her father became seriously unwell she made the decision to return to the UK to be with her parents. The return trip was done in style – she flew down to New York and completed her journey across the Atlantic to the UK in a British Airways Concorde.

Margaret Wallace with a Beefeater, a modern icon of the Tower of London - early November 2014.

Margaret Wallace with a Beefeater, a modern icon of the Tower of London – early November 2014.

She travelled extensively, not allowing health problems to interfere with the opportunity of adventure. This past autumn, she and her friend Anne Cannif spent a vacation in Spain. In early November she, Ann and another friend, Sheila Burroughes went to see the poppies at the Tower of London. Here is a picture of Margaret with a “Beefeater,” one of the modern icons of the Tower.

We certainly mourn her loss but, on the basis of the words and promises of our Lord Jesus and our gracious Heavenly Father, we know that Margaret is now with the Lord in the fullest and most permanent sense. Jesus said, “I go and prepare a place for you; I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” We are not saying a “forever goodbye” to Margaret, just a “see you later.”

Note: Many have added tributes/comments on Margaret’s Facebook page.

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Yvette (Carbonet) Regrain 1934-2013

En 2012,  mon amie française, Yvette (Carbonet) Regrain  que je connais depuis six decennies est décédée.  Ci-dessous, vous pouvez lire mon eulogie en Français et en Anglais avec plusieurs photos prises au fil des années.  J’ai envoyé cette eulogie à Marguerite, la sœur d’Yvette après avoir  reçu les nouvelles  tristes de sa mort imprevue.

During 2012, my lifelong  French friend Yvette (Carbonet) Regrain passed away.   Below I am posting my eulogy of her in  French and English along with some photos taken over six decades.  I sent this eulogy to Marguerite, Yvette’s sister after receiving the sad news about her unexpected death.

J’ai décidé de vous écrire tout d’abord, parce que c’est un moyen qui me convient mieux pour exprimer nos pensées et nos sentiments à l’annonce de la mort soudaine d’Yvette.  Nous avons été bouleversés de recevoir cette nouvelle.   Et je suis profondément reconnaissante à Jean-Yves d’avoir pensé à nous.

Mes très  chers amis, notre famille française, veuillez accepter nos condoléances les plus sincères.  Recevez nos pensées, nos prières et notre amour.  Les mots sont dérisoires  en de telles circonstances et je veux que vous sachiez combien nous vous aimons et vous apprécions.  Notre amitié est solide et durera l’éternité.    

Au fil des années, nous avons glané et nous gardons à tout jamais tant de souvenirs chaleureux et amusants d’Yvette et de  Dédé, qui était un homme enthousiaste et généreux,  et qui aimait Yvette d’un amour profond.

Je peux dire sans réserve qu’Yvette a complètement changé ma vie, plus qu’elle ne l’a sans doute jamais imaginé. Je suis entrée au lycée à l’âge de dix ans et demi au pays de Galles. C’est là que  j’ai commencé à étudier le français, qui n’était certainement pas mon cours préféré. La notion de genre était un concept tout à fait nouveau et indigeste pour moi – le fait que les mots français soient masculins ou féminins, sans parler des verbes irréguliers diaboliques et de la liste interminable d’exceptions à la règle !  Mais quand j’avais 12 ans, mon professeur nous a proposé de correspondre avec des élèves françaises. J’étais très heureuse de recevoir les coordonnées d’une certaine Yvette Carbonet ; je lui ai écrit tout de suite et elle m’a répondu immédiatement. À partir de ce moment historique, nous nous sommes écrit au moins deux fois par mois en échangeant des photos, des cartes postales et des cadeaux.  J’ai bientôt vite souhaité rencontrer ma correspondante  et mon intérêt grandissant pour le français est rapidement devenu une véritable passion. J’ai commencé à dévorer le dictionnaire français (pas littéralement !) ; je me plaisais à apprendre des expressions idiomatiques ; j’avais même des conversations imaginaires avec Yvette.

C'est la premiere photo que j'ai reçue d'Yvette (à droite) avec Marguerite en 1949 This is the first photo I received of Yvette (on the right) with Marguerite in 1949

C’est la premiere photo que j’ai reçue d’Yvette (à droite) avec Marguerite en 1949
This is the first photo I received of Yvette (on the right) with Marguerite in 1949

L’année de mes 13 ans, mon professeur de français, Mlle Thorne, redoutable mais remarquable enseignante, a  organisé un séjour d’initiation au ski de dix jours aux  Houches, dans la vallée de Chamonix.  J’ai annoncé à Yvette que nous allions passer par Paris et que nous aurions 3 heures d’attente à la gare St-Lazare. Par retour de courrier, Yvette a répondu qu’elle tenait à me voir et que son père offrait de la conduire de Montluçon à Paris, soit près de 340 kilomètres, pour que nous puissions nous rencontrer et passer quelques heures ensemble.

Nos familles, la mienne et celle d’Yvette, ont joué un rôle important et ont activement contribué au succès de notre amitié. Nous étions de milieux modestes, mais comme ils l’ont démontré à cette occasion et beaucoup d’autres, nos parents étaient prêts à tous les efforts pour nous aider et promouvoir notre éducation. Je mesure le sacrifice financier que représentait ce voyage pour mes parents. Et M. Carbonet n’avait pas hésité non plus à prendre la route en plein hiver pour permettre cette brève rencontre.

Grace, Marguerite et Yvette à Trafalgar Square à Londres,1952 Grace, Marguerite and Yvette in Trafalgar Square, London, 1952

Grace, Marguerite et Yvette à Trafalgar Square à Londres, 1952
Grace, Marguerite and Yvette in Trafalgar Square, London, 1952.

Cette première rencontre avec Yvette m’a enthousiasmée. Ce fut l’événement phare de ma visite en France.  Plus que jamais, je tenais à ce qu’Yvette vienne passer les grandes vacances chez nous.  En prévision de sa visite, je me suis investie à fond dans mes cours de français et je suis devenue l’élève la plus motivée de la classe – la plus motivée que Mlle Thorne ait connue de toute sa carrière. Je voulais parler français coûte que coûte, et je redoublais d’imagination pour atteindre mon objectif.  J’habitais une ville portuaire où accostaient régulièrement des bateaux français venus approvisionner en minerais de fer l’aciérie de Port Talbot, la plus grande aciérie d’Europe.  Il y avait très souvent des marins français qui flânaient le long de la rue principale de notre ville. Je n’hésitais jamais à entamer la conversation et à leur poser des questions générales en français. Peu à peu, j’ai gagné en confiance et en audace. Mes parents m’avaient bien avertie de ne jamais parler aux étrangers… mais la grand-rue était toujours très fréquentée et je ne courais aucun danger.

