Obituary of Bernadette Drayton
A recording of the service is available below the obituary
Bernadette (Bee) Drayton, nee Ouellette, of Kelliher, SK. passed away peacefully in her sleep on Saturday, January 16, 2021. She was predeceased by her husband, Harold, her parents and brothers. Bee leaves to mourn her passing, her sisters Kathleen “Kay” Rogers and Josephine “Josie” Cooper; her four children Jean, Christine, Brian and Sandra, Murrey and Shirley , ; thirteen grandchildren; fourteen great-grandchildren; as well as numerous nieces and nephews. A private family memorial service will be held on Saturday, January 23, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. To view the livestream of the service or to leave an online message of condolence please visit Bee’s tribute page at www.speersfuneralchapel.com. The service will also be recorded and may be viewed on the Speers website together with a more expansive memory of Bee’s life. Interment of her cremated remains will be at Horse Lake Cemetery later this summer. Family and friends wishing to do so, may make memorial donations to St Paul United Church Box 368, Kelliher, SK. S0A 1V0. “We love you, little Mother. Hug Dad for us.”
A Requiem of Bernadette:
If Coleridge is right and “He prayeth well who loveth well” then Bee must have prayed very well. She sure knew how to love.
Bee was born on August 17, 1930 at a time when settlement on the prairies was not very old and when both climate and economic environment took a down turn. Small homesteads were not very far apart and several neighbours might be within a few miles. There was no money.
She grew up on small farms with her parents, Joseph Eustace and Luvia Alice (Collins) Ouellette. The family consisted of Octave, an older brother who died at birth, older brother Armand, older sister Kathleen (Kay), Bee, younger brothers Bozil (Basil/Coey) and Calvin, younger sister Josephine (Josie) and the youngest brother, David. The family moved two or three times, keeping to the Horse Lake and Eastward Districts. The kids walked first to Horse Lake school, then 3 miles to Eastward School. Supplies were purchased in West Bend or Kelliher, or from a neighbour who kept a small store, and the Brombury Post Office.
Mom was a born story-teller. She told stories all her life. Many of her stories were of her early childhood involving family, neighbours and friends from the 30s and 40s whose unique personalities and adventures came alive for her listening children. That early life was peopled with characters we could even name for her when, years later, she remembered the incidences but not those names which had slipped away from her.
Even Mom’s name was a story. Her Mother wanted to name the new baby Bernadette but the name reminded her father of a previous girlfriend whom he preferred not to remember. So he signed the papers with names he liked --- Mary Margaret. When it came right down to telling Luvia, tho, his courage deserted him, and it wasn’t until Mom applied for her birth certificate that she discovered Bernadette was not her first name. By that time she was Bee and Bee she remained.
Mom the story teller had tales of her school days, of the little one-room building surrounded by black poplars with the barn and two biffies in the yard, of the teacher, Mr. Leslie, and many incidents of kids’ hi-jinks, both in school itself or on the way to and from. After all, a lot can happen on a 3 mile walk.
Our Dad attended the same school, where he and Armand were friendly. Bee had known Harold most of her life before they started to go out together. Mom had a story about that, too. Dad had asked her out a time or two and she had turned him down. Her Mother convinced her, finally, to give the English boy a chance.
They married on October 9, 1951.
They lived on the Drayton farm, eventually building a new house while Harold’s parents re-located a mile away. Four children followed in the next few years. Jean, Christine, Brian and Murrey. For some reason, Mom was awfully proud of those children, and eventually, their children and grandchildren.
Bernadette loved to sew. She had always made all of her own clothes. Not often using a store-bought pattern, she designed her own. Now she had 4 kids and a husband to sew for as well. There was a red and black brocade winter coat with 5 inch rabbit fur cuffs she had cut down and re-designed to fit one of her daughters who loved it and wore it out. She made our graduation gowns and wedding dresses. Much later, her grand-daughter Rachel asked grandma to sew her graduation gown as well. Once the kids were grown and gone Mom turned her talents to quilting. She made dozens of beautiful quilts in bright patterns, most out of cloth from old clothes or other re-purposed fabric. There is a whole album of them, and they are enjoyed by friends and family near and far.
Like most of the farm wives of her time Mom made all of her own bread as well. Beautiful thick bread with a light crumb and firm crust. Her kids fought for the crusts fresh out of the oven with melting homemade butter and jam. Often the smell of gooey cinnamon buns greeted her kids as they came in the door after school. Our school lunches, too, were always a surprise. We didn’t often have meat or real cheese in our sandwiches. Our sandwiches were homemade jam or Cheez Whiz, cut in ribbons or odd shapes. Some days they were Bovril or brown sugar. Some days they were brown-sugar filled rolled up pancakes. Our friends eagerly traded soggy tomato sandwiches for some of Bee’s creations.
