Thursday, June 8, 2023
June 8, 2023

Nesta Mary Ashworth

Peacefully at her home on St. Mary Lake, Salt Spring Island, BC, on January 20, 2009. Born June 3, 1923 in Crowborough, Sussex, in spite of a nightingale, Mary was 16 when war broke out and soon joined the Land Army, milking cows and driving a tractor until old enough to join the WAAF, where she became a plotter and later a radar operator. Disillusioned with postwar Britain, she came to Canada in 1948, and after a year in Toronto settled happily in Vancouver where she worked for the CNR. She attended Normal School to become a teacher, first at Trafalgar Elementary, and later at Prince of Wales High School, studying for a BA and M.Ed by night school and correspondence. Mary was invited to fill in at UBC for one year, and UBC never let her go. Together with  colleague Pat Wakefield they pioneered the teaching of English as a Second Language. Mary was an active member and frequent keynote speaker for TEAL, TESL Canada and TESOL. She was known among her peers as “Miss ESL” and provided advice and counsel to government, educational and community groups throughout Canada. Her international reputation earned her the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, three honorary doctorates from the University of British Columbia, York University and St. Mary’s University, and a Fellowship of OISE. In March, 1988 the Cities of Vancouver and Richmond proclaimed “ESL and Professor Mary Ashworth Week”. Hundreds of students and teachers worldwide are grateful for her guidance and inspiration. Her interests on the island included the United Church, Rotary Club, the Lost Chords, the Garden Club and 4-H. The family deeply appreciates the loving care given to Mary by Gina, Val, Laura, Alex, Adele, Brenda, Peggy and other health professionals who cared for Mary.

Sister, aunt, gardener, lover of roses, Mary will be deeply missed by her sister, Margaret Spencer, her nephews Jonathan (Julie), Michael (Connie), Christopher (Carolina) and niece, Mary. Caitlin, Mika, Cole, Emily, Elizabeth and Madeline will miss their GAM.

A memorial service will be held at

The United Church, 111 Hereford Avenue

Ganges, Salt Spring Island, BC

on Saturday, February 7, 2009 at 2:00 p.m.


In lieu of flowers, donations to the Salvation Army, or the charity of your choice, will be appreciated.

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Salt Spring Island
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