Grace et Yvette à Port Talbot, au Pays de Galles, 1952. Grace and Yvette in Port Talbot, Wales, 1952

Grace et Yvette à Port Talbot, au Pays de Galles, 1952.
Grace and Yvette in Port Talbot, Wales, 1952

De la même façon, je n’hésitais pas à entamer aussi la conversation avec un Breton qui faisait du porte-à-porte pour vendre ses chapelets d’oignons.  Yves, son frère Louis , leurs epouses et leurs enfants vivaient six mois en Bretagne à leur ferme où  ils cultivaient des oignons et six mois au Pays de Galles où ils les vendaient.  Yves m’a invitée chez lui pour rencontrer sa famille et dès cette époque, je passais souvent le samedi matin avec ces Bretonnes à leur parler tandis qu’elles préparaient les chapelets d’oignons.    Autant d’occasions  d’améliorer mon français. Tous les jours, avant d’aller au lycée, j’écoutais Radio Luxembourg, qui diffusait les chansons françaises populaires des années cinquante : La Mer, Les Feuilles Mortes, Clopin-clopant, Mexico, Le Fiacre et le répertoire de Piaf, Yves Montand, Tino Rossi etc. J’achetais ensuite les disques phonographiques que je passais à notre phonographe antique! Puis je demandais à Yvette de me procurer les paroles de mes chansons préférées. Toujours généreuse, elle m’envoyait les partitions – paroles et musique. Je pouvais donc les apprendre par cœur et les chanter en m’accompagnant au piano.  C’est Yvette qui m’a aidée et encouragée à améliorer mon français.  Sans elle je n’aurais jamais atteint mon but. Elle était mon inspiration. Elle m’a fait aimer et apprécier la  France et tout ce qui est français.  Je l’entends  encore fredonner “Quand nous chanterons le temps des cerises.”

En1952, mon rêve s’est réalisé. J’étais aux anges. J’ai pris le train toute seule pour Londres pour accueillir Yvette et sa sœur Marguerite en gare de Victoria.  Une amie londonienne de mes parents nous a invitées toutes les trois à passer quelques jours chez elle et nous a servi de guide.  Après un séjour très intéressant, nous avons pris le train pour le pays de Galles, où mes parents nous attendaient impatiemment.  Marguerite est partie chez sa correspondante, mais ne s’y est pas sentie à l’aise ; mes parents l’ont donc invitée à rejoindre sa sœur chez nous.

Grace, Marguerite et Yvette au jardin des Franklin, 1952 Grace, Marguerite and  Yvette in the Franklin garden, 1952

Grace, Marguerite et Yvette au jardin des Franklin, 1952
Grace, Marguerite and Yvette in the Franklin garden, 1952.

Comment décrire la joie et  le plaisir de ces six semaines passées ensemble ! Nous nous sommes formidablement bien entendues et ce fut le début d’une amitié qui nous lie aujourd’hui encore. Nous n’avions pas d’automobile ; mon père emmenait Yvette et Marguerite à tour de rôle sur sa moto. Mes parents les ont chaleureusement reçues et se sont vite pris d’affection pour ces deux gentilles petites Françaises.

En 1953, j’ai eu le bonheur de passer plusieurs semaines à Montlucon.  Je n’aurais pu souhaiter mieux.

Yvette avec ma mère, 1952. Yvette with my mother, 1952.

Yvette avec ma mère, 1952.
Yvette with my mother, 1952.

Tout comme mes parents l’avaient fait pour leurs filles, M. et Mme Carbonet m’ont chaleureusement accueillie et m’ont offert des vacances gravées à jamais dans ma mémoire.

Tous les dimanches, à midi, la troupe des Troubadours  Montluçonnais dirigée par Gaston Riviere presentait ses spectacles de danses et de musiques traditionnelles dans toute la région. Yvette et Marguerite faisaient partie des danseurs et Yvette jouait de la vielle.

Pour moi, c’était une expérience unique et je me réjouissais de les voir évoluer,  les femmes surtout, dans leurs costumes pittoresques et leurs coiffes exquises.

Yvette, Grace, Marguerite 1953

C'est la maison d'Yvette et de Marguerite où j'ai passé un mois formidable en 1953. This is Yvette and Marguerite's where I spent a marvellous month in 1953

C’est la maison d’Yvette et de Marguerite où j’ai passé un mois formidable en 1953.
This is Yvette and Marguerite’s where I spent a marvellous month in 1953.

La troupe dansait souvent sur des estrades de bois  ou des pavés et le bruit des sabots marquait la cadence.  Je savourais chaque instant.  J’ai gardé précieusement les disques que j’ai rapportés de ce voyage et je peux encore les écouter sur mon vieux phonographe. Gaston Rivière était un musicien exceptionnel qui fabriquait lui-même des vielles ; un homme charismatique, qui  était véritablement l’âme et le cœur de tels événements. Quelle expérience incroyable pour une Galloise !  Yvette et

Les Troubadours Bourbonnais habillés en costume traditionnel  The Bourbonnais Troubadours dressed in traditional costume

Les Troubadours Bourbonnais habillés en costume traditionnel.
The Bourbonnais Troubadours dressed in traditional costume.

moi sommes également allées à Oradour-sur-Glane,  qui a laissé une marque indélébile dans mon âme. J’aime Montluçon et je serai éternellement reconnaissante pour tout ce que les Carbonet ont fait pour moi.

Yvette avait deux ans de plus que Marguerite et moi. Elle a donc terminé ses études secondaires  avant nous. Elle est partie travailler à Paris, tandis que Marguerite et moi sommes devenues professeurs – moi de français et Marguerite d’anglais, bien évidemment.

1953,  Daniel, Marguerite, Gaston Rivières, Yvette et Grace 1953,  Daniel, Marguerite, Gaston Rivières, Yvette and Grace

1953, Daniel, Marguerite, Gaston Rivières, Yvette et Grace.
1953, Daniel, Marguerite, Gaston Rivières, Yvette and Grace.

