Gwyneth Pemberton passed away peacefully at St. Jacques Nursing Home in Embrun on Thurs., March 3, 2016 in her 100th year.
She was born on the family farm, near Williamsburg, on Aug. 2, 1916, to her parents, John David and Gertrude Benton (nee Bradley).
Gwyneth was a risk taker. She was fun loving, just like her five siblings: Martha, Harvey, Vernard, Hubert, and Basil. When Gwen was 16 years old, one of her brothers had been to a dance in Williamsburg, and left the keys in the family car. Gwen was in town working at Axeworthy’s Restaurant that was thriving due to the famous Dr. Locke who treated many people from all over the world. She came out of the restaurant, saw her father’s car and wanted to play a joke on her brother Harvey, so she pretended to steal the car. As luck would have it, she put the car in the ditch, scratched, and dented it, and ended up having to pay for the repairs herself!
She loved adventure. When she was about three years old, the rather gruff hired man on the family farm saw her climbing an apple tree. He yelled at her to get down or she might break her “goddamned neck.” Gwen just kept on climbing, and when she finally came down, she was careful to use this new word she had just learned and said, “See, I didn’t break my “goddamned” neck!”
Gwyneth was always grinning. No matter what she had done, or not done, as a child she was always smiling and grinning a mischievous grin. She always looked the guilty one, no matter the prank that had been pulled by her brothers…and was often blamed for them. She was okay with that and accepted the blame. She always protected her family and friends.
Gwen married Harold on June 24, 1936. They spent their honeymoon in Sackets Harbour, NY. Harold and Gwen had three children, and together, they worked hard running the family farm at Elma. First came Glenn. When Glenn was a little boy, Gwen’s brothers, Hubert and Basil, came across a nest of baby mice in the barn. They put them in a basket and told Glenn to take them to show his mother the cute “baby kittens.”Glenn thought it was a good idea. Gwen screamed, and headed to the barn only to find her brothers laughing hysterically. Next, came Marilyn. When Gwen’s mother, Gertrude, died at the early age of 55 after a gallbladder operation, Marilyn, about five years old, put her arm around a very sad Gwyneth and said, “It’s okay. I’ll be your mother now.” Gary was third born. When Gary married Irene, Irene talked to Gwen about being worried to cook for large groups of workers that helped Gary on the farm. Gwen didn’t miss a beat. Looking out over the front yard she said, “Pick a tree, any tree. Every dish that doesn’t turn out gets dumped behind that tree and you start again.” She then pointed to her own tree. Gwen was always humble.
She was generous. There was never a shortage of food around, especially dessert. Whenever the children came home from school, there was always a choice of pie, cake, or donuts. When large groups of men would be working together on the farm, Gwen would often stay up until well past midnight to be sure that each man could have all the food he wanted, and at least two pieces of pie. It wouldn’t be unusual to see eating contests at the dinner table. Gwen was happy to see others happy!
Over the years, Harold and Gwyneth developed many good friendships, and enjoyed card parties, pool tournaments, dances, and family gatherings. Keith and Marg Shaver were good neighbours – always helpful and playful. One November, Harold had bought an expensive watch for Gwen and wanted to be sure it was kept a secret for Christmas, so he gave it to Keith to have Marg wrap it for him. Keith worked at Canadian Tire at the time. There were inexpensive watches at the store, and he took one of their price stickers and put it on Gwen’s expensive watch, and then wrapped it up for Harold. On Christmas morning, Gwen opened the gift and said, “What a wonderful looking watch for only $7.95.” Harold said, “What, that Shaver…!”
She protected her grandchildren — always making them feel safe. As Lori says, “Grandma was good under pressure.” All the grandchildren loved to play pool in the basement in Williamsburg. When Lori, Marilyn’s daughter, was just young, she got her arm stuck in one of the pool table pockets. Everybody panicked. Gwen came downstairs and sent everybody out. Gwen went to Lori, calmed her down, and, in about 10 seconds, had her arm free!
She put others first. She was an active member of the Rebekahs and the Women’s Institute. Gwen and Harold were long time members of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Dunbar, and later, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Williamsburg.
Harold and Gwen also took time to travel in retirement. Their trips included Britain, Hawaii, Florida, and Canada’s East and West coasts. Many summers were spent at Grenville Park near Prescott. Fishing for perch, enjoying their camping neighbours, and “The Young and the Restless,” were summer institutions.
She was feisty. She would not be defeated too easily. When she was living on the farm near Elma, she wanted to make an archway between two downstairs rooms in their home. So, one evening, when Harold was absent, Gwen, her sister Martha, and Martha’s husband, Edgar got together and knocked a huge hole in the wall. The archway was started and soon the two rooms became one.
The first winter that Gwen spent at Hartford Retirement Residence in Morrisburg, there was quarantine in effect. She couldn’t leave, and nobody could visit. She hung a sign outside her door that said “ELDER ABUSE.”
Gwyneth Pemberton was a very special person. Whenever she and Harold would have visitors, the two of them would stand at their front window and wave goodbye to them. When Gwyneth moved to the Hartford, she would always sit beside her window, which backed to the parking lot and do the same. I think Gwen and Harold are standing at the window again ,together again, waiving to us one last time.
She was predeceased by Harold in 1996. She was the loving mother of Glenn (Carolyn) of Williamsburg, Marilyn Beckstead (Gordon) of Ottawa, and Gary (Irene) of Williamsburg. Gwen will be fondly remembered by grandchildren Brian Pemberton (Violeta), Barrie Pemberton (Alice), Kathi Duff, Jeff Beckstead, Lori Beckstead, David Pemberton (Krista), Amy Budden (Steve), and Janet Norris (Grant); great-granchildren Mark, Amanda, Samantha, Melissa, Brianna, Anna, Emma, June, Olivia, and Hannah; and 11 great-great-grandchildren. She was the sister-in-law of Marion Benton of Smiths Falls, and Joyce Heuston of Cardinal. She was predeceased by her great-grandson, Mike DeJong; infant great-granddaughter Marah Budden; grandson-in-law Tim Cordick; sister Martha Adams; and brothers Harvey, Vernard, Hubert, and Basil Benton. She is also survived by nieces and nephews.
Friends called at Marsden and McLaughlin Funeral Home in Williamsburg on Mon., March 7. The funeral service was held at South Dundas Community Lutheran Church in Williamsburg on Tues., March 8 with Pastor Diane Raddatz officiating. Her grandchildren were her pallbearers. The honourary pallbearers were Keith Shaver, and George Carruthers.
The family would like to thank the staff of St. Jacques Nursing Home in Embrun for the excellent care they provided to Gwen for the past six years.