While there was never much extra money, Christmas breakfasts were always a special tradition. We would get up early to find the everyday farm kitchen transformed. The tablecloth glowed. The best china plates and real glasses sparkled with bubbly breakfast punch and there was always a new dish to try. Mom was an inveterate reader of cookbooks and not afraid to try something different. Recipes were snipped out of the Family Herald, the Country Guide or the Western Producer and prepared for the table. Though Dad teased her about burnt potatoes and soggy bread, we ate well.
Mom worked hard to ensure that we had a happy home life and that our farm lives would have an even balance of fun and work. We played games, including cribbage which she later used to teach her grandchildren math skills. She was famous for her treasure hunts, often sending us off across the pasture and around the yard hunting for clues which birds or squirrels may have made off with. One of Bee’s nieces sent a message just after Bee’s death, saying that she had seen and loved a photo of the road to the old farm, adding that “there was always fun at the end of it”
Mom loved kids, always loved kids. Some of her nieces and nephews would come to spend the summer. Others came when parents were busy or called away. Her grandchildren loved to visit grandma’s house. She did always try to make things fun. Even as a very old lady, going about in her wheelchair, she would stop to talk to a toddler or admire a baby.
It wasn’t all play, though. Mom was a farm wife in a time when you made it yourself or went without. She rose early every day and went hard until bedtime. There was bread-baking, clothes-making, cows to milk, cream to ship, washing the many parts of the cream separator twice every day. There was a huge garden to plant, weed and “put down” every year; hot summer afternoons picking pails full of wild saskatoons, chokecherries, pincherries and raspberries to be canned over the wood stove. There were hot meals to be taken out to the field. Sealers of stew wrapped in insulating newspaper with loaves of golden fresh bread and further sealers of cold lemonade. There were six people’s clothes to be washed every Monday, soaped and rinsed in the wringer washer and hung on the line winter and summer. Sheets brought back into the house in January, stiff as boards, but smelling of clean snow and sunshine. Bee ironed everything…tea towels, pyjamas, sheets. The ironing board went up Monday afternoon and didn’t come down until 10 or 11:00 when it was finally done. Floors were washed every day, and the whole house annually scrubbed from top to bottom. Then there was livestock to tend. The daily collection of eggs to wash, chickens to feed and eventually butcher so that, on Sundays, home from church, a rich aroma of Mom’s own recipe oven-fried chicken greeted us at the door. Mom’s canned chicken and particularly her canned beef were enjoyed all winter. In the fall Bee drove a grain truck, only occasionally backing into the auger. Life was one long round of going, going, going. We never wanted for anything. If it was in her power to give us the best she could, she did.
While our parents were regular church goers and were well-involved in the life of the United Church, Mom rarely heard a sermon. Because she was never still, within minutes of sitting with her hands idle she was asleep. Same in the car. A mile or two down the road and Mom was out. For many years, Mom made the Church banners and created a unique banner for each of the church’s baptisms. She and Dad sat on the boards of the Church and in Mom’s case, was actively involved in the United Church Women’s group.
For a time Kelliher had a square dance club. Mom couldn’t hear music, but square dances had a caller to tell you what steps to take. Mom and Dad joined the club and danced once a month for several years. We liked to see her dressed in her wide skirt with the crinolines underneath it and her dancing slippers, alemand-ing around the floor. “Make an ocean wave and rock it”
Bee didn’t obtain a driver’s license until her youngest child started school and was never really comfortable behind the wheel. She drove slowly, and cautiously, probably frustrating any driver who happened to be behind her. Once Dad passed away and she was on her own, she would drive down to Regina to visit kids and grandkids. She could get to Pilot Butte, though busy Highway #10 was a trial, but city driving…? She had scary stories of stopping in the middle of intersections with her hands over her eyes on her way to Chris or Brian’s house. She still liked to explore, though, and Murrey received calls from isolated farms, “Come and get me, I’m lost”.
Mom and Dad both liked to travel and managed, somehow, to visit both West as far as the coast and East to visit Brian when he and Sandra lived in Toronto. Growing up, Sunday afternoons were often spent in the car seeing where the road took us. For several years after Dad passed Bee and Jean would take a week in the summer to explore Saskatchewan, hitting every corner of the province and seeing some pretty cool stuff on the way. While Mom didn’t like to swim or canoe, she loved boating, and would jump at a chance to go out with Brian or Dave Devers on their boats, or any ferry. If water sprayed on her face she would turn her face into the spray and grin.