Après une année d’enseignement, j’ai épousé Martin et j’avais hâte de lui faire découvrir la France. En 1959, nous sommes partis en moto ; nous avons d’abord passé une semaine chez Yvette et son mari  Dédé à Lagny-sur-Marne dans leur appartement joliment meublé.  Puis, Marguerite est venue nous rejoindre pour nous faire découvrir Paris, Fontainebleau et Versailles. Après une semaine très intéressante et très agréable, Marguerite, Yvette et moi sommes parties en voiture pour Montluçon, tandis que  Martin et Dédé suivaient en moto.  Un bel accueil français nous attendait. J’étais conquise

Le mariage d'Yvette et de Dédé Yvette and Dédé's wedding

Le mariage d’Yvette et de Dédé.
Yvette and Dédé’s wedding.

par la cuisine française, mais j’avais peine à boire  le vin de table, « vinaigre » pour mes papilles galloises, auquel  j’ajoutais du sucre, comble d’horreur pour M. Carbonet ; lequel, comble d’horreur pour moi, versait quant à lui du vin dans sa soupe…  Des us et coutumes, il ne faut point discuter.  Mme Carbonet prenait un malin plaisir à m’enseigner des petites chansons ou des adages un peu coquins, que j’étais invitée à réciter et à chanter chaque fois qu’il y avait des invités.

En 1960, Yvette, Dédé et Marguerite sont venus passer quelques semaines chez nous. C’était la première visite de Dédé et  nous les avons donc emmenés voir les sites historiques de Londres, ainsi que Windsor. Mais Yvette et Marguerite

Les premières vacances en France de Martin en 1959

Les premières vacances en France de Martin en 1959.

restaient très attachées au pays de Galles, et nous sommes donc retournés à Port Talbot. Les retrouvailles  avec mes parents ont été fantastiques. Nous n’avons jamais perdus de vue nos amis français ; Marguerite a épousé  Georges Renon, qui enseignait l’anglais, lui aussi.  Une année, les Renon et leur toute petite Sylviane sont venus chez nous à Londres. Ils ont fait plusieurs séjours en Grande-Bretagne au fil des années et nous sommes retournés plusieurs fois à Montluçon pour revoir nos chers amis. En

Yvette, Grace et Marguerite à Londres en 1960 Yvette, Grace and Marguerite in  London in 1960

Yvette, Grace et Marguerite à Londres en 1960.
Yvette, Grace and Marguerite in London in 1960.

 1990, en route vers la République Tchèque, nous sommes d’abord passés par Montluçon, et George et Marguerite nous ont gentiment prêté leur Citroën pour faire ce voyage. Au retour, nous nous sommes donné une autre occasion de séjourner chez eux et de revoir Yvette et Dédé.

Martin et moi avons émigré au Canada en 1975. En 1979, les Renon, les Regrain et Mme Carbonet ont pu passer les grandes vacances à Vancouver,  à une heure de route de chez nous. À notre tour, nous leur avons prêté un de nos véhicules pour leur permettre de découvrir les États-Unis – la région Ouest, Disneyland en Californie et le Grand Canyon en Arizona, notamment.

Dédé, Yvette, Grace, Mam et Marguerite au Pays de Galles en 1960. Dédé, Yvette, Grace, Mam and Marguerite in Wales in 1960.

Dédé, Yvette, Grace, Mam et Marguerite au Pays de Galles en 1960.
Dédé, Yvette, Grace, Mam and Marguerite in Wales in 1960.

Marguerite et moi partageons des intérêts communs, par notre parcours d’enseignantes tout d’abord. Parce que nous avions nous-mêmes bénéficié d’un programme d’échange, nous avons tenu à ce que nos élèves puissent profiter de la même expérience.  La première fois, j’enseignais le français à Chiswick, à Londres.  J’ai envoyé la liste et le profil d’une trentaine de mes élèves à Marguerite, qui s’est chargée de leur trouver des correspondantes françaises. À l’époque, Martin et moi possédions un autobus appelé ‘Blodwen’ qui servait au transport de notre groupe de  jeunes chrétiens.  Ce bus a fait l’aller-retour entre la France et la Grande-Bretagne.

Yvette, Dédé, Martin, Grace 1953

Yvette, Dédé, Martin, Grace 1953.

Martin au volant, il a transporté mon groupe d’élèves jusqu’à Paris, puis à Montluçon, ma ville française préférée, riche en souvenirs inoubliables. Cet échange fut un succès retentissant et nous a permis de passer 2 semaines chez les Renon, et de retrouver Yvette et Dédé.

En 1981, le deuxième programme d’échange a réuni mes élèves canadiennes et celles de Marguerite. Nous avons pu une fois de plus revoir Yvette, Marguerite et leurs familles respectives. Après notre rencontre initiale, notre relation avec Yvette et toute sa famille a évolué à l’image d’un petit caillou jeté dans un étang, et qui engendre toute une série d’ondes, de cercles qui s’étendent de proche en proche, jusqu’à couvrir toute la surface de l’eau.

Yvette avec son fils Marc Yvette with her son Marc

Yvette avec son fils Marc.
Yvette with her son Marc.

Mon rêve s’est réalisé grâce à Yvette. Et, vous l’aurez compris, il a grandi et s’est développé à partir « d’un petit caillou dans l’étang » jusqu’à toucher ma vie entière.  Je remercie Dieu de m’avoir donné le privilège de faire la connaissance d’Yvette et sa famille, il y a bien longtemps.  Comme le disait souvent Marguerite, « C’est la Providence » (une petite plaisanterie entre nous), parce qu’elle savait que nous n’y voyions pas de coïncidences, mais les points d’incidence de Dieu.

Nous avons vu Yvette pour la dernière fois en 2008. À l’occasion de notre 50e anniversaire de mariage, après avoir voyagé en Egypte et en Israël, nous avons voulu revenir à Montluçon avant de repartir au Canada.

Yvette et/and Grace 2008

Yvette et/and Grace 2008.

C’était une année seulement après la mort de Dédé et Yvette vivait encore dans un chagrin profond. Quelque chose en elle s’était éteint, et la vie semblait avoir perdu son sens. Sa douleur nous a fait beaucoup de peine.  Il y a quelques mois, j’avais écrit à Marguerite pour les inviter, Yvette et elle. Nous aurions tellement aimé les accueillir chez nous.

Mes très chers amis, nous vous renouvelons toutes nos condoléances. Vous êtes dans nos pensées et nous partageons votre peine.

Adieu Yvette, ma chère sœur française, je ne t’oublierai jamais.

Grace et Martin


 I decided to write to you first because it is easier to express my thoughts and my feelings regarding Yvette’s sudden death.  I was deeply saddened to receive the news, thanks to Jean-Yves, to whom I am deeply grateful.

My dear French friends, our French family, we want to offer you our most sincere condolences.  We want to assure you that you are in our thoughts, hearts and prayers.  Words can never adequately express our heartfelt sympathies and love for you all at this difficult time.  We have a solid friendship which will last as long as God gives us breath.  Over many decades, we have enjoyed so many warm and funny memories. It was wonderful when Dédé came into our lives; he was a generous and enthusiastic man who passionately loved his wife Yvette.  He and Martin got on so well together in spite of the language barrier; fortunately Martin has studied French in school but never had the opportunity to use it before meeting Dédé.

