By Janice Poulin, her daughter
Daisy was born in Alberta on May 26, 1920, grew up in Metchosin and this community remained her home base for the rest of her life. She passed away on April 24, 2015.
She leaves behind two daughters, Harriet Thom and Janice Poulin, son-in-law Eugene Poulin, grandchildren Richard Poulin (Kim Buchanan), Janette Poulin (Ken Hackshaw), and Martin Thom (Tania Thom), as well as great-granddaughters Lily Djole Poulin and Sophie Bligh Poulin. Daisy is predeceased by her dear husband of 71 years John, as well as her grandson Trevor Thom and son-in-law Ellery Thom and her brother Eric. Daisy is also survived by her sister Olive (Brix) Lawson, and many nieces and nephews.
Daisy was a very intelligent lady. If she had been born in a later era, she could have been a lawyer, a publishing writer or who knows what. However, she did love the life she led. She loved Metchosin, and recording its history. She kept her life full and eventful, and if she wasn’t filling up every bit of her time, her husband Johnnie helped her fill any spare moments. After Mom and Dad married they had many adventures throughout their years together. They made an awesome pair.
We understand that Daisy's mother – Ivy Moffat's – family had a background from United Empire Loyalists. Her Dad, Joe Baker emigrated from England at the age of 11 with his family to Northern Alberta. Her parents were married in 1916 and Joe went to World War 1 soon after. Daisy was born in Jeffrey, Alberta . Joe received a letter from the mother of Charlie Smith who was Englishman that he had become friends with during the war in France.
“ Dear Joe, June 16, 1920
Charlie has just told us in his letter of this morning that you have become the happy father of a baby daughter,Daisy. So I lose no time in very heartily congratulating you and your better half on such an auspicious occasion as this in your life's history. ... may the dear little one grow up to be a help and joy to your future life. God Bless you all three.”
Mom had a great relationship with her Dad. Here is a poem she wrote about her early childhood in Alberta called Feed Up Time
Through the snow, lantern low
Dad and I would make our way
From the kitchen to the barn
To feed up for another day.
Up the ladder he would climb
To the loft's sweet scented must.
Rustling greenfeed down would fly
and weightless hay with soft-shed dust.
Horses eight gently wait
Warm and still in dark'ning stall
Chewing cud, the family cows
Stare approvingly at all.
Dick and Dan, Bob and Bess,
Maude and Kitty, Mac and May
Forward to the manger press
Velvet noses in the hay.
Now this is our twosome time
Flick'ring oil flame licks the glass
Hear contentment everywhere
Moments, seconds, minutes pass.
Time to turn toward the house
Leaving the barn warm and dim,
Trudging on the hard packed snow
How I loved to march with him.
In 1927 the family moved to Metchosin which was deemed better for Ivy's health, as she had acquired TB. Joe's parents had settled for a time there.
Their trip here was in a new Model-T ford, a ten day trip with camp stove and tent, a great adventure for Daisy 7, Eric 3 and Baby Olive.
They bought the place on Metchosin Road that Joe's parents had owned, and Joe, our grandpa, started a chicken farm.
As a child Mom played at the original Blinkhorn(Witty) Barn, built in the 1850’s. She said that she and her brother Eric often enjoyed playing there. She later wrote about it. This property is next door to the Bakers' home. The barn, that Mom refers to in this short piece to follow, was replaced in 1928 for the Witty's by Daisy's Dad Joe. The picture of the 1928 barn is hanging is in the Municipal Hall. It too has gone.
Back to the story in Daisy's words.
The skeleton of the old barn stood with its back to the falls, right against the fence line. Arriving from Westlock, Alberta, we enjoyed sitting on the veranda from our home watching the ocean liners pass on route to or from Victoria or Vancouver. We counted the funnels, noting if there were 3 or 4. The next day we played ocean liner at the old barn, which became the Empress of Canada or the Empress of Japan. You might guess who the captain was ! Since my brother Eric was only 3, he was a less important crew member.
When the imaginary “ship” landed we used to climb into an old buggy with dried up leather seats and leather covered buttons, a fancy holder for the whip, and shafts for one horse. Such was the land of make-believe, when we saw nothing wrong in going for a ride on a sawhorse, or “driving” an overturned wheel barrow, not caring that the “steering” wheel turned toward or away from our stomachs instead of from left to right. We never knew what might take our fancies the next time we wanted to play “let's pretend”.
