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.
My mom’s name is Nhan Thi Nguyen. She was born in North Vietnam in 1931. She grew up in a small village a few hours from Hanoi called Ha Dong. Her father’s last name was Nguyen and her mother’s was Dang.
My mom, Dorothy Elizabeth Hodgins (nee Dodd, yes she was Dot Dodd), was born in Fort William, BC in the 20's. One of four kids, her closest sibling was my aunt Shirley who was only one and a half years her senior. They were perfect sisters - total opposites - perfect partners in crime. Shirl was brash and beautiful, whereas my mom was the sweet, innocent one. Shirl's nickname for my mom was Doe. Appropriate, I always thought, because my mom had big hazel eyes and resembled a doe.
My mom was born Ramona Jean Rea, July 16th, 1933, in Listowel, Ontario. At least that is what her birth certificate says. Her birth certificate, however, was issued on April 15th, 1933, three months prior to her birth date.
Wilamina Becker, my mommy, was born on August 27, 1926 on a tobacco farm outside Momart, Saskatchewan. Her mother, Francesca (my namesake) had an incident with a married Scotsman in a barn when she was 16. Lots of mystery around the Scotsman. Anyway, to try to escape the shame surrounding this incident, Francesca’s parents moved the family to a farm in Surrey, BC.
My mother was born Julia Veronica Szappanos in Szarvas, Hungary on June 16, 1933. Her mother, Margit (Lazar) Szappanos and father Janos Szappanos were performers with a dance act that toured Europe under the name “Rita and Ray”.
Janos was also a circus performer and developed a blindfolded knife‐throwing act with Margit. Shortly after my mother’s birth, due to the busy traveling schedule her parents had, they moved to Szeged, Hungary to live with her grandparents, Janos Lazar and Juliana (Karolyi) Lazar. Her grandparents had a small farm with an attached bakery, and her grandfather Janos was a master baker. My mother’s grandparents raised her and her parents dropped in from time to time as their touring schedule allowed (she was always thrilled to spend time with her dad, who did dote on her, but she described her mother as “distant”). My mother had a happy childhood helping with chores on the farm (loved the animals especially) and described herself as a tomboy, climbing trees and getting into fistfights with the local boys.