I can say without reservation that Yvette changed my life completely although she would never have thought so. I began to attend high school in Wales at the age of ten and half where I began to learn French.  In the first two years, French was certainly not my favorite subject. A really new concept for me in French was that all nouns are masculine or feminine which I disliked, and then those diabolical French irregular verbs which have so many exceptions.   However, when I was 12 years of age, my French teacher asked my class if we were interested in having French pen friends.  I was very happy to receive the name and address of a certain Yvette Carbonet and I immediately wrote to her and she replied by return of post.  This was a historic moment and it would forever shape my life. We wrote to each other almost every week and sent each other photos, post cards of our town and country and gifts.  As our friendship developed, I was determined to meet my correspondent one day in the future and my interest in French was ignited and quickly became a consuming passion. I began to devour the French dictionary (not literally!); I liked learning idiomatic expressions and I even used to have imaginary conversations with Yvette.

When I was 13 years of age my French teacher Miss Thorne, who was a veritable dragon but excellent teacher, organised a ten day winter holiday in a little village in the French Alps called Les Houches, not very far from Chamonix. The intention was that we would have skiing lessons. I wrote to Yvette to tell her that we were going to pass through Paris where we had a 3 hour wait at Gare St. Lazare.  By return of mail, Yvette told me that she would like to see me and that her father had offered to drive her to Paris which was approximately 200 miles from her home in Montluçon, just simply so that we could meet each other and spend these hours together.

My parents and Yvette’s played an important role in this whole scenario and contributed a lot to the success of our friendship. They were ready to do whatever it took to help us and to encourage us concerning our education and this was certainly part of it.  Both our parents were working class and I so appreciate the sacrifice my parents made to finance this event. Then it was obvious that the Carbonets were willing to go the extra mile too so that their daughter and I could meet for just a brief time.  It was December which meant that Mr. Carbonet would have to make this long journey in winter conditions.  On this occasion and many more, our parents demonstrated a real commitment to us in our education.

I was so excited to meet Yvette and it was the highlight of my first visit to France. After meeting Yvette, even more than ever, I wanted her to come to my home for a long summer holiday.  In the meantime, I was totally focused on learning French and I ended up becoming the most motivated girl in my class.  Years after my French teacher retired, she told my husband Martin that throughout her entire teaching career, she never had another student who was so passionate about French. I wanted to speak French so badly and so I found different means to accomplish it.  I lived in a seaside town where ships regularly brought cargo and, French boats in particular arrived loaded with iron ore, a mineral which was necessary to make steel.  In Port Talbot there were numerous industries including the largest steel plant in Europe. French sailors could be seen very often strolling down the main street in our town.  Every time I saw a sailor, I couldn’t resist initiating a conversation by asking him some prepared general questions in French and each time I did this I became more confident and even bolder. My parents had always advised me never to speak to strangers but the main street was always very busy and it was completely safe.

Another way for me to practice French was by talking to a Breton onion seller who used to go door to door to sell strings of French onions.  Two brothers, Yves and Louis, married two sisters and six months out of every year, they lived in my town.  They spoke good English but with a delightful strong Welsh accent which was so charming.  I spent a lot of Saturday mornings with their wives, who didn’t speak English, because they spent all day stringing the onions and while they worked, I had the opportunity to improve my French.    Then every morning before going to school, I listened to Radio Luxemburg, where I heard all the most recent popular songs of the ‘50s such as La Mer, Les Feuilles Mortes, Clopin Clopan, Mexico, Le Fiacre and songs of Edith Piaf, Yves Montand,Tino Rossi etc. I bought a lot of French gramophone records and played them on our gramophone. Whenever I heard a French song that I liked I used to write to Yvette to ask her if she could send me words of these songs. Once again she went the extra mile and bought me sheet music which included the words and music. In this way, I learned them by heart and was able to play them on the piano while I sang.  It was Yvette who helped me and encouraged me to improve my French.  Without her, I would never have accomplished my goal.  She was my inspiration that made me love and appreciate French, France and all things French. I can still hear her singing ‘Quand nous chanterons les temps des cerises”.

In 1952, my dream was finally realised.  The day came when I went to London on my own to meet Yvette and her sister Marguerite at Victoria Station in London.  I was on cloud nine.

A friend of my parents who lived in London invited Yvette, Marguerite and me to spend a few days at her home so that Marguerite and Yvette could visit the main London sites and she was our guide. After a very interesting stay, we went by train to Wales where my parents were eagerly waiting for us.  Marguerite went to the home of her pen friend but never felt at ease there, so my mother invited her to come and be with her sister.  I cannot describe the fun we enjoyed during those 6 weeks.  We got on so well together and this was the beginning of a friendship which has lasted up to the present. My father used to take Yvette and Marguerite in turn for rides on his motorbike.  We didn’t possess a car. My parents welcomed them heartily and quickly fell in love with these two lovely French teenagers.

In 1953, it was my joy to spend several weeks in Montluçon; I could never have wished for a better or more wonderful family. Just like my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Carbonet welcomed me warmly and made my holiday one that I would never forget.  Even today I can reflect on my first visit and still remember so many marvellous details.  Every Sunday, at noon the Montluçon Troubadours led by Gaston Rivière used to go to different towns in the area where they danced their traditional dances and also sang folk songs. Yvette and Marguerite were among the dancers of this group and Yvette played the ‘vielle’.  For me it was a completely unique and delightful experience.  I enjoyed watching them dance, the women in particular, stunningly dressed in colourful costumes with the most exquisite hats.  They often danced on boards or stone and the sound of the clogs would rhythmically resonate. I savoured every moment and I still possess several gramophone records of this special music; the drone of the ‘cornemuse’ (bagpipes) and the unique sound of the ‘vielle’ (hurdy gurdy). Gaston Riviere was such a gifted musician and made and sold ‘vielles’; he was a charismatic character and was the heart and soul of the party.  What an incredible experience for a Welsh girl!  Yvette and I also visited Oradour which was a very moving experience and it left an indelible mark on my soul. I love Montluçon and will be ever thankful for everything that the Carbonets did for me.

