This past Monday my hometown, Rainy River, Ontario, lost one of its Grandma’s… mine…
While the first several decades of her life she lived elsewhere, the past two (or so) she called Rainy River home. But unlike others, she was not known by her actual surname…. Between this column and my Mom, Norma-Jean Johnston, introducing Jean Heard as “Grandma Jean,” that is how everyone knew her!
Grandma bought a beautiful home on the corner of 6th St and River Ave. West… the latter street name saying it all… she loved seeing the river out her front viranda.
Grandma’s love of music quickly had her playing the piano at senior citizen functions, choir concerts and of course at my Mom and Dad’s. At the latter, I remember Grandma arriving for family feasts and automatically sitting down at the piano and beginning to just play. Within seconds my Mom would leave the kitchen to join the music by singing with her Mom.
Grandma also had a love of dogs and when she met my first dogs, Odi and Navy, she asked if I could help her get a dog. It wasn’t long and she rescued Gordie, a Pug-itzu (Pug Shihtzu cross). She loved that little guy but he would break her heart when he passed from cancer a short while later.
But she would not be dog-less for long, as we went on another rescue mission… finding Wishbone, who became a great companion keeping her and Grandpa Martin (her first husband) company at home and many family functions.
Speaking of rescues, way back in 1990 I was commuting on an old motorcycle from Rainy River to Fort Frances for my summer job. One summer evening I was half-way home when my bike broke down in Stratton. Who came to my rescue, but Grandma Jean… as the sun was setting I saw this little white Plymouth Horizon come over the hill. She was my hero!
Over the years, Grandma gradually lost her sight, but still played music. You see, even though she couldn’t, she could play music from memory or by ear… she was truly a talented musician.
In the past several years she would spend her summers in Rainy River and winters in Halifax with Auntie Louise. When home she always showed interest in our lives and was truly a great-grandma to Kim and I’s kids… Veronica and Riley both adored her and loved her dearly. She had Veronica over to her house for tea and of course music and singing.
Riley was fascinated by old people and loved to hug up on her and listen to her stories.
Grandma loved us all so deeply, she has left a big hole in our lives with her departure… but we all know she is in Heaven with her Lord and surely is entertaining everyone with her music there.