I never thought ahead to the day when I would be writing about Lucille Howarth passing on, or Gramma as we called her.
But sad to say it has happened with Gramma leaving us by passing away peacefully in Deni House in the early morning hours of March 5, 2003.
The eldest daughter of Fred and Wanda Prill, Lucille was born October 17, 1926 on a farm in Mannville Alberta. Her younger sisters were Norma and Audrey whom Audrey began to spend all her time “looking after them,” feeding clothing and brushing hair in between the farm chores such as milking the cows.
At the age of 17 Lucille married Joe Nafziger in 1943 and lived in Mannville. In 1945 their son Randy was born. About four or five years later the marriage fell apart. Lucille answered an ad to cook in the Chilcotin. She and Randy hopped on board the train in 1951 to arrive in Williams Lake at Stampede time, which had the town jam-packed with people.
Where Oliver’s is now there was a hotel called the Log Cabin, where they tried to get a room. Since all were booked, Lucille and Randy curled up on a bench in the lobby to sleep. About that time Rene Hance wandered in and demanded to know why a lady was sleeping on the bench. After hearing about their predicament, Mr. Hance announced that they could sleep in his room. As well as hearing where Lucille was headed to cook with her young son, Mr. Hance told Lucille that she didn’t want to cook there, she could come to his place in Hanceville and cook for his T.H. Guest Ranch.
Consequently Lucille and son Randy headed to the guest ranch where she cooked up for 37 cowboys and sometimes more. One particular cowboy, Dewey Howarth a dude wrangler, caught her eye and she his. In 1952 they decided to get married. The Justice of the Peace who married them was Rene Hance and brother Grover Hance stood up for them. It wasn’t until 1954 that the happy couple discovered that they weren’t legally married as Rene Hance had not renewed his licence and they had to remarry on June 19, 1954.
Their oldest son Evan was born May 22, 1953 and youngest son Chris was born December 24, 1954.
For about five years Dewey cowboyed and Lucille cooked. They eventually bought the Carlton Place in Alexis Creek, then Lucille’s father took sick so they travelled to Alberta to help out but after two months Dewey decided he wasn’t a farmer. Moving to Cold Lake Alberta, Dewey worked as a cement finisher for four years before heading back to Williams Lake.
They bought property on Esler road just off Dog Creek Road where they built a house and Lucille began her beautiful flower beds, gardens and all sorts of crafts while Dewey began working for Lignum.
Life was content until the boys grew up and left home and then they began a series of moves beginning with Chezacut Ranch for one year. They also moved to McLeese Lake for four years, the Gables near Anaham Reserve, Meldrum Creek, River Ranch in Riske Creek, Joan and Gilbert MacDonald’s trailer in Riske Creek, and finally to the Likely area where they stayed about seven years.
In each place Lucille would faithfully plant flowers and vegetable gardens and was forever seeking out different and unique crafts to give as gifts. At Likely word got out about her beautiful crafts so Gramma would spend a lot of money on making them and donate them to the community. When she could finally bring herself to charge for the crafts, Gramma did not price any of them near what they were worth because, as she would say, “what would people think if I made them expensive?” She couldn’t be convinced otherwise so people got a real good bargain purchasing her crafts which were in great demand.
Their last and final move was to Baker Manor in 1999, where Lucille stayed in the apartment doing crafts while Dewey made himself useful about the apartment building. Lucille continued to bake and prepare goodies for the company that came to visit all the while missing the vegetable garden but discovering that she was allergic to flowers.
Lucille’s crafts included crocheting full size bedspreads, chair covers, embroidered cushions, doilies and wall hangings, wonderful little Christmas ornaments, fancy beaded wind hangers, and her favourite was the plastic canvas creations such as tissue covers, adorned with flowers and birds. Lucille’s crafts were too numerous to name. Her final gift to the family was to give each a hand-painted decorative lam that she purchased from Mary Maxim. Getting too weak to finish the painting of the light ornaments, Lucille enlisted her good friend Donna Purdy to paint the gifts for the family, a fact that eased Gramma’s worries considerably and for which we are forever grateful.