Yvette was 2 years older than Marguerite and me and therefore she finished her secondary education 2 years earlier than we did and went to live and work in Paris.  Subsequently she married Déde Regrain who had courted her for some years in Montluçon.  During this time Marguerite and I became teachers and guess what subject I taught?  Yes, that’s right – French and Marguerite, who was competent in English, became an English teacher.  After my first year teaching, I married Martin and I couldn’t wait to take him to France for the first time. So one year later, in 1959, we went there by motorcycle and spent one week at Yvette and Dédé’s well furnished and compact apartment in Lagny sur Marne. Marguerite came there to join us so that she could take us to see the famous sights of Paris. When the time came for us to go to Montluçon, Marguerite, Yvette and I travelled in Marguerite’s car and Martin and Déde went by motorcycle.  A big, warm French welcome awaited us.  I loved all French food but was unable to like “le vin ordinaire.” It was like drinking vinegar and even worse.  The only way I was able to drink it was by adding a lot of sugar.  Mr. Carbonet was totally shocked at this, as I was when I saw him pouring wine into his soup!  Mrs. Carbonet loved teaching me to recite or sing some adages which were funny but a little naughty.  When anyone came to her home she was eager for me to recite or sing them to everyone.  It probably sounded cuter and funnier to hear a foreigner saying such things.

In 1960 Yvette, Dédé and Marguerite came for a holiday to our home. It was Dédé’s first visit to London and Wales. We took them to see the historic places of London as well as Windsor. According to Yvette and Marguerite, it was Wales that they liked most of all, so after their stay in our home we all drove to Port Talbot to my parents’ home and everyone was so happy to be together again. We have always remained in contact with our French friends. Marguerite married George Renon, also an English teacher and they lived in Montluçon and held teaching posts in schools there.  One year when Sylviane (Georges and Marguerite’s firstborn) was still a baby, Marguerite and George came to our home to London.  From time to time we have returned to Montluçon to see these dear friends. In 1990, we wanted to visit the Czech Republic but we decided to go to Montluçon first and George and Marguerite kindly loaned us their Citroën so that we could drive from their town to the Czech Republic.  Again we managed to find another reason to spend time with them and with Yvette and Dédé.

Martin and I immigrated to Canada in 1975 and in about 1979 there was an opportunity for the Renons, the Regrains and Mrs. Carbonet to come to Vancouver.  I think they rented a house because there were so many of them.  They were only an hour’s drive away from us so we were able to spend time with them.  We were able to loan them one of our cars so that they could tour the western U.S including places like Disneyland in California and the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Marguerite and I especially share mutual interests because we are both teachers.  When we were teenagers we had benefitted from a student exchange programme so we wanted to provide the same opportunity for our students. The first time that we organised such an exchange I lived and taught French in Chiswick, London.  I sent a list of the names of about 30 of my students who were interested in participating in this project together with their profiles. Then Marguerite put them in pairs according to their personalities and interests.  At that time, Martin and I possessed a bus which served as transportation for members of our Christian youth group. This became the means of travel for my students to France and back. We went first to Paris and then on to Montluçon We still enjoy looking at photographs we took on that trip which include a photo of the bus in front of the Eiffel Tower and another by a large sign that announced that we were entering  Montluçcon.  This exchange was an enormous success and it offered us the opportunity to spend 2 weeks in Marguerite and George’s home and of course time to spend with Yvette and Dédé.The second student exchange took place in 1981 between my Canadian students and those of Marguerite; it was history repeating itself and provided us yet again with an excuse to see Yvette, Marguerite and families!  My initial contact and developing relationship with Yvette and her whole family was rather like the throwing of a stone in a pond which creates ripples that move outward in all directions, covering the entire surface of the pond.  My dream came into being with Yvette, and I am sure you can see how it grew and grew from that “one small stone in the pond” until it affected my entire life.  I thank God for giving me the opportunity to become a pen friend with Yvette back all those decades ago.   As Marguerite used to say with a twinkle in her eye, “It’s Providence,” (a little joke between us) because she knew that we never believed in coincidences but saw everything as God’s incidents.

The last time we saw Yvette was in 2008; it was our 50th wedding anniversary. After travelling to Egypt and Israel, before returning to Canada we spent two weeks in Montluçon so that we could see our friends again.  At that time, Yvette was still deeply grieving the loss of her beloved Dédé who had passed away a year before.  It seemed as if the light had gone out of her eyes and life had lost its meaning.  It really saddened us to see her like that.   I wrote to Marguerite a number of months ago inviting her and Yvette to come to our home for a visit so that we could spoil them a little but it wasn’t to be.

We will continue to pray for you that you will find the strength to overcome the pain you are presently feeling .

Goodbye my dearest  French sister Yvette, I shall never forget you.

Grace and Martin

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Joy Johnson – a remarkable lady

Like me you perhaps have not heard of Joy Johnson before.  If you are a keen follower of marathon running you possibly/probably know about her.

A friend of mine who lives in California sent me an article about Joy Johnson that appeared in the San Jose (Joy Johnson’s hometown) Mercury News a couple of days ago.  I found the story touching, inspiring, contemporary and bitter sweet.  I think it will move you as it did me.  I sent an email earlier today to Mark Memmons, the journalist who wrote the article and asked if I might post it on our blog.  His reply was prompt and positive and suggested I provide a link to the article.  However, I found the link no longer functions.  I will give you the link nevertheless (it might work for you) but I will also paste in the article:

SAN JOSE — Just like she did every year, Joy Johnson finished the New York City Marathon Sunday (November 3rd 2013). The following morning she stationed herself outside the “Today” show where weatherman Al Roker, as always, looked for her and let the Willow Glen resident display her finisher’s medal to a national audience.

Joy Johnson-1But afterward Johnson, an 86-year-old retired P.E. teacher who was renowned in the worldwide running community for her marathon prowess, became ill at her hotel and was taken to a New York hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Her daughter, Diana Boydston, said the family is still piecing together the details of Johnson’s last day.

SJMN_NTPHANNON“What’s keeping us going right now is that she was doing what she loved,” Boydston said Tuesday. “She wanted to die with her running shoes on, and she did.”

Boydston said her mother apparently fell and hit her head Sunday around the 20-mile mark of the famous marathon. But she got up and completed the race — for the 25th consecutive time. Then she made sure she was waiting for Roker first thing Monday morning.

Johnson was the oldest female finisher at a race that attracted more than 50,000 entrants. Chris Weiller, spokesman for the New York Road Runners, said Johnson also was a member of the prestigious “streakers” — a tightknit group of runners who have completed 15 or more consecutive New York City Marathons.

“We’re just so sad to hear about her passing,” Weiller added. “She was an inspiration to everyone. We’re really feeling her loss here.”

Johnson, who grew up on a Minnesota dairy farm and landed in San Jose, was a well-liked and recognizable figure among South Bay runners with her bright smile and white hair tied neatly in a bun. She never understood the fuss made over her at races, and was a little star-struck when the media discovered her after she turned 80, highlighting her rare endurance running ability, including in a lengthy 2008 profile in this newspaper.