Now to grim reality. Daisy's Mom, Ivy's, health continued to decline and Margaret Benson, a woman from Colwood, came to be her caregiver and housekeeper. Before she died, Ivy asked Margaret to stay with the family until Daisy was old enough to take over. Later Joe and Margaret were married for appearances sake. Little Margaret did the best she could but could never be a mother substitute. The Goodall family had a store at Colwood. Kathleen Goodall and Daisy were great pals and Kathleen's Mom, Auntie Kate to Daisy, was very kind and supporting for her, the little girl who had recently lost her mother.
Daisy attended Metchosin School. Daisy was always bright but also quick. In school she misspelled the word “careless” and had to write a sentence with that word in it 100 times. Mrs. Helgesen took a look at the handed-in work and to her surprise, here were Mom's 100 sentences - “I must not be so “carless”.
Her dad, Joe Baker, made sure that she could get to school right through to grade 12. After early years at Metchosin School she went on to Victoria High. This was during the depression. She went in daily with her Dad as he went to Victoria with egg deliveries. Mom's life was interwoven with Margaret's half-sister, Winnie Benson, (who became Winnie Binks, then Winnie Bell -the former owner of the place Eugene and I bought on Witty Beach Road). Mom said she was like a big sister. At one point when times were tough it was difficult for Mom to get in daily from Metchosin to high school. Winnie worked as ahousekeeper in View Royal. Winnie's employer said Daisy could stay with them while attending high school if Winnie would share her bedroom. Winnie was glad to. Daisy graduated at barely 16 years of age. She later attended Sprotts Shaw which was a secretarial school at that time.
Daisy then worked for a lady teacher on the Gorge doing housekeeping. She met John. He always said that he took her home to meet his mother very shortly after they met. Recently we found a note from Mom attached to a little square of woolen blanket. Her note said she paid $5.00 a month for the 4 months before their wedding for 3 woolen blankets.
They were married in 1940 at the old St. Mary's Church with the reception at the Metchosin Community Hall. Mom said it was the first wedding reception at that hall as the previous one had burned down.
They lived near the Gorge for a while. They may not have had a bicycle built for two, but rather two bicycles for transportation. I'm imagining the honeymoon was over when they went to visit John's employer one evening. When asked if they'd had supper, Dad tried to impress the host by saying “yes, steak and sausages”. Mom was always totally honest (to the point of frustration on Dad's part) when she said, “Yes John, steak and one sausage, and we shared that”.
Dad joined the army during the war and was sent to Camp Borden in Ontario. Mom, pregnant with Harriet, took the train by herself across Canada to join him where she stayed until he was sent to England. By this time Harriet was a toddler. Then she had to take the train back with the child “in tow”, in Mom’s words.
After the war, they came home to Metchosin and went into the hay business. They worked together. Later Dad got a two-man chainsaw, however the second man was Daisy.
Then Dad found a job at Lytton. Daisy and John with Harriet all went up. Once that job was finished, they packed up a truck with “all and sundry” as Daisy would say, which included cases home preserved foods, and the family possessions including the pig and her piglets. By the time the truck arrived on Vancouver Island the pigs had rooted through everything – a mess.
After a few other adventures (and my birth), they rented a farm on Duke Road, which is now Circle Drive. The farm also included the orchard, that is now Olympic View Drive. In the summer the cows were driven from Duke Road, along Metchosin Road, to their summer pastures to the unused army camp by Esquimalt Lagoon, now Fort Rodd Hill Park. Daisy & Harriet were walking, responsible for making sure the cows didn't go into driveways, in front of trucks etc., or eat other people's gardens.
In about 1953 Daisy and John bought the corner store in Metchosin. Mom ran the store while Dad took the truck into Victoria to the wholesalers to get the groceries, hardware, ice cream, produce and anything else that anyone in Metchosin wanted to be picked up. The store in those days was like Grant Central Station – Daisy was always busy. She did hire help with the store work. Several of the local girls got their first jobs in their store. The woman across the road from the store, Chris Hall, was especially helpful to Mom, and they became good friends. The old fashioned cash register only went up to $3.00 and therefore any higher amount meant hitting the $3 key the necessary number of times, with a ping each time. One day Mom wasn't well. She was in our home that was attached to the back of the store, separated only by a door. Someone had come into the store and made a payment on their bill. Later Mom asked, “Who paid the $100?”. She had counted the pings. Nothing went past her.
