EULOGY Bessie Gannon 1920-2012 Bessie Gannon: mother, grandmother, great grandmother, aunt, great aunt, widow, friend genealogist, world traveller, gardener, volunteer, home owner, historian, social worker, entrepreneur, manager, sales person, store owner, cashier, meat packer, tenant, landlord, crafter, Sunday School teacher, Youth leader. Bessie Florence Mountjoy Gannon was born June 5 1920 to Gertrude Felicia Langmaid and JamesEVERETT Mountjoy at her parent's home, Crown Hill Farm, East Whitby, now called Harmony Rd north, Oshawa. ...
Bessie Gannon: mother, grandmother, great grandmother, aunt, great aunt, widow, friend genealogist, world traveller, gardener, volunteer, home owner, historian, social worker, entrepreneur, manager, sales person, store owner, cashier, meat packer, tenant, landlord, crafter, Sunday School teacher, Youth leader.
Bessie Florence Mountjoy Gannon was born June 5 1920 to Gertrude Felicia Langmaid and JamesEVERETT Mountjoy at her parent's home, Crown Hill Farm, East Whitby, now called Harmony Rd north, Oshawa. As the youngest child, she tried to copy her older sister Elda and wrestled a swing away from her big brother Percy, breaking her arm. She described herself as shy and lonely, dressed in hand me downs, filling her days playing outside on the farm and when she could, escape her mother's watchful eye, balanced on the beams high up in the barn and never afraid of a challenge, was known to climb to the top of the barnyard windmill. At age 7 she spent a month in hospital due to numerous nosebleeds, became anaemic, and spent the rest of the year at home in bed. Anaemia continued to plague her all her life. She loved playing with her dolls and also a popular girl's toy, paper dolls. She remembers walking the ¾ mile to Maxwell Public school, now the site of Swiss Chalet. We think Bessie developed her sweet tooth early, often having brown sugar sandwiches in her lunch pail, so much better than those radish and lettuce ones grown on the farm. No dessert was too rich or too sweet ever again. 85 yr later she joined the Maxwell School Reunion Committee with those first friends. Later childhood found her ironing, dusting and cooking with her strict mother while helping her beloved gentle father harvest turnips for cow feed using a pitchfork to hoist them onto the wagon. Her father was the area butcher and Bessie often assisted with the meat delivery. Bessie's own children and grandchildren often enjoyed her famous potato pie, an unwritten recipe handed down from her mother and perhaps originally from her Cornish ancestors. Throughout her life she loved to make pies, elderberry a favourite and could always make "something from nothing".
As a teen, her big grey Percheron horse Tess was a constant source of pleasure and was occasionally hitched to the sleigh for the winter trek to school, driven by her father, and joined by friends Bob Hancock and Walter Davis. The transportation to OCVI for high school was more difficult to handle depending on hitching rides to Oshawa. Her trusting father allowed her to get a learners driving licence at age 15 for their car and often practiced parking as well as did her father's banking and other business on her lunch break. This, in an era when women did not drive. (1935) She enjoyed the Glee club at school and along with 3 friends was chosen for a school quartet. A job at Woolworths 5 & 10 cent store provided good training for future ventures in business and money management. In Kedron United Church, she became a "Canadian Girls In Training" (CGIT) Youth leader, the group would later become the Honour Guard at her wedding. As an older teen, she joined the Jr Farmers educational and social group, attending dances at Columbus Hall with hired musicians, Ivan Barrett being one of them. In a time of religious restraint, dancing was for some, such as her mother, was evil and forbidden, also playing cards. At one of these social events at Newcastle church, the same church where her grandson Nick married Kate, Bessie met Hugh Gannon, a young man she had her eye on, who flirted, then sneaked away to a hidden corner of the church for a stolen kiss. He continued to court her, picking her up from her mother's helper job at her Uncle Harold and Aunt Lola Mountjoy's farm around the corner from her house Although she was barely older than her cousins, Keith, Murray, Donald, Gladys and Lawrence, they continued to be friends for the rest of their lives. Bess was annoyed after Hugh brought her home from a date, as her mother allowed her 2 minutes before tapping on the car window.
Hugh and Bessie married Wednesday November 28, 1940, the weekend not yet popular for weddings. For farmers, late fall was not as busy. They took up occupancy at Hugh's family's General store at Brougham, living there with his mother who was also the postmistress. Her father helped them purchase their first house on Sommerville St in Oshawa where stillborn Linda Janet arrived Oct 6 1941, a sad time for the couple.
Hugh and Bess helped launch the Northminster Church Couples club while Bess and her best friend Winifred Rice helped found the Church Sunday School. A move further down Sommerville Street was the new home that Bonnie was born to July 1943. Bessie's first experience with tenants began at this home. Hugh and Bess had a huge vegetable garden there and Bess created very "Fashionably IN", rock garden. For extra income Bess answered an ad for home sewers and was soon filling an intense quota of assembly line dolls clothes for about $3.50 a dozen. While Aunt Sybil Langmaid helped Hugh get a job at Duplate, Bess began her first home business, dressmaking, prompted by the wartime effort of reuse, again today, a popular initiative, then often consisting of tearing apart old clothes and remaking into new ones, a tedious job at the best of times.
Bess continued to sing in the Northminster church choir when she and some high school friends were recruited for a musical production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado" performed at OCVI auditorium.