“So many people work harder than me and are so much better,” Johnson said back then. “I just try to do the best that I can.”

She didn’t begin running until retiring from teaching at age 56. When a friend suggested they attempt the 1988 New York City Marathon, a passion was born.

“When I crossed that finish line in Central Park, I just knew this is what I would do the rest of my life,” Johnson said in 2008. “Running makes you feel good. It’s energizing. You sleep better at night. And the best part for me is you can eat anything you want.”

Still, Boydston sometimes worried about her mother’s love of running the 26.2-mile races.

“I live with her, so I would see the 86-year-old woman who struggled to walk late at night,” she said. “But then in the morning, she would stretch a bit, eat some oatmeal, go to the track and then suddenly she was 32.”

Johnson traveled last week to Minnesota to meet up with her sister, Faith Anderson, 83, before they continued on to New York.

The New York Daily News reported that in a pre-race interview Johnson said she proudly would be running at her own pace.

“I’ll be at the back of the pack, but I don’t mind,” she said. “I just praise the Lord I can get out of bed each morning and run. A lot of people my age are in wheelchairs.”

Boydston said she followed her mother’s progress in the race online and knew that she completed the course in 7 hours, 57 minutes and 41 seconds — a slow time by her standard. It was only later that Boydston learned from her aunt about the fall. Weiller, the race spokesman, said medical personnel examined Johnson after she crossed the finish line.

“She was alert, in good spirits and said a nice person had helped her up,” he said. “She declined to go to the hospital for further evaluation.”

It’s unclear if Johnson’s fall was related to her death.

The next morning, she was well enough for her annual chat with Roker, where she wore a scarf and held a rose. Her medal hung around her neck. There also was a bandage on the right side of her face and head.

Back at their hotel room, Johnson told her sister she wasn’t feeling well and needed to lie down. She never woke up.

Since then, Boydston said she has been fielding calls from around the country, and even further away.

“I had somebody from Paris call, and I don’t think she ever went there,” Boydston said. “But she makes friends wherever she goes.”

Boydston then caught herself speaking about her mother in the present tense, and began to choke up.

“This is how my mother wanted to live her life,” she added. “I think she’s probably looking down now and saying, ‘Yeah, that’s the way I wanted it.’ “

Services are being planned in Minnesota, and a service will be held later in San Jose.

Mark Memmons – San Jose Mercury News.  Material used with permission

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Summer 2013

Note: Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.  Click the “back” button to return to the main format.

The “dog days of summer” are now with us.  By that term is meant those hot, sultry days that are typical of the second half of summer, (second half of July, August and early September, in the Northern Hemisphere, second half of January, February and early March in the Southern Hemisphere).  The Romans believed that this hot, sultry period was due to the influence of the star Sirius, the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog) and that made Sirius the “dog star.”  However, the term “dog days” was used earlier in history by the Greeks.

The summer of 2013 here in the Fraser Valley, located in the south west corner of British Columbia, Canada is shaping up as the hottest, driest, sunniest summer on record.  The upside of this is that we have enjoyed the continuous sunny, blue skies and warm temperatures.  Events planned for the outdoors have therefore taken place without the risk of rain to dampen things and the general mood of the population has been upbeat.  The downside of such a summer is that the lack of rain has been a challenge at times to those in the agriculture industry, increasing the need for irrigation.  As well as the large farms, the modest gardens and lawns of the average householder have been affected.  The City of Abbotsford, where we live, had to put water use restrictions in place to ensure that water would be available for higher priority needs.  The watering of lawns by sprinklers has been restricted to twice a week, on specified days and only between the hours of 5:00am and 8:00am.  The result is that the vast majority of lawns, including our own have, this year, not been proudly displaying the usual, luscious BC green but instead, Californian brown.

In our vegetable area I planted produce as usual but it has required daily and disciplined watering in order to keep things going.  There is no restriction on watering provided one is actually holding the hose when it is being done so more time than usual has been taken up keeping things well irrigated.

As is our custom, we have maintained seed and suet block feeders for the wild birds, some of whom are all year round residents and others are the migrant song birds who fly up from the south to spend summer here.  The humming bird feeder is also kept freshly supplied with nectar for the beautiful little “hummers” that are a delight.

I have put together a collection of pictures below to give you an idea of what happens in our yard, garden and community during the summer.  By the way, in Canada the word “garden” indicates an area in which only vegetables are grown; the word “yard” refers to everything else – lawns, flower beds, rockeries etc.  Most of the pictures were taken by myself but in some cases, e.g. some bird pictures, I have imported from other sources.  Another thing before I start the picture show – the collection of photographs contains some that were taken in earlier years, not just 2013.

As all gardeners know, spring is an important time of preparation.  This consists of spreading compost or manure, application of lime and fertilizer.  The time also comes for us when we must go to a local nursery and purchase supplies, including hanging baskets and small plants to transplant.  Here is a picture of one of two hanging baskets of fuchsias that have hung in our front porch throughout the summer.

Fuchsia Basket in our front porch

Fuchsia Basket in our front porch

The Rockery-1

The Rockery-1

The Rockery-2

The Rockery-2

These are pictures of our rockery that has matured over the years.

The "Garden" - where vegetables are grown

The “Garden” – where vegetables are grown

This 8’ x 16’ vegetable patch never fails to provide us with a good supply of home grown vegetables.  We vary each year what we grow to some extent but scarlet runner (pole) beans are a regular favourite.  Grace blanches and freezes enough so that we are able to enjoy them right through the winter.  We have had very good success with potted tomato plants on the sundeck and are thinking we shall grow four plants in containers next year and not plant any in the vegetable patch.

 Last year we decided to build a raised flower bed next to the north side of our house so that we could grow some fuchsia plants.  They are shade loving plants and it seemed a good location.  We bought and planted seven small plants which settled in and gave us a modest display of flowers.  At the end of the season I followed the instructions given to me at the nursery to help the plants remain healthy through the winter (I’ll spare you the details – write and ask if you want to know).  This summer, their second season, they have exceeded all expectations that we had for them and have been truly magnificent, as the two following pictures show.

Bed of Fuchsia Plants "Santa Claus"

Bed of Fuchsia Plants “Santa Claus”

Blooms of Fuchsia Plant "Santa Claus"

Blooms of Fuchsia Plant “Santa Claus”

Fruit ripening on the Tomato Plants

Fruit ripening on the Tomato Plants

Growing Tomatoes in Containers on the Sundeck

Growing Tomatoes in Containers on the Sundeck

We are now beginning to harvest the tomatoes as well as the scarlet runner beans.  The rhubarb is finished and quite a supply is frozen in the freezer for future use.  Carrots, beets and parsnips will be ready later.

