Family and friends gathered to celebrate the life of Jacquie Johnson on October 2, 2002 at the Senior’s Activity Centre in Williams Lake.
Long time friend, Willie Crosina was master of ceremonies. Grandson, Clay Palmantier read the eulogy. Some very special songs and music followed.
Iris Witte played the guitar and sang Blue Bird on Your Windowsill, Range Land in Heaven, and God’s Colouring Book.
Grandson Morgan Witte played the guitar and sang Red River Valley and The Dance. Grandson Tyler Witte played Light Row on the violin.
Elsa Jeanne Johnson, better known as Jacquie, was born in St. Boswells, Saskatchewan on September 1, 1923.
She moved to the Ruskin/Mission area of B.C. when she was about six-years-old, along with her mother, brother and sister.
They worked hard together to build a homestead there. Several years later she moved back to the family prairie farm in Mossbank, Saskatchewan and helped out there before returning to B.C.
While working as a governess in Vancouver she met another very adventurous lady and together they decided to visit the beautiful Chilcotin country.
She married Duane Witte on September 21, 1944. This made her a guide outfitter/rancher’s wife and soon to be mother of three children: Arda Jeanne (Ratcliff); Caroline Elsa (Palmantier); and Franklin Duane Witte.
Quoted from an article written by Paul St. Pierre in the Vancouver sun in 1959.
“Jacquie Witte: What makes Cariboo women the stronger sex? — She can ride horses and feed livestock, drive a tractor (team), run a swamp buggy, chop firewood, doctor sick animals, garden, and can supplies for winter. Cook, clean and entertain and even keep a sod roof from leaking. All while tending to three children. If this wasn’t enough she had no electricity, no phone, no running water, and no indoor plumbing, in an area where there is no doctor, no grocery store, no gas station and winters that are 40 below … How can it be, that she likes it, as she says she does?
“She just smiles and says: ‘I’m luckier than many Cariboo wives.’”
In 1964 Jacquie became the manager of Lee’s Corner. She ran everything, often with no help. This meant the cooking and baking, ordering the supplies, waiting tables, pumping gas, booking and cleaning the rooms.
She would even look after the store if Dan and Margaret were away. Anyone that knew of Lee’s Corner in those years knows just what a busy place that was.
Her open hours were supposed to be from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., but we know of many times that she opened early and closed late to accommodate the truckers and travellers. And she still found time to sneak off to a community dance!
Jacquie held the mail contract for a few years, delivering mail back and forth from Big Creek to Hanceville.
She was a good driver in any conditions and thought nothing of driving the Bella Coola Hill, any time of year.
She did have to throw on the odd set of chains but that never bothered her, either. The only time I saw her upset was once when we were going to Bella Coola, in winter, and Franklin and I, (Caroline) began fighting as kids do.
We buried the pickup in to the snow bank. (I think one of us got our foot on the gas pedal).
“And I do believe it was Gene that pulled us out.”
In 1967 she began a life long romance with Eugene Johnson. She moved in to Williams Lake and went to work for several years at the Chilcotin Inn. She was head cook, catering to many functions as well as the regular cooking duties of the dining room and cafe.
Jacquie was a very good gramma. She had five grandsons and was proud of each one of them. And she was also lucky enough to get to know three great- grandsons and two great- granddaughters. They all have their memories and stories, as we do.
In 1978 Jacquie retired from the outside working world and became a full- time housewife, mother and grandma. We all thought we had it made then! She had a lot of time to treat us all.
She entertained many enjoyable dinners. The house was always full of family and friends.
And the coffeepot (or teapot) was always on. She loved her family and friends, and to her, if you were a friend, you were family.
She also loved to bake. This meant every one of us got home made and decorated birthday cakes, all decorated in a different theme, reflecting our lifestyle.
Other hobbies included reading, crocheting, bird watching, and gardening.
She loved her flowers and was a walking encyclopaedia, when it came to flowers.
Jacquie and Gene enjoyed travelling, hunting and fishing and did a lot of both. Jacquie could be pretty competitive when it came to both lake and river fishing.
Jacquie went to Deni House in 1994. She was unable to do the things she loved but she was always interested in what everyone else was doing.
One of the things in life that were important to her was the well being of others. And Deni House staff and residents (including housekeeping, kitchen, laundry and maintenance) became her extended family and all meant a great deal to her, also.
Jacquie passed away on September 26, 2002, her life having left a positive impact on a great many people both young and old.
She has meant so much to so many. Jacquie’s family and friends were her whole life.
The family would like to thank all the staff at Deni House and Cariboo Memorial Hospital for your kindness that you gave Mom while she was there.
It all meant so much to her and yes; she knew each of you by name.
Our deepest and most sincere gratitude to Dr. McMahen, the nurses, activity and care aides, Luc LaPrairie, Seniors’ Activity Centre, friends and family for all your kindness and support during such a difficult time. We can not thank you enough.
We appreciate you all for sharing Jacquie’s celebration of life with us. Gene, Arda, Ken Caroline, Wayne, Franklin, Dayle, Richard, DeeDee, Clay, Tanis, Adrian, Shauna, Morgan, Tyler, Cody, Morgan, Alexa, Logan, Kenneth, and Samantha.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Jacquie’s memory to Transportation for All Peoples Society, C/O 1-57 South Fifth Avenue, Williams Lake, B.C. V2G 1K1 or 381 North Second Avenue, Williams Lake, B.C. V2G 2A1.