In Memory of

Bertha

Bee

(Oldridge)

Obituary for Bertha Bee (Oldridge)

It is with sadness, we the family announce the passing of our much-loved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister and friend, Bertha (Oldridge) Bee, a resident of Ingersoll and formerly of Queen’s Park Residences, Tillsonburg, and RR1 Brownsville, at Secord Trails, Ingersoll, on Thursday, December 21, 2023, at the age of 98. Born in Detroit, Michigan, to the late Wilfred and Lillian (nee Southen) Oldridge. Bertha is predeceased by her husband, Noel Edward Bee (October 9, 2009). Survived by her siblings: Rhoda Micks (late Russ Micks) and Kay Oldridge (late Bob Harris). Predeceased by her siblings: Jack Oldridge (Barbara) Millie Thompson (late Alan), Bob Oldridge (late Leona), Bill Oldridge (late Esther), and Rose Pollard (late Dave). Bertha is survived by her much-loved children, Brian Bee (Antoinette), and Roy Bee. Proud and loving grandmother to Gavin (Gwen), Wayne (Carol), Walter (Clare), Mike (Allison), and Tammy (Shane); and great grandmother to their children. As Bertha was a part of a five-generation family, she is also survived by several great-great grandchildren and several nieces, nephews, and cousins. Bertha was a member of Grace Bible Fellowship Church, Courtland and was a former sales associate with Carroll Bros. Giftware and Hardware Store, Tillsonburg.

Special thanks to the doctors, nurses, personal support workers and all the other staff and volunteers at Secord Trails, Ingersoll for the care given to Bertha over the past seven years.

In keeping with Bertha’s expressed wishes, a public funeral service to honour her life was held on Saturday, January 6th, 2024, at 11:00 a.m. in the Maurice J. Verhoeve Funeral Homes Chapel, 262 Broadway, Tillsonburg, by Pastor James Rowbottom, of Grace Bible Fellowship Church.

A livestream was offered for those unable to attend:
https://youtube.com/live/6ahIjnWFYE4?feature=share

Burial followed in the Delmer Cemetery, followed by a lunch reception at the Royal Canadian Legion, 16 Durham Street, Tillsonburg. Friends, neighbours, and relatives were invited to attend a public visitation on Friday, January 5th, 2024, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and on Saturday, January 6th, 2024, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. (service time), in the Verhoeve Funeral Homes Chapel, Tillsonburg. All are invited to offer their support by sharing fond memories, favourite photos, or in lieu of flowers, sympathy may be expressed through donations to the Grace Bible Fellowship Church, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Royal Canadian Legion or a charity of your choice via Bertha’s online tribute page at www.verhoevefuneralhomes.com or by contacting the Maurice J. Verhoeve Funeral Homes- Burial and Cremation Services Inc., Tillsonburg (519) 842-4238, entrusted with all funeral arrangements, with confidence.

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BELOW IS A EULOGY SHARED BY BRIAN BEE DURING THE FUNERAL SERVICE:

Good morning.
I am Brian Bee, oldest son of Bertha Bee, whose life we are remembering and celebrating today. Mom was just two months away from her 99th birthday so she has witnessed and experienced a lot.
I want to thank all of you – all the family members including her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, sisters, nieces, nephews and cousins and all Mom’s friends and acquaintances -- for joining together here today in celebrating and remembering Mom's long life. Also, thanks to those who are watching live stream or who will watch the recording of this service later. And thanks to those who couldn’t be here today who reached out to me or other family members to offer support and condolences. A large community as far as England and Australia joins us in remembering Mom.
Mom's age, frailty and declining condition in the nursing home have made me more aware and sensitive to the grieving for other mothers who have passed recently. I think of Leona Oldridge, Betty Southen and even Queen Elizabeth.
I want to give a special mention to the staff and volunteers at Secord Trails Nursing Home in Ingersoll for the care that was provided to Mom over the last seven years. For a short time prior to that she was also well cared for by Tillsonburg hospital staff and Woodstock hospital staff. Thank you.
Speaking about Secord Trails reminds me that nephew, Walter, deserves a special thanks for all the visits he made and the comfort he provided to his grandmother while she was at Secord Trails.
In speaking to you today, I am going to use Bertha's own words as much as possible to highlight who she was and what she meant to me. As some of you may know, Mom wrote various pieces about her life and kept dairies at various times during her life. One of the longer things she wrote -- as many family members know -- is Bertha's Story, a short 23-page story of her life. I have also found a few other pieces that she wrote -- almost all are quite short. We encouraged her to write more and include how she felt about the events and people she wrote about but what we see is what we get. This is what she had to say about her own writing in the Preface to Bertha’s Story:
“This story is only an outline. To tell the story of the past 70 years would take too long and be too boring. Even this much as I've written will probably not be read or only in bits and dabs.
I have thought of many things to write during the wakeful hours in the night. Things I write on the typewriter of the mind but by morning are in the wastebasket of forgetfulness.”