Hydranger Bush in full bloom

Hydranger Bush in full bloom

This hydrangea grows in the middle of our front lawn and the picture was not taken this year.  The poor thing has struggled in the continuous heat of 2013.

I must tell you that the next two pictures were not taken on our property, but within the family nevertheless.  Our next door neighbours are our nephew Huw and family.  His wife Pam planted this Hibiscus bush a few years ago when it was a small plant, straight out of the nursery and it has been more beautiful every year.  This year it is magnificent so I decided I would share it with you so you can enjoy it as we have.

Hibiscus Bush

Hibiscus Bush

Hibiscus bloom

Hibiscus bloom

A few years ago I planted some dahlia plants in the rockery and the display we had was really lovely.  I took some pictures and thought I would include one of a particularly lovely bloom.  Due to the expansion of the other occupying perennials of the rockery I have not been able to grow dahlias there since.

Dahlia bloom

Dahlia bloom

Now I want to turn our attention to our cute and delightful little feathered friends.  As I mentioned above, some are permanent residents so we look after them through the winter too.  One of the early signs that we have that winter is beginning its departure is the evidence of bird migration.  We often hear it before we see it.  Huge flocks of migrating geese, swans and other species can be seen and heard.  The honking of the geese or swans is often the first thing that gets our attention and we will go out on the sun deck and look up.  There we see the beautiful “V” formations heading north to their Arctic breeding grounds, flock members carefully keeping their places in the formation.  I wonder about the honking.  Are they chatting to each other or are the honks orders from the leaders in connection with the journey or a slight change of course coming up?  I have to tell you we never cease to be filled with wonder as we behold this incredible sight.  I regret that I do not have a picture to share.

Down on the ground, one of the earliest arrivals is the north American Robin, who can be seen locally as early as late February.  The Robin is carnivorous, worms being a staple in its diet so we do not see it at our feeder.  But, after digging the vegetable area the Robins will come and rummage there looking for worms.  I do not have a picture.  At the time that we begin welcoming the spring and summer arrivals we actually say a temporary farewell to the Junco, which spends its winter here but goes north for the summer.  The Juncos return late September.



Black Capped Chickadee

Black Capped Chickadee

The Chickadee is a charming little bird.  For a wild bird it can be quite tame and I am told that if one is willing to put in the time and patience it will take seed right out of one’s hand.  Its name derives from its call – “Chickadee dee dee.”



North American Goldfinches fly up from the south.  The males have a bright, canary yellow plumage in the summer.  The females not so – they do not want a splash of colour to attract attention while they are sitting on their eggs.  The males lose their bright yellow livery for the winter.

Two Goldfinches and a Brood of Pine Siskins

Two Goldfinches and a Brood of Pine Siskins

Pine Siskins are members of the finch family, about the same size as the Goldfinch.  They commonly flock together.

A Black Headed Grosbeak

A Black Headed Grosbeak

The Black Headed Grosbeak is a very attractive bird that spends winter in southern California and Mexico and comes north for the summer.  They have been daily visitors to our feeder for a number of years now.  Again, the plumage of the male is striking, that of the female much more suitable as a camouflage while sitting on her eggs.

Two Black Headed Grosbeaks and three Goldfinches

Two Black Headed Grosbeaks and three Goldfinches

The picture shows three male Goldfinches and a male Grosbeak (left) and a female Grosbeak (right) foraging in the grass underneath one of our seed feeders where some seeds have fallen.  The purple flowers are chives.

Two Northern Flickers

Two Northern Flickers

Northern Flickers are large woodpeckers with striking, speckled plumage.  Their main diet consists of small insects like ants and beetles but they also enjoy sunflower seeds and therefore are regular visitors to our feeders.  Compared to the little finches they are huge but we have never seen any signs of aggression towards the smaller birds.  They often feed happily together.  In the spring the males mark out their territories, and attract the attention of females with “drum rolls” on metallic objects like furnace stacks on the roofs of houses.  Some years ago we were awakened at 5:00am one spring morning by what sounded like the loud ring of a telephone.  It was a Flicker on our furnace stack.  He did the same thing on the tops of all the metal street lamps on our street.

A House Sparrow

A House Sparrow

The friendly, cheeky House Sparrows are not indigenous to North America but were introduced here by early European settlers.  They are used to living around humans and are seen mainly in urban areas and only rarely out in the country.  At the time of writing this blog post (late August) our feeder is thronged daily by House Sparrows with their new fledgling families.

A Spotted Towhee

A Spotted Towhee

Here is another very attractive bird.  The Towhee is actually a member of the sparrow family and is an all year round resident, so we have them visiting our feeder through the winter.

A Red Winged Blackbird

A Red Winged Blackbird

The Red Winged Blackbird is a pretty bird and has a protective quality in its character.  By that, I mean that when it spots a creature it considers may constitute a threat it issues warnings to any birds nearby.  When I take a container of fresh seed out to the feeders I approach slowly, so as not to give a sudden fright to any birds that are there.  If a Red Winged Blackbird is there it immediately begins warning the other birds to be careful because a human, who may not be friendly, has just appeared.  It builds its nest in the reeds that grow around the edges of lakes and ponds.  There are many of them at Mill Lake near the centre of our town.  When the female is sitting on her eggs, “Dad” is always nearby perched in a place where he has a good view and can keep guard over “Mom” and the eggs/babies.

Rufous Hummingbird hovering near a nectar feeder

Rufous Hummingbird hovering near a nectar feeder

This is a picture of a Rufous Hummingbird, the variety which is the most populous during the summer here in the Pacific Northwest.  It is a truly remarkable little flying machine.  It can hover as the one in this picture that I took is doing, it can fly backwards and when it has finished taking nectar at the feeder it flies away at great speed and is a hundred yards away in but a few seconds.  Its length is just over three inches but it has incredible stamina.  It migrates from its winter quarters in Mexico to Canada where it can be found in the summer all the way from the border with the US right up to and including Alaska.  Just think of the return journey that it makes every year.  The ones that go as far north as Alaska travel over 3,900 miles each way and involves a journey that can take them up and over mountains higher than 10,0000 feet.  According to the experts, when ones takes into consideration the size of their bodies and the distance travelled, it is a greater migratory accomplishment than the famed and legendary Arctic Tern.  In recent years, the Anna’s Hummingbird has been staying in Washington State and southwest BC over winter instead of going to Mexico.  For three or more winters now we have had Anna’s residing in our blue spruce tree and feeding at our nectar feeder that we now keep freshly replenished through the winter months.  I put a post on this blog (December 1st 2010) with pictures and video, taken on November 25th 2010 about Hummingbirds in the winter.  If you have not seen it and are interested in doing so, here is a link that will take you to it:

The Fraser Valley is the major place in Canada where soft fruits – strawberries, raspberries and blueberries are grown commercially.  We do not personally grow any of these ourselves as they are easily obtainable from local farms.  Over the years we have taken advantage of “U-pick,” a service offered by many fruit farms where customers can pick their own berries which they purchase at the cheapest available price.  We don’t do that anymore but now pay the extra and buy berries that have already been picked.  Here is a picture I took this year of 50lbs of blueberries that we purchased.  Grace freezes them in small containers which we use as necessary through the winter.

