Saying goodbye to Mom

(note: July, 2021, but just posted now.)

It’s been a tough year or two, saying goodbye to Dad, and Mom, and mother-in-law Eleanor, and Aunt Molly, and cousin Jon, and friends Linda and Ian, and so many others. I was honoured to give a few remarks at her funeral last summer and some folks wanted me to post them for posterity. Love you, Mom. I know you and Dad are watching us all, and, I hope, laughing and smiling.

Order of Service

Anne Elizabeth Walker Hayman

July 30, 1931 – July 10, 2021

Remarks at Mom’s funeral, Saturday, July 17, 2021

Welcome everyone. Welcome to all joining us here at St. John’s, and also welcome to those watching on Zoom.

I don’t think Mom would have understood what Zoom was, but she would love anything that brought people together.

So, welcome again.

Welcome. That’s a word I’ve been thinking a lot about in the past week. So many people have told us how welcome Mom made them feel. Whether they were new to the Church, or new to Canada, or new members of our family like Brent and Cathy and many other happy spouses, or guests at dozens of Christmas dinners or hundreds of other gatherings, or they’d never been to the cottage before, Mom would welcome them with open arms.

Mom would welcome people to the cottage with a hand-written document called “Things in Odd Places.” If you were looking for towels, or the can opener, or a gravy boat, or a dear little dish, you’d consult Mom’s Things in Odd Places list. Welcome to our cottage.

Mom also wanted to make sure we’d never forget those we’d welcomed, so most photos at home have Mom’s handwriting on the back with names and dates. Thanks, Mom. Some of those are pictures of my own babies and I’m not sure which one they are.

I also fondly remember one time in 1981 when Mom welcomed the entire University of Waterloo Warriors Band, which suddenly spilled out of a bus on our front lawn at 994 Maitland before a game against Western. Mom welcomed them all with a nice lunch, listened to the band as it played a couple of tunes on the street because, hey, why not, and then wished the band well as it headed off to Western. Where, if I remember correctly, the final score was 72-0, and not for Waterloo. But everybody remembered Mom’s hospitality. Especially one flute player in the band, who met Mom back then, and then again 30 years later when she married me. But that’s another story.

Mom was born in 1931 and lived, just a couple of blocks up that way, at 944 Wellington with her parents, Alexander Illingworth Walker – everybody called him A.I. – and Audrey Walker – we called her Nanny – and her older brother John. Two years earlier, older brother Joe had passed away in a tragic accident, so I know Mom’s arrival must have been very special for them all.

A.I. worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway – just over there, at the magnificent CPR station. Mom and Nanny thought nothing of hopping on the CPR train to Detroit to go shopping. For years Mom spoke glowingly of “The Big US”, a magical land where you could buy things that weren’t available in Canada. And it was easy if you could just hop on the train for free.

Mom went to The Until Recently Ryerson Public School which, it turns out, had been built by her future husband’s grandfather. Our family has had a long connection with the School at Waterloo and Victoria, and that over-a-century tradition has continued – granddaughter Katie has just graduated from Grade 8.

In grade 3 and 4 at what was then Ryerson, one of Mom’s classmates was a boy who lived up the street named Roger. I wish I had found out about this earlier so I could ask mom what she remembered of him, but that boy, who learned arithmetic right alongside Mom, went on to win the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics. Sir Roger Penrose. One of the most famous mathematicians of the past century – and he was Mom’s classmate. Well – that gets me excited at least.

Mom continued on to high school at dear old Central, the school that claims our loyalty. With colours royal. True hearts and loyal! As we go marching onward, onward to victory – sorry, I’m lapsing into the Central song there. Mom heard that song dozens and dozens of times, as she and Dad faithfully came to every single music night that any of her children were ever in, and from her I learned a valuable lesson: You have to stay to the end! You can’t leave just because your kid’s group has finished! You have to grit your teeth and enjoy the beginning string class too!

She even came to Toronto for some of her grandchildren’s musical performances – and I remember her visiting – on the train, of course – to hear the Runnymede Public School Kindergarten Christmas Concert, where she surely enjoyed the choral performance even though Nick never opened his mouth to sing once. Mom thought it was wonderful.

And then for Mom it was on to Western. Did you know Mom played basketball for the Western Mustangs? I discovered that old Western yearbooks have been scanned and can be browsed online.

To my great delight, in the 1953 Occidentalia yearbook, I found a page dedicated to the candidates for Queen of the University College Ball. Let me share with you a few excerpts about one of them.

Occidentalia 1953

The first thing you noticed is that they incorrectly spelled “Anne” without an “E” multiple times, something Mom battled her entire life. (For the record, I am “Stephen” with a “PH”. Thank you for that, Mom.)

Let’s learn about Ann Walker.

Anne Walker, an attractive brunette … is in her final year of Business and Secretarial Science. After graduation, Ann would like an interesting job, something that offers variety.

Yes, she certainly was an attractive brunette, and she won the Gold Medal in Business and Secretarial Science – she found an interesting job at Labatt’s, where, amazingly, she had an aptitude for beer tasting.

John Hayman and Sons Construction happened to be doing some work at Labatt’s, and one day a young U of Toronto civil engineering grad named Bob was having lunch with his friend Harvey Hurlbutt.

(Ask Dad to tell you this story. He loves telling this story.)

Bob noticed an attractive brunette entering the cafeteria, and asked Harvey who that was. Why, she’s a friend of my girlfriend Frances Branton, he replied. She can introduce you!

