St Jean (Betty)
Sept 09 1919 – Feb 01 2017
Betty passed peacefully Wed Feb 01 at 9:55 PM surrounded by her family and with her Opera music playing loudly. She always said that all the important events in her life happened on a Tuesday and that she would die on a Wednesday. And so it happened.
Betty is predeceased by her husband Armand St Jean (1990) and her very close sister Isabel Townsend (2013), and is survived by her 4 sons, Denis, Perry, Gerard and Paul, 9 grandchildren, 18 great grandchildren and 5 great-great grandchildren
Mom was born in Dawson City, Yukon and grew up on her father’s ranch just outside of town. She milked cows, drove tractors, hunted and rode horses from when she was eight. At fourteen when her mother left, she and her one year older sister Isabel became the “adults” who cooked for the ranch hands and looked after many chores on the ranch. She attended Dawson High School and graduated from Grade 12 in 1935.
She met her husband to be, Armand, when he came to the Yukon as a professional wrestler and worked for her dad, Archie. They married Nov 19, 1940 and had 4 boys. Denis and Perry where born in Dawson and Gerard and Paul were born in Whitehorse. Many years later, Armand always spoke with admiration of the toughness and capability Betty displayed in the Yukon, sometimes beating the men in informal marksmanship competitions.
Betty and Armand wanted the children to have a chance at a better education, so they moved to Vancouver Island in 1950. First to Honeymoon Bay and then to Nanaimo in 1957. They built their home in Harewood and moved into it in Feb 1958, where Betty lived right to the end.
Betty worked as a secretary for Bastion Realty and then became “The Welcome Wagon Lady” for 25 years. As anyone who ever bumped into her knew, Betty could talk, so this was a natural for her. She met many newcomers and made lifelong friendships. Through the Welcome Wagon she also started the annual “Bridal Parties” that were hugely successful.
Betty was very involved in the Nanaimo community. She worked tirelessly with the local Council of Women with her dear friends, Martha Creighton, Dr. Ellen White Kwalasulwut and Pearl Point “Dimps”. In fact, Betty was instrumental in bringing the Snuneymuxw First Nation women into the Women’s Council. Growing up in the Yukon, where people were judged on their actions rather than on social stereotypes, Betty understood the value of having all women represented in the Council, not just white middle class. Betty made deep friendships among both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous women and they made trips to Ottawa as part of the National Council of Women.
Betty loved the symphony orchestra and was President of the Symphony Auxiliary. Going to the Port Theatre to hear the Symphony was what she enjoyed the most. Betty was a life member of the Vancouver Yukoners Association, life member of the Order of the Royal Purple and she received a certificate from the City of Nanaimo for her volunteer work.
Betty loved to sing and had been a member of the Sweet Adeline’s for many years. After retiring from the Welcome Wagon and the Symphony Auxiliary she joined the German Cultural Society Choir where she was warmly welcomed, and she absolutely loved the people and the singing. Some of Betty’s many European travels were made in the company of the Nanaimo German Club.
Mom lived in her house right up to the end, and she had a full and vibrant life. She was in her garden every day and grew the best garlic and rhubarb. She played classical music, LOUDLY, throughout the day; no one was allowed to visit from noon to 5 pm on Saturdays as she listened to her Opera. If it was a nice day she had the speakers on high in her back yard so she could do gardening and Opera together! The neighbours knew that on a nice Saturday afternoon, not to be in their back yards if Opera was not their thing!
Betty always baked on Saturday mornings, her whole-wheat buns were legendary, and right up to last Christmas she made fresh buns for the Christmas dinner. She did crossword puzzles, read stacks of books every week, and watched the news and her favourite show Jeopardy. If you were stuck on a word for spelling or explanation, you called mom. Her door was always open for visitors and you could always depend on a good “Granma Story” that was long and winding, but always came to a conclusion.
Betty always drove a Volkswagen. She had her first Bug in 1962. Then she drove all around North America with Dimps in her 1965 Bug. Lastly she bought a 1991 Jetta and drove it right up to last year when she reluctantly surrendered her driver’s licence.
In 2015 Betty went back to the Yukon to be on the reality show “Yukon Gold” with her grandson Chris St Jean, one of the stars. It was a very exciting time for her, being “home” again. And now, her loving sons will be taking her for her final journey home to the Ranch in Dawson City, Yukon.
Betty will be missed greatly and always remembered. There will be a “Going Away “party for her on March 08 at the German Cultural Society Hall, 71 Caledonia Ave, Nanaimo from 12 noon to 4 PM.
A special thanks to Dr Stephen Beerman for his caring and kindness, and to the Staff at the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and the BC Ambulance Service for their help and support.
In lieu of flowers please make a donation in Betty’s name to the Vancouver Island Symphony.