On Saturday morning, August 30th, our dear mother, Jean, peacefully left us after a long, brave struggle with Parkinson’s disease.
We were all beside her and holding her. She went as she would have wished: in her own chair, by her wood stove, in her kitchen, in the Prevost Island home where she spent most of her ninety years.
Jean Gilchrist was born on March 8, 1918 to James and Gladys Pollock, and was the eldest of eight: five boys and three girls. Until 1936, she and her family lived at Hillcrest Lumber Mill at Sahtlam, where her father was the manager. She often recalled attending a one room school that included eight grades, and in high school bicycling five miles each way to school. She said she could imagine every bit of the road going to school – bumpy, no paving or sidewalks, and with three little bridged streams to cross.
One of Jean’s parents’ interests was to play as Concertmaster and Principal Second violin in the Duncan Orchestra. To keep Jean and some of the children “out of her mother’s hair” as Jean described it, her Dad would take them to the local silent movie theatre: while the children watched the movie, Jean’s Dad would accompany the action on his violin.
Jean was an outstanding student but the death of her father when she was 18 meant that she had to start working after her high school graduation.
After graduation, Jean did some tutoring in Duncan, and she worked in a local bank for fifty dollars per month. She also worked for the family of her former high school principal, Reginald Hodson, in Victoria. She first came to Prevost in 1939 to tutor our father’s niece. Lotus Ruckle recalled how, on a number of occasions, Jean, on her way to Prevost, would arrive at Burgoyne Bay by boat, where Lotus’ brother would meet her and drive her to Beaver Point to be met by Hubert de Burgh. “It was obvious what was going to happen,” said Lotus.
In December 1941, Jean and Hubert were married with Lotus’ brother as best man, and apart from living on South Pender for three years (1948-1951) she has lived on Prevost ever since. As anyone who ever knew her knows, Jean was a wonderful, devoted mother and a very faithful friend. She always loved learning and she loved classical music. She studied the piano for many years, and also particularly enjoyed violin and cello repertoire, commenting on a performance of the Kreutzer Sonata of Beethoven two days before she died.
For over fifty years, she looked forward to regularly ordering and receiving books by mail from the BC Open Shelf Library. She was a very good cook, seamstress, and knitter, and taught and encouraged us in these pursuits. If she didn’t know how to do something, she would look it up and find out. Whenever we needed help, she was always there. She got us through school by correspondence, and both our parents encouraged us to carry on with our education.
Jean participated in farm life, caring for many “bottle” lambs over the years as well as gardening, canning, making butter, ice cream, bread, and apple sauce, and turning the handle of the hand-cranked sheep shearing machine to power Hubert’s early shearing efforts. She helped in sheep and wild goat roundups, and even did a brief turn on one end of an early two-man chainsaw. For a number of years her only neighbours on the island were the Georgeson family at Portlock Point Lighthouse; visiting them would mean a three mile walk through the bush, and often a return trip home by lantern. She and Hubert would attend dances on Galiano, Mayne, or Pender, recrossing the channel in the middle of the night in “Dancing Wave” on their way home.
Her kitchen was always a warm and welcoming place with a cup of tea and delicious cookies. She looked forward to the visits of her brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews to the farm, and was a much loved Auntie Jean.
Jean loved birds, and especially enjoyed the hummingbirds at the feeder outside the kitchen window; chickadees were also one of her favourites. She delighted in natural beauty; flowers, colourful leaves, small plants – the smallest thing might catch her eye. Years ago she often spotted four-leafed clovers which she would slip between the pages of her numerous cookbooks. We will always remember our mother as a beautiful, gentle, and endlessly patient lady who was at the same time, determined and persistent, and who took great care in everything she did.
In spite of her declining health, Jean’s strong will to carry on seldom faltered. Her loving spirit will always be with us.
Jean was predeceased by her husband Hubert (1981), second daughter Maureen (1985), brothers Robert, Stewart and Larry, and three nieces. She is survived by her daughters Sheila Wowchuk and son-in-law William Wowchuk, Barbara and Susan de Burgh; her sister Mary Jolin (Chilliwack), brother William Pollock (Fernie), sister Helen Maltby (Victoria), brother and sister-in-law Richard and Margaret Pollock (Duncan), sister-in-law Dianne Pollock (Victoria); and many dear friends of all ages. She is also survived by many well-loved nieces, nephews, cousins, and their families.
We would like to thank Dr. Leavitt, Dr. Crossland, and Dr. Gallins, Lesley Nuk, the nurses and staff of the Lady Minto Hospital, Home Care nurses, and our respite caregivers Brenda, Pauline, Ellen, and Alice. Also, we wish to thank the Ambulance Service, the Coast Guard and the RCMP for their kindness and compassion. Thank you to Mary Harkema for her kindness and friendship during Jean’s illness. A special thank you to Diana Symons for her caring company and flowers, over many years.
A memorial service will be held at All Saints By the Sea, Saturday, September 27th at 2 p.m. with the Rev. Canon Dr. Kim Murray officiating, followed by a reception in the church hall. There will be a private burial on Prevost Island. If desired, donations may be made to the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation or the Christian Blind Mission International.