I think the word that describes my mother best would have to be resilient. No matter what happened in her life, she found a way to bounce back and get through it, or around it, with persistence and determination. She was never a whiner or complainer. My mother was born Sophia Petronella Pauw in Dordrecht, in the Province of South Holland, the Netherlands on March 24, 1918, the eighth child and seventh daughter of Rudolf Pauw Sr. and Sophia VanStokrom. An older sister had died at the age of 6 months, another sister and two brothers came after her. She was named for her mother and nicknamed Fia. The family moved to The Hague when my mother was about nine years old.
My mother was born on May 5th, 1917, in Rochester, New York. Her parents both emigrated from Eastern Europe lured by the promise of a better life. Her father, Abraham Kay (born Kosovsky), came from Minsk, Bylorussia in 1911, and her mother, Edith Garelick, from Poland in 1913. They were married in New York City on December 22, 1913, when Abe was 19 and Edith was 17.
“Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, hold the horse ’til I get on…” (Mom’s chant one day, at age 56, during a particularly intense episode)1919: Gwendolyn was born in Brandon, Manitoba, youngest of eight children.
- Her mother was 45, didn't want another baby, and so didn't speak to her husband for two years.
- Mom’s father traveled a lot selling farm machinery.
Violet Alice Marks was born on September 15, 1918, the eleventh of fourteen children, to Katie and Sam Marks in Langbank, Saskatchewan. She slid into the world so quietly, her mother said, “I will name her Violet.”The midwife replied, “With those big brown eyes I’d call her Susan.” The name Vi stuck, but she would soon prove that she was no shrinking violet. Mum writes in her autobiography: “My first memory was being out in the moonlight with my brothers and sisters, looking up at the moon and the stars. The night was warm; we ran, romped, and squealed ecstatically. It was then I realized I was a person.”
Dorothy Marrian MacDougall was born on April 30, 1918, while the Great War raged in Europe. Her father, Donald John MacDougall, and his American-born wife, Agnus O’Sullivan, already had four young children – Loretta, Jean, Tom and Cecil – when little Dorothy arrived. Her father, a Canadian hotel manager, and his family lived behind the café on the main floor of the only hotel in Radisson, Saskatchewan. Her father, often transferred, moved his family from hotel to hotel. Among their playgrounds were the old Jasper Park Lodge and the MacDonald Hotel in Edmonton. Dorothy dreamed of being a nurse, but had to leave high school in grade nine to stay home when more children joined the family. The birth of three babies in her mid-40s put Agnus in bed for months. Dorothy became the substitute mother of Don, Lloy and Pat.
My mother, Eva Miller (born in 1918), died in 2010. She was 91. For three months after her death, I talked to her, I really did. I asked her how she was, and her response, “I’m fine,” was typical mother speak. When I pressed that mother voice about the afterlife, the response, both simple and complex, was “Unfathomable!” Strange that she spoke so eloquently while dead, but while alive had so many secrets. Mom was an extraordinary woman. Born on a farm in Chatham, Ontario, she was a direct descendant, through her mother, of the United Empire Loyalists and natives who fought against the Americans in the American Revolution and War of 1812. She was an iron butterfly and endured where others would have faltered.
17 Apr Gaile Lacey’s story of VelmaVelma Isabelle was born on April 3, 1916, the fourth child of Charles and Cora Boothby from Gormley, Ontario, who had homesteaded to Weyburn, Saskatchewan, in 1908. Charles had health issues, so in 1919, when Mum was three years old, her father decided to move out West to Mission City, B.C., where members of his family had already settled. They sold the farm, the equipment and all the animals, and Charles and Cora, with their five children, rode the train to British Columbia.
In the 1920's, every Sunday, Eliska Kadlecova, her brothers and sister would take walks with their father through the streets of Prague. He was an engineer and taught them the history of the buildings, the architectural styles and the myths that make Prague what it is. Eli, my mother, loved her city and thought she would never leave.
My favourite photo of my mother, Elisabeth, was taken in 1954, in Ceylon, just before she was to be presented to Elizabeth, the newly crowned Queen of England. My mother looks so happy and, as I have always remembered, beautiful. It was the most special event of her life. Born to Herbert and Ethel Jarvis in 1916 in South Croydon near London, Elisabeth was the eldest child, followed by her sister Mervyn and brother Geoffrey. Her father was a public servant for the local council, and her mother had trained as a violinist and, before she was married, even joined the London Symphony Orchestra. However, when Ethel’s mother died in childbirth, Ethel had to leave her career to look after her seven siblings.