In 1945, Everett and Gertie divided some family assets among their 3 children and Hugh and Everett together paced off about 5 acres from the Mountjoy retirement farm on 5th conc, Winchester, creating a country property on Ritson Rd N, now next to Kedron Golf Club for Hugh and Bess. The next year, the couple built a cabin (the cottage) while toddler Bonnie helped by putting all the nails down the knotholes in the floor. Many happy weekend hours were spent there with Bonnie and Larry, born July 1946. By Nov 1949 Donna had arrived but the cottage had fallen into vandals hands and for a time was apparently used as a place to divide stolen goods. The family found it too dangerous to continue for occasional use so it was rented out till this day.
The couple thought they could advance their lifestyle by calling on their collaborative backgrounds and decided to build a grocery store. With the help of Everett, the three of them built Northway Marketeria , now Oshawa Paints, on Simcoe St North just outside the city limits. They planted a huge garden at the cottage working there Tue PMs while the store was closed. The store was busy as it was just across the street from Oshawa's first subdivision and the Sam Jackson apts. As was the custom, the store was open from early AM until the last customer left, often 11 PM or later. Hugh took a job at General Motors while Bessie managed the store, acted as clerk, stock person, and cashier, taking phone orders and delivering the groceries to homes in the Ford panel truck while a young clerk worked part time. Bessie became exhausted with the whole burden of the store and 3 young children and spent some time in hospital.
Bess and Hugh often arrived at the store parking lot in the morning to find destitute families sleeping in their car, usually from the Maritimes, looking for a more prosperous life in Ontario. Hugh and Bess became their social workers long before the term was coined, feeding them, finding them jobs and finding them a place to live, often at their own"cottage"
As was the custom at the time, many customers ran a credit account, and when an offer to purchase the store came just as the rumour was heard that a huge A&P (now an Auto Parts store) was to be built just north of Northway, Hugh and Bess sold just in time. Unfortunately, many customer debts went unpaid and Hugh and Bess spent much time over the next few years tracking down this money owed with very poor results.
April 15 1953, marked the move to 468 Simcoe, immediately taking in tenants in all the 2nd floor rooms. Many became lifelong friends, who continued to keep in touch till this day.
Bess secured a job at the new A&P in the meat dept, the work familiar to her from her days helping her dad butcher. She became part of a group of colleagues who met frequently for the next 50 yr .In her spare time she knit, crocheted and made crafts, joining with other acquaintances to form the first of her craft groups, "The Guild" They sold goods at fairs and shows making quite a name for themselves.
In Feb 1958, the twins Janice and Jill were born, making a full time occupation caring for her family. In the next years a second handcraft group was formed "Hobby Handcraft" again creating goods and selling at craft shows.
She also began selling toys for PAR-Tee Toy Chest together with her friend Muriel Gower but after a year, sold on her own, soon becoming one of the top producers. She made new friends and enjoyed the bonus of the annual company meeting which took place each year in an exotic location. She continued to be part of this travelling group long after she retired from selling until her 91 st year
Her children growing up and leaving home, Bessie became interested in genealogy after visiting a booth at Orono Fair where some people were talking about their ancestors, one of them being HER great grandfather. She was hooked. There was no Oshawa group at the time so she joined the Ontario Genealogical Society in 1971. She had no training and learned much on her own discovering how to search documents, read microfiche and decipher old handwriting. Her searches took her to Britain, Salt Lake City and all the local libraries. She attended seminars, subscribed to genealogy magazines and developed an extensive collection of reference books. Her research overflowed all the rooms in her home as she corresponded with other like minded people all over the world. Through her personal connections she recruited speakers for the Oshawa Genealogical Society and gave talks to local groups. Most of all she loved to spark an interest in newbie's and direct them to sources and hone their detective skills. She became convinced that we are all "COUSINS" if you research far enough. She received several awards for her years of volunteer service to the local group. There is not likely anyone she has not helped in their quest for "Who do you think you are?"
Her garden continued to be an important part of her life for the 59 years at 468. She was always buying new plants and every visit included a walk around the garden, checking new blooms and possible future purchases. Into her 90s, she did much of her own physical work raking leaves, planting enjoying her pond and trying to outwit the squirrels and raccoons.
Bessie's family was an important part of her life quietly following their achievements and remembering all their names and birthdays, Bonnie, Larry, Donna, Janice, Jill Aileen, Scott, Jay her birthday twin, Shane, Nick, Mark, Natalka, Aaron, Kye, Liam, Kiera, Malcolm, Isabella, Joshua, Jacob, Lily, Ethan, Simon, as well as Percy's family, Gloria, Harold, Carol and Anne, their children and grandchildren. She was the keeper of the Mountjoy/Langmaid family genealogy and the Gannon/Willson on Hugh's side. The Robinson family tree book was published 1999 and she recently was working on a Mountjoy history.
At her 90th birthday party June 2010 we were surprised to meets many friends from all aspects of her life, read geetings, cards and letters from worldwide locations. We laughed when she conveyed her apprehension about being picked up for the party by her funeral director grandson Jay in a limousine. She was afraid he was bringing the funeral coach.
Bessie lived her long life to the fullest to the very end. Her grandkids said she was never old.
Weep not for me for I am not dead. I live on forever in my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and in the hearts of my friends.
Thank you all for attending Bessie's celebration of life.
Surely you are all cousins!!
Written byBonnie Branton
Delivered by Nick Gannon