And on p. 1:
Someone the other day said that everyone should write their story to hand down in the family. Without considering too long I started in as I'd already had some thoughts along that line.”

And on another piece of paper, she wrote more poetically:
“Last night as I lay in a dozing state, stories came that I could write about. Now those thoughts have turned to fluff disappearing or floating off as blown parachutes of dandelion seeds are apt to do.”

To many people, Mom’s faith and religion stand out as a defining characteristic. Her devotion was demonstrated by the many churches she attended in and around Tillsonburg including Ostrander United, St, Paul’s United, Delmer United, Alliance Church and Grace Family Bible Fellowship. As I reviewed her many notebooks and pieces of paper with scraps of writing, I found many references to Bible passages and to television programs of church services that she had watched over the years writing notes about the things that she had learned from each of these. On p. 2 of Bertha’s Story, she writes:
“Sundays we went to Sunday school. Granddad was Superintendent. I enjoyed Sunday school. I remember one Sunday as granddad led us in prayer, he went to his knees to pray for rain. It was the 30s and the weather had been hot and very dry.”

In another question-and-answer type book called Reflections from a Mother's Heart A Family Legacy for Your Children in response to the question, “Who was the first person to talk to you about God? What effect did this have on you?” she wrote:
“My grandmother was probably the first at least in my memory. She and granddad were solid Christians. They influenced my life. They had a plaque on the dining room wall, “Christ is the unseen guest in this home” and I know He was. Granddad always asked the blessing every meal. Their lives affected my outlook.”

And to another question, “When did you become a Christian? How did your life change?” she wrote:
“To say when I accepted Christ is rather difficult. I always believed in God. In church I heard about Christ, and I gradually came to learn he was my Savior. It wasn't a sudden experience. As I experienced personal healing in his name life had more meaning. I was calmer after that realizing he was there for me.”

Other traits of Mom were her strength, courage and determination. How does a young woman leave a comfortable urban life in London, go to a remote part of Alberta and never complain? Shortly after Mom married Noel in 1946, they headed for Alberta by train (Noel is my Dad who predeceased Mom in October 2009). Noel's parents were already living in Alberta along with his brother, Frank. Once they arrived, Mom writes in Bertha’s Story:
“We went looking for a farm on which to make our home and our dreams come true. We hoped to find a farm which the Department of Veterans Affairs would approve and help to finance. The farms we liked they wouldn’t approve of especially if the price was over a set amount which ruled out any in the vicinity of Noel’s parents as it was good soil and within 12 miles of Edmonton. Eventually we were settled on a farm “suitable for the pioneer type” as the settlement officer termed it. It had an old log house and barn. It was supposed to have a spring to supply water. The only water we could find was in the Paddle River which cut through the corner of the property. It was from there we hauled water for washing, we took the cattle there to water them. Also we were able to get drinking water from the neighbor across the road. After a very cold winter spent in the log house we had to build a house which was built closer to the road, Noel did most of the building.”

And just how cold was it? In yet another diary she kept, Mom wrote on December 14, 1946:
“Ten months of this wonderful life. Noel is so grand. The temperature was 35 degrees Fahrenheit below zero this morning.”