Mom never backed down from an adventure. Taking an item from her bucket list, for her 70th birthday, her granddaughter Rachel took her up in a hot air balloon. Unfortunately, after several false starts, the day that was finally deemed suitable had very little wind. The ride proved too tame for Mom; her favourite part was the dip into Wascana Lake and the bumpy and uncertain landing.
Mom’s much-loved husband, our Dad, died suddenly of a heart attack on November 17, 1987. Mom, at only 57, found herself suddenly widowed. She stayed by herself on the farm. Her son, Murrey, farmed the land, and took over the livestock. Mom managed the yard, gardening, tending the fruit trees and enjoying the company of her current doggie companion. After a time, she didn’t discourage the coyotes or deer who entered the front yard, even coming as close as her deck. Murrey and his family made it possible for her to remain on the farm until she was no longer able to keep up with the house or yard work, in her early 80’s, when Mom moved into an apartment in Kelliher. Here she was able to walk to visit friends, or to see her sister or go to the Post Office and grocery store. Though Murrey did have to make the odd emergency run into town when she locked herself out of the house.
Her family were concerned about her health. Mom had had heart surgery in 2007 (“an 8-way and a valve job” she would say) and was a diabetic as her own Mother had been. She had had back surgery and knee replacement and finally required a pacemaker. In recovering from the pacemaker surgery, she lived for a time at a care home in Regina, at which time she fell and broke her hip, requiring further hospitalization and guaranteeing that she could never live on her own again. She did recover and used her titanium hip as well as she could. We kidded her about being the Bionic Woman.
Mom had always knitted, as well. Pairs and pairs of mittens in every size and colour. We have enough mittens to keep us warm for several years yet. In fact, her one regret, in her last days, was that she had not been able to make mittens for the family this past Christmas. Her gnarled and knotted hands that had so faithfully performed all that she had asked of them for 90 years, finally let her down.
Bee never stopped feeling that Kelliher was her home and that she might someday go back there. She remained a country girl at heart. The farm she had shared with Harold was always HOME to her and those memories evoke feelings of HOME in her family as well. She and Dad had created a safe haven in which we grew up surrounded by love.
He liveth well who loveth well. Bee did both.
We will selfishly miss her immensely every day, but are comforted in knowing that she is happy again, reunited with Dad, laughing and loving forever, watching over her friends and family left behind.
Eulogy for Mom
I knew Bernadette Drayton for 66 and a half years. One or two of you will have known her longer, but 66 years should be long enough for me to have a pretty good idea who she was.
A lot of who Mom was, was shaped by her up-bringing and by the country in which she lived. She grew up when there wasn’t much in the way of conventional riches. But the people, her parents, her siblings, the colorful neighbours with whom she was acquainted, her husband, her children, all threaded her life with a rich pattern. A quilt if you will.
Look, here’s a lovely green piece. That one is Industry. Mom was the physical embodiment of industry. She was rarely still. She went hard from the moment she got up till she went to bed. There was bread-baking, clothes-making, cows to milk, cream to ship, washing the many parts of the cream separator twice every day. There was a huge garden to plant, weed and “put down” every year; hot summer afternoons picking pails full of wild saskatoons, chokecherries, pincherries and raspberries to be canned over the wood stove. There were hot meals to be taken out to the field. Sealers of stew wrapped in insulating newspaper with loaves of golden fresh bread and further sealers of cold lemonade. There were six people’s clothes to be washed every Monday, soaped and rinsed in the wringer washer and hung on the line winter and summer. Sheets brought back into the house in January, stiff as boards, but smelling of clean snow and sunshine. Mom ironed everything…tea towels, pyjamas, sheets. The ironing board went up Monday afternoon and didn’t come down until 10 or 11:00 when it was finally done. Floors were washed every day, and the whole house annually scrubbed from top to bottom. Then there was livestock to tend. The daily collection of eggs to wash, chickens to feed and eventually butcher so that, on Sundays, home from church, a rich aroma of Mom’s own recipe oven-fried chicken greeted us at the door. Mom’s canned chicken and particularly her canned beef were enjoyed all winter. In the fall Mom drove a grain truck, only occasionally backing into the auger. Life was one long round of going, going, going. We never wanted for anything. If it was in her power to give us the best she could, she did.