John and Daisy, together with family, ran the store for 10 years and, as Dad used to say, “7 days a week, 12 hours a day”. Harriet remembers it being 14 hours a day at the beginning - open until 10:00 every night. Through the years we all pitched in to work behind the counter, stock shelves, attend to customers or pump gas out front.
During store days, Mom would occasionally hire live-in housekeepers to try to keep things running smoothly, do the laundry, make the meals, because our household was not normal.
But most of the time Mom was chief cook and bottle washer, and also made the suppers. Often Dad would have an extra person for supper – a friend, a recent acquaintance or one of his hired helpers. He employed people because Mom was busy with the store and couldn't be by his side. They helped with the haying, driving the truck to town, or spreading manure on hayfields. However, it gave Mom another mouth to feed, or perhaps more than one. She was so flexible. She just put more potatoes in the pot and more meat in the frying pan.
When they sold the store, their hospitality continued, which was appreciated by many relatives and locals alike. There were often one or two extras at the table, and animated conversations which we all enjoyed. Life was never dull.
After the store came the fishing years. One problem was that Mom had a tendency for seasickness. If she were ill and lying on the bunk she wouldn't have been able to be Dad's right hand helper. So she found a solution which she had been told about – put a bandaid over your belly button. She insisted that it worked – we just didn't get it. But in hindsight, it must have been a form of acupressure and it enabled her to work beside Dad.
They did gillnet fishing around the Sherringham lighthouse area past Sooke, up through the Johnson Strait, Rivers Inlet and Knights Inlet as well as in the Bella Bella area. One year they worked for the Department of Fisheries, and then more fishing. After several years of commercial fishing for salmon, they changed over to catching prawns and crabs with traps, at both Crofton and Mill Bay.
They sold the fresh prawns and crabs in various locations. Often they took the live shellfish to Chinatown and sold it from the back of their truck, which attracted much excitement and expectation. Or they took their prawns and crabs door to door in mobile home parks, where they could get more potential customers in a shorter period of time. Through the fishing period, hospitality continued but this time it was on the boat.
Mom continued to write throughout their fishing years. She wrote letters home from several of their northern fishing adventures. Her letters kept us in stitches. One example was of Mom and Dad helping a very large fisherman who had fallen into the water between his boat and the dock. It was evident that he had been indulging quite heavily. They did manage to get him out of the water and up onto the dock safely - him and his red longjohns - his only attire.
Over the years, she also wrote for the Islander in the Colonist Newspaper, HiWay News, Goldstream Gazette and Metchosin Muse, as well as the Witty chapter for the book Footprints - about Metchosin History.
As time passed, Daisy and John became more content to stay home at their place on Metchosin Road. Dad loved to plant vegetables and nurture them to produce well. Mom did some weeding, and she loved to be out there at harvesting time – either selling tomatoes at the roadside or giving them away.
She could get dirt under her fingernails in the garden, but, when she went out she liked to be clean and well-dressed, and liked Dad to look respectable when they went out together. One story we enjoy was her comment to Dad when she fell in the house and broke her hip the first time. She was reluctant to seek medical attention. When she finally allowed Dad to be called inside by Harriet, he came in from the shop – in his work clothes – and was adamant that she got it looked at. Her response was “You don’t need to think I’m going anywhere with you looking like that! You'd better get those dirty clothes changed!”
Mom continued to take pride in being well-groomed whenever she went out. Even at 94 years old, she would always put on her lipstick. In more recent years we were happy to see Mimia (who we had hired to help her after Dad died), assisting Mom with her appearance, including well-polished shoes and fingernails.
Throughout her lifetime she continued to write about whatever came to the forefront of her memory. Her recall was keen. She was creative. Dad had always relied on Mom's sharp brain during their years together. He would say “Daisy, what's the name of this or that?” or whatever other information he needed.” She always knew. But accuracy of detail started being replaced by her creativity.
After more time had passed, Dad said sadly to us, “Mom doesn’t have that twinkle in her eyes anymore.” It was difficult for him to see the changes.
But he still did lots of puttering outside, and she still went outside to “admire his work”, as she used to say. Dad began to cook more of the meals, do more household chores and generally looked out for Mom’s wellbeing.
