Genealogy, Quebec

Aunt Madge’s Quilt

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The incomplete quilt, carefully wrapped in tissue paper, had been shunted from pillar to post for almost eighty years during the many household moves my parents made. Rarely did it see the light of day, stuffed away as it was in linen closets and basement trunks, so none of the colours faded. My mother could quilt but she never finished it. Perhaps she felt the memories would be too painful. Mum finally gifted it to me during one of her downsizing periods. I couldn’t quilt but I did collect antique linens. Once again it was stored away in a box.

With the quilt came the story of its beginning. I remember few of the details and my mother is no longer here for me to ask. It was evidently begun by Madge, my mother’s oldest sister. My mother and my Aunt Vi helped her. There were two Violets in the family, a sister and a sister-in- law, but whether one or both helped is unclear.

I never knew my Aunt Madge. She died in 1941 before I was born. I. heard the tragic story again and again growing up. She was only thirty-nine and left behind two small boys, boys I finally met when we were adults.

Madge, born in 1902, was the first of George and Isabella Willett’s seven children to leave the farm overlooking the Chaleur Bay on the Gaspe Coast. She earned a teaching certificate at MacDonald College in Montreal and took her first job in Abbottsford in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. There she met Albert Whitney, an apple farmer. They married in 1934 and she happily settled into a familiar life as a farmer’s wife. The family quickly grew with the births of my cousins, David and Paige.

Then illness struck. Madge was diagnosed with cancer. My mother, now a surgical nurse working at the Veteran’s Hospital in Ste. Anne de Bellevue, traveled to Abbottsford on her days off to help with her sister’s care and with the two lively boys. Both Violets were also living in Montreal and they too were able to help. During this time, the last months of Madge’s life, they worked on the quilt together, faithful doulas accompanying her on her final journey.

Today the quilt has been completed. Two women from the Victoria Quilts branch in the Laurentian Mountains village of Arundel did the work. The Victoria Quilts organization makes beautiful lap quilts and gives them to cancer patients to keep them warm during their chemotherapy. Elizabeth Wood selected and purchased the backing and border fabric along with the batting. Pat Thomas did the hours of hand quilting. She claimed that the original stitches on the quilt were the tiniest she had ever seen and said she did her very best to match them.

The quilt fits the queen size bed in our guest room. The simple motif, repeated twenty times, is a flower pot made of brown triangles pieced together and appliqued to a beige background. Each pot holds a single brightly coloured flower with green leaves, all pieced and then appliqued. It has a modern, stylized look yet with a feeling of fresh growth.

Aunt Madge 001 (2)

 

Genealogy

THE KATHRYN LINE

By Barb Angus

 

Kathleen Willett, my mother’s sister, was the first of the Kathryn line. She appeared to have been born with a wanderlust, leaving her Gaspe village in her teens for Montreal and points beyond. She trained as a teacher and the summer vacation allowed for lots of travel time .She combined that travel with study opportunities: education courses at Columbia in New York and French lessons at the Sorbonne in Paris to name but two. She taught at an armed forces base in Germany for four years and added a third language. Her travels continued well into her eighties. A photo shows her sitting on the Great Wall of China on one of the last trips of her life. In her will she left an elegant red oriental china dragon to my son who had stared at it for hours as a child.

 

Kathleen never married. Her nieces and nephews were her children. When my mother was held up London on route to East Pakistan to join my father, Aunt Kay crossed the Channel from Germany, stuffed mum and three kids into her Volkswagen and toured us around the country side. Years later I found her slides from that summer neatly filed and labeled among dozens and dozens of slide trays.

 

My sister, Kathryn Angus, was named for Aunt Kay. She, too, had a wanderlust. She was born on May 29th, 1953, the day Hillary and Tensing were the first climbers to reach the summit of Everest. Certainly an auspicious date for travellers. Kathy was only four when the family went to East Pakistan, five when my parents took her to Darjeeling in the Himalayas. Tensing was so charmed with this child and her birthdate that he took her on a pony ride! Kathy loved to travel – to places in Europe, Japan, Newfoundland, New Mexico and most of all to the sun soaked beaches and tropical waters of the south. She claimed that life was meant to be spent on vacation. Just being in airports thrilled her with the promise of new adventures!

 

Kathy’s daughter is Annah Kay Michaud, a name derived from the Joanna Kathryn I named my own still-born daughter, each a homage to our Aunt Kay. She will be our shared daughter, promised Kathy, when I held Annah for the first time. Annah was raised in two languages, the English of her mother and the French of her father. Today she is married to a Montrealer with strong Italian roots. When Annah was fourteen, Kathy and I took her to Japan to visit my son Stephen. He and his Japanese girlfriend Madoka (now his wife) drove us to a variety of both famous and little known towns and sights across the country all the while sleeping and eating in local inns. That trip clinched Annah’s wanderlust. She has since worked in Australia and China and vacationed in Europe, Viet Nam, Thailand and Costa Rico. Like her mother, she too believes that life is meant to be spent on vacation.

 

Today the most recent member of the Kathryn line is Marisa Kei (pronounced Kay) Tarrant, Stephen and Madoka’s second daughter. Only two years old, she has already travelled from Vancouver to Japan twice with her big sister Evelyn Haruka. Both girls speak English and Japanese and at times can certainly be the fiery little dragons of Stephen’s childhood fascination! I suspect a good deal of travel is in their blood!