There’s a pretty orange piece. That one’s Fun. Mom was Fun. She was always ready for a game. Her treasure hunts were legendary. You never knew where you’d end up but they could take a whole afternoon. She found things to do and crafts to make. As youngsters, Dad and Mom would load us in the car and take us on scary icy roads to Regina on a December evening to drive around looking at the Christmas lights. Or take us to the skating carnival in Yorkton where we would sit in the stands eating homemade long johns out of an ice cream pail, feeling sorry for all the poor folks who had to eat rink food. I remember a trip to Regina to watch horse jumping. Go Man Go was the horse to watch. On my second-last visit with Mom we played cards. She caught a play I’d missed and laughed up at me when she cheekily played out her hand. She was sitting in a wheelchair, with swollen legs and in considerable discomfort, but she let me know that playing with me was…fun.
Mom had a great laugh. This yellow piece is laughter. I remember the kitchen at Christmas with all of her large French family there. After the meal, while dishes were being washed, Dad would have adjourned to the shop, her brother’s would be playing cards and but Mom and her sisters would be giggling. And giggling. For a few years when both of us had no kids left at home, Mom and I would take a week in the summer and head out into Saskatchewan. There was a lot of laughter. We played hangman in the car, mom with the paper, me in my head – always a puzzle because Mom couldn’t spell to save her life. We had car trouble, road trouble, we got lost. But we could always laugh.
A lot of the pieces of this quilt are second-hand, the quilt is giving a new purpose to old clothes. That bit of Harold’s old shirt, this scrap of Christine’s outgrown skirt – those are Thrift. Mom was thrifty. On a trip to Yorkton when we were little, she’d have her list. Dad would drop her off and go off to the implement dealership while Mom, with 4 kids in tow, looking for all the world like a family of ducks, would walk as fast as she could to all the stores that held what she needed, checking out the prices. Then, having ascertained where the bargains were, she’d repeat the trip to make her purchases, with us trotting along in her wake. Thrift.
There’s a blue piece for Stubborn. Boy, that girl could be stubborn. Once she decided something you couldn’t budge her. It was usually easier to just agree, that yes, the sky is green and the snow is orange. “Yes, you can wear that (hideous hand-me-down shirt) and no, you can’t wear that (sweet little outfit).” “Yes, I will have dandruff if you get my hair wet! No, I do not need any new clothes!”
But if you turn that blue piece over, on the other side, that stubbornness looks like Fortitude and Determination. “Yes, I can! I can clothe my kids out of scraps, so they look well-dressed. I can dance, even though I can’t hear music.” Once Mom was set on a course, she was determined to see it through. And she did.
With Fortitude comes Courage. This piece, here? The purple one? That’s courage. Our Mother was brave. Her life wasn’t easy. She had her trials. But she’d have gone through fire for us and we knew it. Driving in traffic scared the daylights out of her, and she drove to see us anyway. With her eyes shut when cars seemed to be coming from all directions. Or she’d saddle up our horse Smokey, to try to go for a ride while we were all at school. She was scared, but she tried. Smokey looked after her by refusing to budge!
Forthright – that’s the red piece. You never had to wonder what Mom’s opinion was – she told you. And she didn’t always take the rough edge off. She stood up, tho, for what she believed to be best and true.
There’s a sweet pink triangle over there. That one is kindness. Mom was always thinking of something she could do for someone else. She made the most beautiful quilts, some of which you can see here. She had no money. She could have sold them, and she did sell one or two. But most of them, she gave away. On Dad’s birthday every year she took his favourite cake, Crumb cake full of raisins, to someone whose life, she felt, would be improved with cake. Often she would say, she took it to those “old people” who were not uncommonly younger than she was! She took a young minister on his first charge, half a country away from home, under her wing and made him feel as though he had a home here, too. She taught us to think of the other guy and to see where we might sew kindness into our own lives.
Selfless and Generous. Mom gave. There is a yellow piece for purity of heart. Mom could have sold her land and lived comfortably on the proceeds. But she didn’t. She gave it to her kids and scraped by for 33 years on her meagre widow’s pensions. She put herself last, always.
I like this patterned piece, that one is Integrity. Being the best person she could be meant a lot to Mom. She tried hard to live her life so that she would have nothing to regret when she looked back, and she taught us to do the same. She set a standard for behavior and performance that we try to live by.
There’s all the pieces, but until you sew them all together that’s all you have. Pieces. And the thread that sews it all together? Love. Lots and lots of love. Mom loved her family, her husband, her kids and their kids and their kids. She loved the dogs who kept her company on her long rambles and later, on her shorter rambles. She loved anyone who showed her a kindness. She was love.
For 66 years I have been privileged to love and have been loved by this amazing, strong, busy, little fire-cracker of a woman. She will be forever in our hearts proudly saying, “Look what you can do,” guiding us with her industry, her stubborness, her kindness, her laughter and her love. For the rest of my life I, all of us, will be wrapped in the quilt her love made for us.