April 17, 2019
Eleanor (Ellie) Harrison, our dear mother, passed away on 17 April age 94. Her parents Hazen and Marie Shirley (nee Gilmore) moved to Vancouver from New Brunswick as young adults, married here and raised their children Ruby, Howard, and mother in Marpole. Mother’s parents and siblings pre-deceased her, as did her husband, our father Bill, and mother’s dearly loved grandchild Connor. Mother attended schools in South Vancouver, worked at Woodward’s and BC Electric, and then like so many of her generation was called to serve her country. Mother joined the WRNS and was stationed at Halifax. She was a teenager, far from home and family, and thrown into a cauldron of fear, the sadness of death, maiming, and destruction, interest in new things, and excitement. Mother’s cousin Jean, who joined the RCAF a year before mother joined the WRNS, later wrote, “As I think about the war years, I realize that we put our childhoods behind us and most of us grew up overnight.” Many lost that chance to grow up, something mother carried with her for the rest of her life. While posted at ACHQ Halifax, mother then 20 years old received the signal on Christmas Eve 1944 that the German U-Boat 806 had sunk the HMCS Clayoquot outside the gates of Halifax Harbour. Her signal recorded that the Clayoquot was hit in the stern and sank within six minutes. What heartache she and so many others must have suffered during the war years. We think it also must have given her much of her resilience and determination to push on, not complain, and make the best of things, even when her heart was carrying heavy burdens.
Mother and father knew each other as children but only after the war was over did a romance blossom. They married and started a family and like so many of her generation mother took on most of the responsibilities of raising her children. Joan was born first, then Andrew and then Peter. They built a home in Surrey and mother stayed there until she moved in 1988 to her condo in White Rock with its views of the pier and Semiahmoo Bay. Views that mother never tired of from the window seat in her living-room. Our loss is profound and deep but we are so grateful that mother was able to live in her condo until one week before her death.
Mother devoted her life to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. All achievements, real or imaginary, were praised, all tears wiped and all smiles shared. Mother’s body and mind were still going strong, it was her heart that failed at the end. Probably from giving so much of it to her family. Mother did not want a service, nor name any charity for remembrances. If you knew mother you already know that all she would want is for those who remember her to do something kind for someone or some organization. Mother’s ashes will be scattered across Semiahmoo Bay. Her life will forever be held in the hearts of her daughter Joan (Jim), their children Jennifer (Colin) (their children Mira and Matteo), Hazen (Mel) (their children Norah and Kate), her son Andrew (Cary), their children Jordan (Erin) (their children Jayda, Cyrus, Matix, Zephyr, and Vana), Melissa (Jay) (their children Liv, Leksya, Leif and Lottie), Drew (Carla), and her son Peter (Rebekka). We are still shedding tears but it is mother’s smile and laugh that will prevail in our hearts.
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