Gramma always had a pot of coffee ready to go for guests as well as a big plate of cookies, cakes or squares. If caught off guard, not to worry, she’d just grab a plate full out of the freezer. Our biggest complaint when going to visit Gramma was the fact that all we got to see was her backside as she bustled around making coffee, placing cakes, cookies and squares on the coffee table and for the kids they were reminded repeatedly that pop, juice, chips, and candies were there. She seemed so disappointed if a few cookies were left on the plate. If one was on a diet, strong will to lose the weight would have to be exercised as each time a treat was refused, she would dig out more tempting goodies.
She could spin around so fast I was sure she would fall, but she never did. And if the beverages were not what the guest wanted, well, there was “beer in the fridge, hard liquor in the cupboard, and ice in the freezer. If the guest didn’t take anything, they soon would since then maybe Gramma would sit and visit a spell.
After she finally settled down a bit, we then got to admire her latest crafts or creations or trips outside to admire the flowers and vegetables.
Birthday parties were something to look forward to as Gramma would decorate the most wonderful fancy cakes to behold the treasure, the girls were always excited about “What kind of cake would Gramma bring this time for my birthday?”
Meals were nerve-wracking as Gramma would be telling everybody where everything was, what to put on the food, even though we could see it and she’d be ready to jump out of her chair to grab something else that someone else might want. Eventually we learned to trap her in a corner so we could visit with her and would get it ourselves if we needed it. We even resorted to bugging her by offering everything on the table for her use until she would finally realize what we were up to and then she’d say “Oh you.”
A lesson learned was to take the cameras from Gramma. If a good photo of any occasion was needed she would always cut off the most important feature of the photo. For example, Evan and Linda-Lou’s wedding picture shoe half of Linda-Lou and all of Evan. Gramma learned to pass the camera to Grampa.
We lost Grampa (Dewey) to prostate cancer on May 10, 2002, after which Gramma struggled to continue on with her life without her partner of 50 years. One day in early July 2002, Gramma realized that she could not walk at all so into the hospital she landed only to discover she had a degenerated vertebrae in her back. After an operation and a recovery with a brief stay in the hospital, Gramma came back home and followed the doctors orders to a ‘T.’
After struggling with that problem, she got to her feet and began living again, working on crafts and making plans to go places she’d never been, like Value Village, the big craft store called Michael’s and Wal-Mart in Kamloops.
Gramma’s lung problem flared up again this time in the form of bronchial pneumonia. She coughed so hard she broke her ribs. On November 29, Lucille landed in the hospital in Williams Lake. From there is was a roller coaster with her health for about 10 days until finally she was well enough to go to Deni House. Gramma loved the Deni House as she went up every day for the five months that Dewey was there, got to know and respect the nurses, so was quite content under their care.
After a couple of bouts of where we thought she was on her way out of this world, Lucille rallied around enough to organize her room to her liking, enjoy visits from the other lodge residents and began her crafts.
We all breathed a sigh of relief as she told us “the heck with it, I’m going to live, get up and sit on my chair and do crafts.”
On March 4 it seems as though Gramma spoke to quite a few of her relatives and friends on the phone who reported that she was her cheerful old self, her only complaint being it was difficult to get her breath, as her lungs were not functioning very well. On March 5 at 5:45 a.m. we got the call to get to Deni House right away. But we were too late by the time we made the harried drive to her. She was gone. Her lungs gave up on her.
Gramma lived a very busy life, having the feeling that she must constantly look after and take care of others’ needs, share her crafts, grow her flower beds and gardens. Now we figure she is doing that in Heaven.
Gramma was predeceased by her father Fred and Wanda Prill, and husband of almost 50 years, Dewey Howarth.
Her family members who will greatly miss her are sister Norma Scoggins and families; youngest sister Audrey (Jim) Murray and families; son Randy Nafziger, his five children, his 14 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren; son Evan (Linda-Lou) and daughters Melodie Howarth (Edward Gano), Racquel (Ed) Russel; Shelly Howarth (Hugh Loring); son Chris (Hilda) daughter Cyrena.
In a nutshell, Gramma had nine grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren. There her memory will live on for quite a while in the hearts of loved ones left behind, as will the love of gardening, crafting, cake decorating or preparing elaborate meals. Thanks Gramma.
Lucille was cremated but did not wish any funeral ceremonies. Donations can be made to the charity of your choice.
Both Dewey and Lucille expressed wishes for us to host a picnic by a lake where the loons are calling, enjoy the day with a beer and a glass of wine and take care of their ashes together.
These arrangements will be made when the weather is much warmer.