|Florence McCauley Brinsmead|
is an honour to speak of my mother-in-law Florence Brinsmead. She was
known to each of you in different degrees
and touched your lives in a diversity of ways.
was honest and interesting. She had an abundance of courage, insight
and tolerance and was loved dearly by her family and by the wider
community in which she participated so fully.
died quietly, at 81, in Edmonton in the late evening of November 20th.
Her daughter Wendy was at her side, and each of her children Rona,
David and Alison had been with her steadily during her illness. She
died having been in the company of her whole family, and at peace with
are never adequate to describe a person we love, but as life and death
must always remain a matter of mystery and faith, analogies sometimes
help our understanding.
the night Mrs. Brinsmead died, somewhere in Atlantic Canada, a runner,
one of many, passed on a torch to yet another runner. The flame those
runners are carrying represents the Olympic spirit. One by one, they
are bringing it to Calgary for the winter games. The Olympics have
gone on for many generations, and the torch is the symbol of the
spirit of those games.
can compare Mrs. Brinsmead's life and influence to that Olympic
spirit. While she has now left us physically, her spirit - her
influence - will and must live on in each of us, like a torch passed
to the next runner. Our civilization is like an eternal flame, and
Florence Brinsmead represents a vital link, having passed that flame
on to us for custody and enhancement.
Brinsmead was born in Pendleton, Ontario, in the beautiful Ottawa
Valley. She was the youngest of three daughters of William George
McCauley and his wife Edith Caroline Brown. She had two sisters
-Violet and Rowena.
family moved west in 1913 and settled in the new Province of
Saskatchewan. The McCauley family had Irish roots and this was a source
of pride to Mother. It inspired some of her travel, her interests and
on the early prairies was a Spartan existence. The family lived in an
area where the settlers and their communities had very few resources.
Education was obviously very important in her family as Vi and
Florence both became
teachers. Yet Lovena, the small town on the Alberta/Saskatchewan
border where Mr. McCauley had become an elevator operator, had very
limited school facilities.
a result Florence took room and board and went to school in Saskatoon.
This was expensive, and her parents sacrificed almost two-thirds of
the family's income to make it possible, themselves moving into the
grain elevator to save expense.
became an important factor in Mother's life; she encouraged all her
children and later her grandchildren to make the very best of their
talents and opportunities; she had a profound respect for the value of
things and, having experienced hardship, abhorred waste. When she
later got the chance to do so, she returned to university to complete
her own Bachelor of Arts degree.
degree, granted by the University of Alberta in 1969,
when Mrs. Brinsmead was in her 60's, was at least a partial tribute to
the personal sacrifices her family had made for her.
is also an important example to us of how the spirit of those who have
gone before can continue to influence us and enrich our lives; of how
the human spirit gets passed on. As her parent's sacrifice influenced
her, so her example should influence us, and our children, to do the
best we can in life, in the way she would have wanted.
Brinsmead worked as a teacher in a number of one room school houses in
Saskatchewan and eventually she found a position back in Loverna.
was on a tennis court in Loverna that Florence, at age 16, met Robert
Gordon Brinsmead. Her early pictures confirm that she was a beautiful
women then, as she continued to be even in old age. Bert, a handsome
man 11 years her senior, had moved to Loverna with his parents from
Ontario. He ran the jewellery store, and his brother Tom published the
and Bert's decision to get married took courage. He was Protestant and
she Catholic, and with the Klu-Klux-Klan around, feelings about mixed
marriages ran high. Times were tough and Bert was worried about being
able to support a family, but Florence was confident. They eloped and
were married in Moose Jaw in 1929.
the first four years they lived in the McCauley's home in Loverna.
Alison and then Rona were born there. in 1933 Bert learned of an
opportunity to open a jewellery store here in Camrose. Mrs. Brinsmead
stayed in Loverna while Bert set up the store -Brinsmead Jewellers -on
Main Street, and then she and the girls joined him on Armistice Day,
then on Camrose became truly her home town. In 1939 she moved into the
house on 48th Street, where she continued to live until last year.
"...the invitations to the Camrose Masonic Dance on Friday last evening were widely accepted. Several little dinner parties were arranged, the groups going to the dance afterwards. Mrs. R.G. Brinsmead, Master of the Lodge and Mrs. Brinsmead, received the guests. Mrs. Brinsmead chose for the occasion a black net jacket frock, and she wore red rosebuds, encorsage."
