Nancy Daley was born in Magnetawan, Ontario on July 30, 1924. Although the population of Magnetawan briefly ballooned above 300 with the birth of her five siblings, it has remained solidly a “village”, relegated to a humble, yet proud small town status in rural Ontario about an hour south of North Bay. Her father, Tom Daley met his future wife one summer while delivering vegetables by canoe on Ahmic Lake. Nancy’s mother Lydia had ventured to Canada’s lake country from Pittsburg to take a summer job as help. At 16, she fell in love with both Tom and Canada. Together they built a family, a sawmill and hydroelectric business, and nurtured family connections that have remained strong to this day.
With few facts and fewer memories, it is not easy to paint a comprehensive picture of the totality, the gestalt of a person. Be that as it may, the following is an attempt to present, as clearly as is possible, a straightforward, honest depiction of my mother, unclouded by sentimentality and bias. These are the facts, as I know them, as pertain to my mother’s life. Let the facts, few though they may be, speak for themselves.
Note: as this is not my story, but my mother’s, I use the pseudonyms Dor for my mother, and Demo to denote my father out of respect for their anonymity. As far as I know, they are both still alive and would prefer this. That my father is being as forthcoming as he now is about mother and the details of our lives together is a truly wonderful thing, and I thank him for that. After a life of denial, it can't be easy, and is testament to his good character.
Patricia Simons was a prairie Girl. From 1922 when she was born in her Aunt Mary’s house in Wawota Saskatchewan, until 2008 when she passed on in the Alpine town of Revelstoke, B.C., Mom held that vast prairie sky dear to her heart. She loved the soul-searching, body drenching heat of the summers and the chest-numbing, breath-freezing cold in the winter. She loved big open blue skies. She felt hemmed in by the mountains and the sea. Hemmed in by Dad and his mother and possibly even all five of us kids. She loved the rough and tumble wide-open for anything sense of the prairie.
Virginia Louise Wilson was born August 24, 1929 in Saint John, New Brunswick. She was called Ginny for a couple of years until her older sister decided she would hereafter be known as Jeano. It might not be spelt the right way, but having a mother with a name like that goes along way to explain why I have always wanted to be Italian.
Mary Alice Vanvolkenburgh (nee Trumpour) was born April 12, 1924 on a farm outside Adolphustown, Prince Edward County, Ontario. Her ancestor, Paulus Trumpour, was one of the original United Empire Loyalists who fled New England after the American Revolution, wintered in tents outside Quebec City and navigated the St. Lawrence River in open boats to the area around Picton, where they had been deeded land. Mary was proud to be a United Empire Loyalist descendent and attended many UEL functions in the area.
My mom, Adelene Ellen Alexander, was born October 23, 1920 in Victoria, B.C. Grandma raised her and her younger brother Tom. Ma’s family were among the first Black pioneers to settle on Salt Spring Island and in Victoria by invitation of Sir James Douglas, back in the 1850s.
No one seems to know why her parents gave her the name Beulah, but Beulah Violet Sweet was born in Vancouver, on November 28th, 1927, to George and Amy Sweet. Naturally, she didn’t go by that name once she got into her teens, but rather had everyone call her Bea or Boo.
I never met my mother until I was 45 years old and only knew her for thirteen years. I was adopted as a child and spent a life long search for her. I found out I was adopted when I was 12 years old and made a vow that I would find my mother if it was the last thing that I ever did. After years of searching and a lot of dead ends, my vow to myself finally came true.
In another culture, she’d have been called ‘chippy’ or ‘cheeky’. Her family thought of her as vibrant, energetic, and fun. Brooklyn born in 1920, Ruth Berlin thrived on her East European Jewish families’ love. Her father, born Saul Gorodoevski, became Gordievsky, then Gordon, via Ellis Island’s name editing tradition. Saul (or Chaim, or Jamie), was brilliant and scholarly. A fashion designer, he overcame immigrant barriers, later taking the professional name James Gordon. Ruth’s beautiful mother Henrietta was rumoured to descend from gypsy queens.