That’s how it got started. On one of their early dates, Dad took Mom to see professional wrestling at the old London Arena. Pro wrestling. Dad likes to say that Mom “never complained”, but, well, I’m not sure what she would have thought of that.

Back to the yearbook.

Ann is a member of Pi Beta Phi. Keen on money matters, she was treasurer of the fraternity

Yes she was keen on money matters. I remember at age 4, a major construction project had Maitland Street torn up, and I decided to have a lemonade stand. Get your lemonade right here! Five cents a glass!

Some of the workers would offer me a quarter. Wow. A whole Quarter. Thank you!, I would beam.

And then Mom announced that

I had to make change, I couldn’t keep the entire quarter, and

I also had to pay her for the cost of the lemonade.

Keen on money matters indeed.

Ann is a sports enthusiast. She loves figure skating, basketball, tennis and swimming.

Mom’s love of figure skating took her to lots of events, and when she learned there were actually organized group tours to the World Championships, off she went. Mom loved those trips with Blanche Ward and Janet Cluett, off to Prague, or Indianapolis, or wherever, where they could chat about skating, music, outfits, and unfair judging all day long.

We kids did not exactly develop into Olympic skaters – although Mom took great pride in Rob and Katie’s hockey teams – but at least we learned to identify some of the jumps as often as 60% of the time. Here’s a tip I learned from Mom. The only jump where you take off going forwards is an Axel. Look for that at next winter’s Olympics.

Also – Tennis! Mom loved tennis! I never saw her play tennis, but we sure saw her play Table Tennis. Even up until her later years, Mom was a ping-pong shark. My cousin Kathy says that Mom was the only person who could ever beat her dad, John. And even in her later life, Mom would come alive playing ping pong at the cottage. It’s fascinating which skills stick with you, isn’t it.

In her less ambitious moments, she plays the piano, preferring solitude to an audience

Mom took piano lessons from Miss Taylor, over there on Colborne St, and insisted we do so as well, although Miss Taylor was about 900 years old by the time I started. Thank you for that, mom. Susan played the piano for Mom last week, and I can report with great pride that the last live music Mom heard was Susan’s perfomance of the classic “Yes We Have No Bananas.”

Susan even kindly played it without the extra C#’s I would occasionally add just to see if Mom was listening.

Ann would rather eat corn on the cob than any other food.

August was Mom’s favourite month. By August, the corn on the cob that she’d buy at roadside stands was at its best. Also by August, Lake Huron was finally warm enough for her to swim. Always entering backwards, always keeping her head above water.

And perhaps the best quote about Mom from the yearbook –

Her favourite activity is sleeping

Mine too!

So. With a resume like this, how did she NOT win the UC Ball competition? I demand a recount!

But she won the grand prize – the beer-tasting secretary married Bob, a loving marriage that lasted 65 years, a true partnership in which Dad would have big ideas and Mom would somehow find a way to make them work.

Just up the street at St. Joseph’s hospital, Mom had four children. You know three of us, but you might not have heard of Tim, who never made it out of St. Joseph’s. It’s hard to imagine how devastating that must have been, but Mom showered Dad and the rest of us with love.

Life at 994 Maitland with Dad was full of variety. Of course I remember the vacations – Expo 67, the 1969 Apollo XI launch, which Michael and I have been bragging about witnessing for 52 years, trips to the Calgary Stampede, to England, to France, skiing in Austria, but I also remember Mom’s desserts. Jello 1-2-3! Mom made this miracle product that nobody today has ever heard of. And Mom’s famous Frozen Strawberry Dessert, which I forget the recipe but I believe the main ingredient was frozen strawberries.

Mom and Dad travelled the world too, once they realized they didn’t need to bring us kids along. Cruising the Atlantic, bicycling through France with the Whelens, even a once in a lifetime visit to Australia’s finest resort, Hayman Island.

After a lifetime of volunteering, Mom finally found her most interesting job – remember she wanted one that offers variety, one that had no routine work. In 1993 she was promoted to Grandmother. Alexander – named for her father – arrived, and then Nicholas, and Robbie, and Katie, and just when she must have thought it couldn’t possibly get any better, along come Tyler and Caitie-with-a-C. We told her that Tyler recently got engaged to Diana, and that Caitie is a daredevil at the CN Tower, and I hope that made Mom smile.

Grandchildren, Mom truly loved you. I remember a saying she liked. “If I’d known how wonderful grandchildren were, I would have had them first.” Thank you for escorting her on her final journey today.

Mom had two favourite expressions. One of course, was “Oh, Bob.” But the other was the last word she’d always say to me if I was heading out. She’d say “Stephen – drive carefully!” Every time. And I would try. But today it’s my turn to send her off.

Now, I don’t know what happens when you die. I have a good idea what happens scientifically, but spiritually? I don’t know. But I like to think that you get to meet everyone who went before, and that they’re all very eager for you to tell them stories of what they’ve missed.

So, Mom – Nanny and Bompa are waiting for you to fill them in. And Uncle John. And your brother Joseph who you never met, and our brother Tim, who we never met. Please give them all a big hug from us, let them know we’re all doing great, that we’re taking care of Dad, and that we’ll miss you forever.

And we’ll all Drive Carefully.


Mom was escorted out of St. John’s Church on her final journey by grandchildren Alex, Tyler, Nick, Caitie, Rob and Katie – as the organist fittingly played The Skater’s Waltz.


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