On this fourth of June, I am on a return flight from Toronto to Vancouver having been away for five weeks. We have been in Wales and England honouring my wife Christine as she celebrates her seventy years.
As I fly I am remembering my mother Tina, for whom this day was a birthday. She lived to celebrate 88 of those birthdays and she has been away from her family since November 2007.
We miss her still yet time passes quickly enough that the blurring of memories occurs in spite of our desire to remember. It is photographic images that arouse the recall.
What an interesting woman Mom was. Born in Saskatchewan in a farming community, living in Waldheim and Hepburn, she had a grade nine education and she began to work hard at an early age. She was industrious from the start, knowing how to sew, how to bake and to cook. She did unskilled work, clerking and switchboard operator. She married Edward Richard Unruh, but soon their lives were interrupted by WWII and my father’s enlistment into the Royal Canadian Air Force. The post war years began with them teaming to start and to run a Coffee Shop in Hepburn. Soon however, Dad felt that opportunity for employment and a future existed in Ontario and the family, Dad, me, and a pregnant Mom moved to St. Catharines ON.They rented accommodation for many years, a condemned two room shack, then a downtown St. Paul St. third floor apartment, then a full house in Rosedale Gardens, a subdivision on the outside of St. Catharines, then a large brick house on Clark St., then to James St., and finally when I was twelve, and Mom was 37 we moved to the first home Mom and Dad owned. It was a 3 bedroom bungalow with a basement on Bunting Rd., well outside St. Catharines.
During all of those years, while her children grew, Mom did housework for other women, some occasional sewing of garments. She was hired to sew costumes for the local skating club. She worked in her church, Calvary Church, always in the kitchen. It was what she knew best to do, and what she became known for. In fact, over time, she operated her own Catering Business, and prepared grand dinners for large gatherings. Wealthy people hired Tina Unruh. Her happiest employment was as Day-time Food Services provider for Ontario Paper head office. She even prepared a cook book of her many recipes and those of others, and had my brother Neale and I design some art work, then self published 1000 copies and sold them all.
Perhaps her greatest personal fulfillment was found as she worked with the local church women’s group, took on a leadership roll, and became recognized as a woman of integrity, of spirituality and was elected eventually to the presidency of the entire southern Ontario region. She had to lead meetings, give talks and presentations, and while humbled and sometimes terrified, she amazed herself that she could do this and that her leadership was valued. By this time, her three sons, were each of us in some form of Christian ministry ourselves. She would say over and over that we were a constant source of joy for her.