Just before Dad died, he built a small suite in the corner of his large workshop, in case they needed someone to live there in the future and help them. He was so proud of being able to build such a nice bright place. But he had no idea that within a month of finishing it, we would need someone there to look after Mom as he would be gone.
We were fortunate to have Mimia to be Mom's caregiver and companion. And of course with Mimia had come her baby, Vance, who was 5 months old, and a continuous source of joy to Daisy.
In recent years Harriet and I encouraged and enabled Mom to continue with the events and activities that she had been participating in. Mom had many interests that hadn't directly involved Dad. Daisy had volunteered for years at the Metchosin School Museum. Her fantastic memory was a wonderful asset. When people from away wanted more information regarding their ancestors, she would remember where their home was, and if there were other Metchosin connections. When she was no longer able to do it, Mom sometimes came with me to spend a Sunday afternoon having the school museum open for visitors when it was my turn as Docent. She was content to do crossword puzzles or have a snooze.
She has always loved singing. For years she had volunteered with the musical entertainers at the Priory. When the Metchosin Rough Voice Choir started Mom and I were regulars. She was amazing – she knew the words and tunes, and if she didn't, she quickly picked them up.
For the past several years, Mom was asked to start the singing of God Save the Queen at the cenotaph on Remembrance Day. Mom rose to the occasion each time – Last November she was in her wheelchair, which ensured that she had a place to sit, other than on her walker. When asked to start the singing where she was sitting, she was having none of it. She did rise – to the occasion, standing as tall as her 94 year old body would allow and began to sing. The rest joined in.
The “take off pounds sensibly group” - TOPS – was also an important part of her life for many years. For the last two or so years she didn't go to the weekly meetings. We do appreciate the group for continuing to invite her when special events were happening. She always had a good time with the group.
In latter years she spent quality time with family and friends playing games of Scrabble with daughters, Janette, Martin, Ina, Mimia and ladies from Beacon, and even with her great-granddaughters occasionally.
More than a year after Dad passed away, Mom told us of a dream she had just had. Dad was standing outside the pearly gates. St. Peter saw him and said, “John, you'd better come in”. John said, “No. I'm waiting for Daisy”. In her dream Daisy responded, “Well, you'd better sit down – I'm going to be a while! I'm not ready yet!”
Over the past several months, when we went in to her place to see her, we'd say “How are you Mom?” and her response was “Well I'm still here.” Same answer every time.
Mom, in her own familiar home had a good quality of life for a long time. Up until last August when Mom broke her hip for the second time, she, Mimia and Vance would be seen walking toward Metchosin corner every afternoon.
She did her crossword puzzles, jig saw puzzles, watched TV and napped. She also sang old favourite tunes, and children’s songs to Vance, and taught him nursery rhymes.
Mom was able to watch Vance grow from a 5 month old to a big little boy of nearly four years of age.
Daisy had a strong Christian belief. She practiced her faith in her daily life, both in the general community and in the church community. For almost nine decades she regularly attended church as a member of St. Mary's Parish.
In the past few years friends referred to her as “our Daisy” or “dear Daisy”. She was sweet and she was gentle.
Mom's strength had been gradually diminishing for the past few months. But she remained content – she just had to go slower, and she slept much more. Family and friends were aware of the decline, but we all continued to be sure she was included in the family events – and could have “a rest” on the couch whenever she felt like it.
This year family Easter celebrations included a trip with her great-granddaughters, Lily and Sophie, for ice cream cones at Metchosin corner which she enjoyed. And during the last weekend of Mom's life – Eugene's 70th birthday – she celebrated with many family members and friends. Lily and Sophie were there. That was the last time they saw their great-grandmother.
Daisy passed away peacefully in her own bed after a very full life.
Dad regularly held Mom's hand. Down through the years he'd look at her lovingly. He often used to say to Daisy “We love you Mom”. Ditto. We do, too.
Daisy’s family would like to thank all the people who helped make it possible for Mom to stay in her own home until the end, including Mimia – Mom's caregiver, Dr. Robert O'Connor, the Beacon workers as well as the Hospice Palliative Response Team who assisted so much with Mom's comfort on the last two days. And from all the family – a very big thank you for the kindness, support and love that her extended family, friends and residents of Metchosin have had for Mom over the last few years. Our hearts are filled with gratitude.