February 23, 1916 – December 21, 2012
On December 21, 2012, Marjorie Eleanor Roberts passed away at the Priory Care Home in Langford B.C., thus bringing to a close a remarkable life. Marjorie was born in London U.K. the eldest child of Ruth Eleanor Pugh (nee Gyles) and British Army Captain George Ernest Pugh, and began her education in schools in England and Wales. In 1923 at age 7 she embarked with her mother and brother Bill on the S.S. Montcalm for Canada to join her father who was seeking to establish a wheat farm at Blackfoot, Alberta, a tiny community a short distance from Lloydminster. After a 6 year struggle at farming on the Canadian prairies, Marjorie’s family packed up their Model T Ford with all their transportable belongings, headed across the Rockies to Vancouver and boarded a Princess ship for Vancouver Island where her father found work at a power house in Courtenay and where Marjorie completed her high school education graduating from Courtenay High School and passing the Government of British Columbia Junior Matriculation exam in June 1932 at age 16.
But only a few months later in the midst of the North American great depression Marjorie’s father, still in search of a life in farming, moved the family once again to Prince George, B.C. where she met and in June 1934 married husband Chris, himself an immigrant to Canada from Peoria, Illinois U.S.A. Assisted by Chris’s commitment to hard work, Marjorie and Chris began establishing their family in a small log house at Reid Lake some 25 miles from Prince George.
After her father died in 1939 and her mother had moved back to Courtenay, Marjorie and Chris and 4 young boys soon followed and in 1940 settled on a small farm on Lake Trail Rd. where Marjorie lived an increasingly rewarding life for the next 60 years. Music and the arts were at the centre of Marjorie’s life. She taught herself to play the piano from music instruction books as her family could not afford lessons. Her success was such that at both Prince George and Courtenay she was an accomplished player of classical and popular pieces, as written. In addition, Marjorie learned the basic keys and chord structures and played at old time dances, often with Chris calling out square dance routines. Her dedication was such that while living at Reid Lake, Chris transported a piano across the lake in a row boat so Marjorie could continue to develop her musical skills and begin their development in the 4 boys.
Marjorie also had a perfect-pitch singing voice which she developed to a high level through courses in voice and harmony from the Toronto Royal Conservatory of Music. Marjorie showcased her beautiful voice in over 50 years of singing as a soloist and choir member at the Courtenay Anglican Church of St. John the Divine, and at many weddings and other musical events in the Comox Valley where as a soloist she was a singer in demand. She also organized and conducted the first women’s choral group in Courtenay.
In 1975 Marjorie researched and bought a cello in Austria and had it shipped to Courtenay which she learned to play, again from self instruction, and well into the late 1990’s, until her hands became overcome with arthritis, Marjorie played the cello in trios and quartets in the Comox Valley and often could be found playing in the pit at Musical Operettas.
Turning to the visual arts, Marjorie seemed to be born with a drawing pencil in her hand and always travelled with a sketch book. She developed this talent into painting first with watercolours, and then with oils and pastels. Some of her paintings of boats in the Courtenay slough, mountain lakes, and seascapes, as well as portraits, can be found on the walls of family members. And not to leave out the medium of pottery and moulding clay into useful utensils and artistic vases and sculptures, Marjorie was one of the earliest and best potters on Vancouver Island and was recognized as such by her peers.
Lastly, Marjorie was at all times a talented home maker, with almost unparalleled skills in weaving, sewing, knitting, quilting, as well as gardening, cooking, canning, and orchid cultivation and hybridizing which she wrote about and exhibited in orchid competitions. Predeceasing Marjorie were her husband Chris, her brother Bill, and her eldest son David. Surviving her and remembering her fondly and missing her greatly are her sons Eric, Darrell, and Richard, her daughter Lissa, her sister Marion, her brother Ronald, 13 grandchildren and many great grandchildren. Marjorie was a wonderful person and will live long in the hearts and minds of her family and friends.