On the morning of July 2, 2018, Johnny Bennett was joined by his loving wife Ellen. as she left her beloved mountain to complete their final journey together.
Ellen Bennett (nee Olesen) was the eldest of seven children born to Elmer Olesen and Gudfinna (Bjarnason) Olesen on the 16th of May 1926. She was born in the small town of Wayne, Alberta and grew up in the Markerville area during her childhood. Upon completing Grade Ten she moved to Calgary, Alberta to work as a kitchen dietary aide in the Col. Belcher Hospital where she met Johnny Bennett, the love of her life, who would become her husband and father to their six children. Immediately following their wedding on August 4, 1944 the happy couple moved to Salt Spring Island, the birthplace of her husband Johnny to begin their life together and raise a family, settling at the top of Dukes Road after purchasing the property from John and Alice Bennett.
Ellen by her own admission was in early days a mover and a shaker in island life, always ready to lend a helping hand. She became a member of the Salt Spring Island Rod and Gun Club and for many years taught the Hunter Training Course. Ellen devoted fifty years to the club in several capacities such as trophy shoot organizer, teacher, event planner and was the proud recipient of shooting trophies and a Lifetime Membership to the club. Fall fair time would find her either entering exhibits or elbow deep in volunteering at the Woman’s Institute Pie Stall as a server having spent the previous evening baking a group of the pies she was serving. If there was a neighbour that needed help or a cause she believed in you could always find her in the midst of the action.
Ellen never shied away from hard work or a challenge. One of her favourite sayings was “I am a stubborn Prairie farm girl, don’t tell me I can’t do it because I will show you I can and yes She did ! Of the many stories of her youth, Ellen would talk about square dancing on horseback, and her wish that there had been a video camera to record it.
She spent many hours and many miles working not only at a job full time, being a wife and mother, but with a single minded mission to ensure that the current Lady Minto Hospital would become a reality for the residents of Salt Spring Island. Ellen rounded out her working career from waitress at the White Elephant Cafe, Switch board operator for BC Tel prior to going Dial, secretary at Salt Spring Lands, as a member of the feasibility study group for Salt Spring Sewer and Liquid Waste Management System, Real Estate Agent and finally as the Office Manager for North Salt Spring Waterworks when it was formed until her retirement in May, 1991 at age 65. However, no one believes she ever truly retired as she was a proof reader for the Salt Spring Directory from its inception and was always ready to be the Granny of the mountain with duties of babysitter, cook and chauffeur as necessary.
Ellen loved sports and was a player for the South Salt Spring woman’s softball team, she was an avid five pin league bowler involved for many years at the local bowling alley. At the end of several bowling seasons her living room would be set up with card tables and the house would ring with laughter and stories of the previous seasons while enjoying as she put it “the best Pot Luck suppers ever cooked and eaten by the various leagues. She believed in the youth of the island and was involved with many aspects of the boys roller hockey team from Fulford Hall.
For a few years Friday nights would find sleeping bags with teenagers all over the living room floor so that the off island students, who boarded on Salt Spring Island during the week, could participate in the after school curricular activities and have a safe place to sleep.
Family, heritage and history were very important to her, hence her involvement in the early years of the Old Timers Reunion held every five years. Ellen was passionate and opinionated about all things Salt Spring since arriving as an eighteen year old bride and residing on her mountain with her hopes and dreams for the past seventy three years and eleven months.
Ellen was predeceased by her husband Johnny (2007), her daughters Lynn (2005) and Carol (2008), parents Elmer and Gudfinna Olesen, her brothers, Leonard Olesen, Douglas Olesen and sister Louise Jackson and is survived by her sisters, Mayette Stanley, Marlene Linneberg and bother Ron Olesen (Ann), many nieces, nephews and cousins.
As the Matriarch of our family she leaves her daughters, Barbara Pellerin-Vensel, Jean Fargher (Michael), Marla Cole, her son Randy Bennett (Sunny), and son in law Michael Simpson (Carol), Grand children Dan, Lori .Lea, Doug, Kimberley, Dwayne, Vincent, Lisa, Neil, David, Donovan, Matthew and Katy. Many great grand children and great great grand children by birth, by marriage or by choice were the same to Ellen as they loved her and called her “GG”. She loved each and every one of them and considered them her family. She taught us that Family doesn’t always mean blood! Ellen will be missed by the many who knew her, loved her and were touched by her presence.
We, her family, would like to invite you to join us in a “Celebration of Ellen’s Life and Legacy” Friday, May 10 2019 from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm at the Salt Spring Island Rod and Gun Club.