TRIBUTE TO THE LATE MRS. MARJORIE KATHRYN ELLIOTT
There is a place in Hope, British Columbia, that my nephew once described as "a little piece of heaven on earth". Even time slows down to linger as long as she can...to breathe in the clean mountain air, listen to the soothing rush of Silver Creek, and in the spring or summer, marvel at the fruits and flowers that grow with abandon in the garden: roses, lilies, tulips, creeping jenny and forsythia, bergenia, sedum, grape vines, apple trees and a plum.
Inside the modest rancher, that had to be moved back when the creek swelled threateningly to wash the house away, lives the gardener of many talents - the little old lady of Silver Hope, Marjorie Kathryn Elliott (nee Radley).
Honorable senators, this is a tribute to Marjorie Kathryn Elliott, my husband Doug Martin's late maternal grandmother, our beloved Gran E, who passed away on November 18, 2010 at the age of 91.
Gran E. was born in Wilton, Illinois on May 29,1919, during the period of her father’s study to earn his Master of Divinity – the 3rd of 5 children: Gladys Scott (presently 94 and going strong), the late Edith Radley (a former nurse and United Church missionary, and companion of the Order of Canada for her transformative work in Africa), Gran E., Jeannette Wolfe (Ottawa resident, present in the Chamber today with her daughters Pamela, Karen and Beverley Wolfe), and baby brother Don Radley.
The family returned to Manitoba, the birthplace of Gran E’s mother and where her father served as a Minister in the United Church of Canada. Gran E. and her siblings spent their childhood, playing and dreaming under the expansive prairie sky.
In Manitoba, they all received a good education. Gran E earned her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Manitoba in 1940 and her Diploma in Education in 1941. Her first teaching post was in Cardale, Manitoba, where she also met her husband to be, Elvin Kingsley “Bud” Elliott. (I should note here that his mother was Martha Jane Ireton Elliott, a formidable political activist and leader of the Manitoba Farmer's Association during the suffragette years, and a member of the Agriculture Hall of Fame in Manitoba).
In 1943, they would marry in Port Simpson near Prince Rupert, BC; and settle in Richmond, BC by 1948. There they raised 4 children: Merle, Elaine, James and Jeannie. Her eldest daughter, Merle is my late mother-in-law, and the only one to follow in Gran E’s footsteps as a teacher.
My mother-in-law told me once that she remembers her mother routinely vacuuming while reading. Gran E.’s passion was indeed reading – fiction and non-fiction, and most of all the Romantic Poets, those famous “rebels and romantics” whose poetry remains unsurpassed to this day. She had an impeccable memory and could quote, at length, from Shakespeare and Milton, from Keats and Shelley. She had a great mind, one that enabled her to conjugate French irregular verbs in all their tenses, even in her final days. She was a wonderful conversationalist, a lively debater, and a fierce Scrabble player, a champion at all costs. In fact, in her honour, our family will hold an annual Gran E. Scrabble Tournament on her birthday.
Gran E and Grandpa Bud eventually moved to Hope, BC in the early 1970’s when his health forced Gran E to retire from teaching to care for her husband full time, in their sanctuary in Silver Hope. Even after his death in 1984, she stayed and cultivated her garden of Eden overlooking Silver Creek.
My husband will miss his grandmother’s flowery compliments and the way she made him feel like the most talented, the most handy, the most anything in her eyes. She had a gift of seeing the glass as “half-full”; she was perfectly content in the moment.
Some of my fondest memories of Gran E will be of times spent in her garden, and adjudicating her unique rendition of “The Turkish March” or “Minuet in E” which she played on her out-of-tune piano. Even though I could have critiqued her lack of dynamics, the inconsistent rhythm, or her overuse of the pedal, these imperfections were overshadowed by the fact that she had learned how to play the piano in her 70’s all by herself. She loved talking about politics and was keenly interested in my work in the Senate.
Gran E – Marjorie Kathryn Elliott – is survived by her 7 great-grandchildren, 7 grandchildren, 2 sisters, 1 brother, and many others, including me, who, in her presence, felt special and full of silvery HOPE.