1942, Wendy, my wife, was born, as the Brinsmead started the second installment
of their family, presumably waiting until Alison and Rona
were grown up enough to assume cooking and baby-sitting duties. David
was born two years later.
Florence and Bert Brinsmead were active in the affairs of Camrose. In addition to running the store they were active in this Church, in community groups and in the many activities of a growing family. They had a beach cottage at Pidgeon Lake where they would spend time in the summer.
four children graduated from Camrose High School, where, once the
children had grown up, Florence went to work for 7 years as
the 50's she decided to complete her education. Struggling through
trigonometry, she obtained her grade
husband Bert died in 1966. She remained active in the Camrose
community, with the Church, and the Eastern Star, whilst still
focusing attention on her children, and as they came, her
grandchildren. To be nearer to them she purchased a condominium in
Edmonton, but for many years kept it as a sort of resting spot,
preferring to keep the Camrose house as "home". It was only
last year that she decided to move into Edmonton permanently.
are the raw biographical facts, but what of her character.
was an intelligent woman with an inquiring mind. She was not one to
simply adopt conventional wisdom, but she was not argumentative for
the sake of it either. She simply would never take the lazy way out
and adopt an idea without thinking her position through first.
was not afraid to be different. She was a Liberal when those around
her were Conservative. She was a strong Canadian nationalist; when it
became popular to criticize the East for the ills of the West she
spoke up for the country as a whole. She always remembered her Ottawa
Valley and Irish roots, and as a result valued rather than disparaged differences in heritage or
maintained an active interest in current affairs right up until the
end. She could always discuss the events of the day with depth and
perception. Regularly she attended the summer school for seniors at
the University of Alberta. Her classes, this year, were on the Bible
As Literature, and Current Affairs. She took the bus to school daily,
learned much, and complained only of her inability to hear the movies.
loved to learn, not in the sense of learning bare facts, but to
understand. She was an avid and literate reader. One of the ways she
learned was through travel. She was not the typical Kodak tourist; her
descriptions of the places she visited showed that she had taken the
time to understand the customs and personalities of the people she
liked the tours run by the University, because they gave a focus to
her travels. At 81 years old she was about to leave on a literary tour
of England and was only prevented from doing so by her illness.
was fascinated by history. Happily she has recorded much about her own
past. For example she explored the history of each of this Church's
beautiful stained glass windows and set it down for future generations
had an unusual combination of tolerance and standards. People with
standards and expectations as high as hers can be overly critical of
those who do not meet those standards. Perhaps it was because she
always remained a good teacher that her standards came through as
support not criticism. She quietly urged those around her to do their
best, and she had the gumption to speak her mind when she thought
doing so would provide useful encouragement. At the same time she
carefully resisted interference, respecting independence and offering
had an appearance of innocence that those who did not know her well
could confuse with naiveté. What she really had was a simple
straightforward honesty. She offered no pretence and anticipated none
had a delightful sense of humour. Even in the hospital, when she was
frustrated to be dependant on the equipment she called her plumbing,
she found time to joke, winning the staff's admiration and affection.
One day, standing up with her trident like I.V. pole in her hand, she
told the nurse she felt like Father Neptune. To Florence the real joke
was that the nurse thought she was talking about a Catholic priest.
took tremendous pride in her grandchildren, first Jane and Barry, then
Gavin, Bryce and Courtney, and lastly our two boys Peter and David. She
watched each of them grow and took a keen interest in everything they
did. It is to these young people that she has, almost visibly, tried
to pass on her torch. She has had a profound impact on each of them
and they must carry that influence on, putting it to use in their
daily lives. Once their turn comes they must pass it on again.
Brinsmead lived life fully herself, but also, when you spent time with
her, you were conscious of getting something because she gave so
generously of herself. She was a rewarding person to know.
passed on her spirit to all of us, and we must now carry the torch
forward in the way she would have wished, in the knowledge that we
have each been enriched by the life of a magnificent lady.
|The gravestone of Florence McCauley Brinsmead (1906-1987) and Robert Gordon Brinsmead (1895-1966) in the Camrose Cemetery, Camrose, Alberta, Canada.||