Elizabeth Smith

1933 – 2018

Betty was born in Wiltshire, England. Her father worked steadily through the Depression, but gambling and drinking meant never enough food for growing children. Her parents fought frequently: she remembered sitting on the stairs with her sisters while downstairs her parents fought their way through the house, ending in the kitchen where her father, slight but wiry, tried unsuccessfully to drown her mother, a powerful woman, in a bucket of mop water. Both parents turned violence on the children and worse, encouraged them to fight each other, and such a childhood set Mum to a lifelong struggle with depression and anxiety, which worsened with age.

Her solace was to get out of that hellish home and stay out as long as possible, wandering even as a small child through beautiful countryside: she often recounted walking happily through a sea of bluebells in the spring woods. Nurturing her garden and being outside in nature were her lifelong pleasures. Mum remembered her first car ride, and loved the freedom of travel: losing her license was a hard blow, and leaving her home for a care facility an even harder one.

As a shy and ill-educated girl, she went to work at fifteen, turning over every penny she earned to her mother until she married. For the rest of her life, she worked in tough jobs as a cleaner, server and chambermaid, and the class system of Britain filled Mum with a loathing for unearned privilege.

She had a deep sympathy for those who were treated unjustly, particularly helpless animals and children. She could not bear to eat meat, see a neglected dog on a chain or a fish struggling for breath, or hear the cries of a frightened or unhappy child, and her compassion profoundly influenced those around her.

Married to Harold for almost seventy years, they suffered the loss of an infant son, and driven by Mum’s restless nature and the poverty of post WWII Britain, emigrated first to Rhodesia and then to Canada; but Mum was always homesick for the English countryside.

Abuse from teachers, parents and employers cultivated her dark sense of humour and disdain for false sentimentality and hypocrisy. A strong proponent of education, she was heartened by the progress women have made. Mum was a forward thinker, thrown out of a veterinarian’s office back in the 1950s for asking them to spay her dog.

Her grandchildren were her joy, and their growing years likely the happiest of her troubled life. They have many fond memories of outings with Nanna, and eagerly anticipated her Saturday suppers, as she was a gifted cook and baker. She was their champion and their refuge, their best audience and companion. A loving and gentle soul, she will be dearly missed by daughters Debbie Schlicht (Karl, Kiera) and Gillian Anderson (Frank, Spencer, Harris, Hannah and Helen) and the Layzell and Sorrell clans.

Our gratitude to all the professionals who helped Mum in her final months, especially Drs. Frolic and Emmott and staff, and the Comox Valley Seniors’ Village, from the administration and front desk to the recreation, housekeeping and laundry staff; above all, the staff of Special Care, whose professional conduct and steadfast kindness allowed Mum to finish her life pleasantly and with dignity, and who comforted her while she died peacefully.

Cremation and no service: but if you wish to honour Mum, a donation to Project Watershed in Comox to restore the sawmill site would be wonderful.

Memories to littlegreenbarn@shaw.ca. Cheerio, Mum! You’ll be in our hearts as the years pass. Now Dad and the dogs are waiting, the kettle’s on for tea, and there are bluebell woods all over Heaven and plenty of gardens that need a bloody good weeding.

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