Blueberries - locally grown and very healthy.  Yummy!

Blueberries – locally grown and very healthy. Yummy!

Canada Day is always celebrated in the summer because it is on July 1st and commemorates the day (July 1st 1867) when three colonies (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada) were united into one dominion/kingdom within the British Empire.  It is a federal statutory holiday and one of the highlights of Canada Day in our town is a parade.  Here are just a few pictures.

It's Canada Day and we are having a parade in Abbotsford

It’s Canada Day and we are having a parade in Abbotsford

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Drum and Pipe Band

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Drum and Pipe Band

Some of Abbotsford Fire Trucks on Parade

Some of Abbotsford’s Fire Trucks on Parade

The Honourable Ed Fast - Abbotsford's MP

The Honourable Ed Fast – Abbotsford’s MP

The Honourable Ed Fast is our local Member of Parliament and is a cabinet minister serving as the Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway.  He is a committed Christian who seeks to serve our community and country with integrity and in a manner that honours God and the Canadian people.

"Strings and Steps"

“Strings and Steps”

“Strings and Steps” consists of some of the members of the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra which performs regularly under the creative leadership of Calvin Dyck, its Director and Conductor.

The Mennonite Educational Institute High School Marching Band "The Screaming Eagles"

The Mennonite Educational Institute High School Marching Band “The Screaming Eagles”

The Screaming Eagles is the high school marching band of the Mennonite Educational Institute (MEI).  Its performances are polished and professional.  It is also in great demand at major sporting and other public events.  It was chosen to be featured in the opening episode of a new TV detective/crime series named, “Motive,” which is filmed in the Vancouver area and aired earlier this year.  In the next picture you will see a member of the band who is also a member of our family.  Lucas is the second from the left, wearing a yellow cap and playing the drums.

Lucas, a drummer with the MEI Screaming Eagles marching band

Lucas, a drummer with the MEI Screaming Eagles marching band

As summer wanes, autumn approaches.  On September 3rd, just eight days away, the schools will open for the new academic year.  The Fall colours will be in full display in just a few weeks.  My closing picture was taken last autumn, a short distance along the street, of a young Maple tree with its foliage in glorious red, autumn display.

A young Maple tree in the Fall

A young Maple tree in the Fall

Canada – the wonderful country in which we are privileged to live, serve God, our family and our community.

Acknowledgements and thanks for sources of information and few pictures: Wikipedia, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, nwbirdblog, allaboutbirds, ds-lands, nawwal, topnews.

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St. David’s Day – March 1st 2013 in Abbotsford

St. David’s Day is celebrated on March 1st each year by Welsh people, not only those still living in Wales but by those who are part of the Welsh diaspora around the world.  St. David (Dewi Saint in Welsh) was born near the end of the 5th century and, tradition has it that he died on March 1st sometime between AD 569 and 588.  He is recorded in history as a good, spiritual man who founded a monastic community on the site where St. David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire stands today.  St. David became the patron saint of Wales and, in the 18th century, March 1st was proclaimed a national day.  Wales would like it to be an official “bank holiday” but this has not been approved yet by the British parliament in Westminster.

The Vancouver Welsh Society, as is its annual custom, held a special evening of celebration on March 1st and followed this with a St. David’s Day Banquet the next day.

In Abbotsford, in recent years, we have had a celebration meal at a local restaurant but this year did not do this.  However, some of us did something that was very meaningful this year, particularly to one member of our own family.

Our sister-in-law Beryl was married to Calvin, Grace’s brother, who died in 1997.  Beryl celebrated her 89th birthday in January but has become physically more frail in recent months.  For years she has lived comfortably and independently in a suite in the house of her son Huw, his wife Pam and their two children Meghan and Evan.  Unfortunately she reached the point where she needed full care and, in early February became a resident in one of our local seniors’ care facilities.

The staff at the facility mentioned to Kay, Beryl’s daughter, that they had nothing special to celebrate until St. Patrick’s Day.  Kay responded that St. David’s Day would come before St. Patrick’s Day and was worthy of a celebration.  She also said that she would make some Welsh cakes and bring them along for the residents to enjoy.  The response was very positive and other members of the family became involved.  So, in the afternoon, St. David’s Day was celebrated in the community room.  Kay baked a large number of Welsh cakes which were distributed to and enjoyed by the residents. As many members of our family as possible went along with Welsh items of interest and Grace dressed in her traditional Welsh costume.  She took along her large Welsh doll, “Myfanwy.”  This was passed around and held by many of the ladies present, illustrating that ladies are never too old to enjoy dolls!  Grace gave an explanation of St. David’s Day and how it is celebrated in Welsh schools.  We sang the Welsh song “We’ll keep a Welcome in the Hillsides,” and the Welsh national anthem (Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau).  The event was a great success and I post below some of the pictures that I took.



A staff member shows a residents a Welsh tea towel.

A staff member shows a resident a Welsh tea towel.

Grace holding "Myfanwy"

Grace holding Myfanwy

Our sister-in-law Beryl

Our sister-in-law Beryl

Kay with her mum Beryl

Kay with her mum Beryl

Staff member holding Myfanwy

Staff member holding Myfanwy

Staff member holding the Welsh flag

Staff member holding the Welsh flag

A very proud Welsh lady - Grace

A lady who is very proud of her Welsh heritage – Grace

They are listening to Grace talking about Wales

They are listening to Grace talking about Wales

Distributing the Welsh cakes

Distributing the Welsh cakes

Family Group - Back row L to R Jan, her mother Doris (wife of Martin's late brother Gerry), front row Kay, Beryl (all these were born in Wales). The lad on the right is another resident.

Family Group – Back row: L to R Jane, her mum Doris (wife of Martin’s late brother Gerry), Grace. Front row: Kay, Beryl (all these were born in Wales). The lady on the right is another resident and the lady on the extreme right married a Welshman from the Rhondda Valley.

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