The next day, December 15, she writes:
“It’s warmer this morning.”
On another scrap of paper, Mom wrote about learning to drive, handling farm equipment and being a parent on the Alberta farm in the early 1950’s -- all condensed in one short paragraph:
“I learned to drive, Noel the teacher, after we were married. While in the West I drove a tractor. First an Allis Chalmers model B, later Massey Harris, then an Oliver Cletrac. Noel had a job away from the farm. Before going he'd ready the tractor oil, gas, greased tracks on the Cletrac. Start an area to plow or disc with instructions etcetera. This was before Roy started school, Brian being in school. Taking the wagon with high box, Roy and his toys inside, out to my designated work area I kept an eye on Roy as I drove around, he could just peer over the top of the box, he was a good kid.”
Mom’s strength and courage, at a relatively young age in her mid-20’s, to tackle all this at once is remarkable.
Another personal recollection of mine -- it may be somewhat flawed because this is a recollection of a 10-year-old -- further illustrates Mom’s strength, courage, organization, calmness and fearlessness in the face of adversity. In 1957, Mom and Dad had decided that farming in Alberta wasn't for them, and they were needed back in Ontario by Mom’s granddad who had had a stroke and needed some help on his farm northwest of Ostrander. Leaving Dad behind to finish selling and packing up the Alberta farm, Mom, my brother Roy and I boarded a train pulled by a steam locomotive with wheels taller than me to make the 4-day train journey in coach class via Edmonton and Toronto to London. I can't imagine how difficult it was for Mom herding two energetic farm boys, age 8 and 10, on the train. Throughout this journey Mom mysteriously produced food when we were hungry. During the stopover in Toronto at Union Station Mom led us outside onto Front Street to view the Royal York Hotel and the front of Union Station. I was quite awestruck by this view. My own experience up until then being the small towns of Alberta with the tallest building being a grain elevator at 5 storeys.
I am passing around a photograph of Mom with Antoinette, my partner, after we had completed a hike in Algonquin Park on a supposedly easy trail in October 2014 when Mom was 89. Her joy and pride at having completed this hike with her family is quite evident. Four generations of family participated in this hike: Mom, myself and my partner Antoinette, my son Gavin and his wife Gwen and their children, Lucas and Grace. Mom’s strength, willingness to try new things, and love of the outdoors and family shine through. Mom loved all God's creatures: birds, small animals, trees and flowers. Another hike that she enjoyed immensely was the walk around Lake Lisgar in Tillsonburg where she was on the lookout for all God’s creatures. Another outdoor activity that Mom enjoyed was camping with Dad. I would have thought she had had enough of the rustic life on the farm in Alberta, but she still enjoyed camping.
I have already alluded to the importance of family to Mom. More quotes from Bertha’s Story illustrate her love of family and possibly where she got her desire to become a farmer. From p. 2 of Bertha’s Story, Mom describes summer as a young girl on her grandparent’s farm northwest of Ostrander:
“In the summer we made a holiday trip to the farm to see our grandparents (dad's parents) … Jack and I were put on a train in charge of the conductor to be let off in Tillsonburg where we were met by Aunt Gertie and Uncle Mack who took us out to the farm. Summer holidays at the farm were sheer bliss. We got up early to go to the barn, to the cheese factory when granddad took the milk there. Grandad was a patient man with children.
Farm life really suited us. We picked beans, black currants, cherries, etc. We took cold water to the field for granddad when he worked there. We’d go to meet him in the late afternoon to get a ride home on the back of one of the horses or help drive them home as granddad brought them for water and into the barn to remove the harnesses.”
And on p. 9:
“When visiting at the farm I used to spend some time in town with my cousins, June and Evelyn most often with June as she was near my age. June was a gifted pianist. If we went to a musical movie she would come home, sit at the piano and play the new songs we just heard. Evelyn 's parents, Aunt Mayme and Uncle Ref always made us welcome. They were our favorite aunt and uncle. June's parents Uncle Mac and Aunt Gertie were special too. Aunt Gertie used to make great chili con carne for June and me when Uncle Mac could not get home at noon. Uncle Mac always called us “nuisance”, but he had the cutest grin when he said it, so I really think he loved kids.”

And on p. 13 Mom wrote:
“A few days after I arrived home with Roy from the hospital my brother Bob arrived with a friend. It was good to see Bob. The year before Bill and Bob both came. Bill had driven a Model A Ford across Canada from southern Ontario to Alberta. They had a friend with them. They all slept in the old log house while visiting.
A year or so after Roy was born, Mom, Jack and Kay came for a visit… Kay was about 10 at the time of their visit. She loved to follow Noel around feeding the chickens and cows. We picked a lot of Saskatoon berries that year eating some fresh and canning quite a number of jars. We always had a large garden. Some of the vegetables we also canned. The green beans we salted down in layers in a crock.”

And from p. 14:
“I wrote to mom once a week usually and she wrote often too. One year when Brian was about eight or nine mother came out by plane to visit us. A year or so previously she and Rhoda came out by train. Mother didn't care for that mode of travel, but Rhoda wouldn’t fly. I felt the same way as Rhoda. I like train travel.”

As the eldest child in the family, Mom had a great deal of responsibility for looking after younger brothers and sisters. Later she had to forego going to school to go to work to earn money for the family when money was short in the 1930s and early 1940s. In spite of her responsibilities, she still seemed to have a good deal of fun with her brothers and sisters. In response to the question, “List one special memory about each of your brothers and sisters.” in the question-and-answer diary, Reflections from a Mother's Heart, Mom wrote:
“Jack taking his insulin after boiling his needles and then Jack's cooking his breakfast sharing some bacon with me.
Bill enjoyed making people laugh. How we missed him when he was at the farm.
Bob delivering for the drugstore on his bike when he was about 14.
Millie though much younger followed me around.
Rosie her sweet smile.
Rhoda wasn't very shy.
Kay streaked at a very young age.
Meeting the three bares clothed in their best after Sunday school.”

Mom called Rosie, Rhoda and Kay the three bares -- spelled BARES -- because they thought clothing was optional.
I could go on with many more stories from Mom's writing over the years, but I think you now have a good flavor of who mom was and what she meant to me and the rest of the family. She was a quiet inspiration to the five generations of family – sisters, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren – left behind.