Died of a life well lived in her 89th year, Jennifer Ann Harvey leaves behind a stern injunction to “write it down.” Jenny travelled through life with a writer’s eye. She never owned a cell phone, preferring the company of the person next to her. She listened compassionately and so people found her a stimulating conversationalist.
Born in Banstead, Surrey, Jenny was the only child of a whimsical artist and ne’er-do-well father whose financial adventures kept the family on the margins. As a child, Jenny was often sent to the homes of friends and relatives for long periods of time: the best of these came in the tiny village of Postwick where she lived with three spinsters by the blacksmith’s forge. The village had changed little over the centuries and their cottage even lacked running water. It was there that Jenny danced the Maypole, first tended a little garden patch, slept under a thatch roof, and cried when the boys hunted the rooks and rabbits in the fields.
Notionally raised in the Church of England, Jenny flirted with the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy before setting theology aside for good. That said, she had a soft spot for Saint Francis and traveled with a tiny Saint Christopher medal which she lost several times only to have it turn up in some impossible spot or be inexplicably returned by a stranger. Jenny loved the idea of guardian angels, but in her mind these were always women with smiles rather than men with swords. Patriarchy made her angry, but animals made her smile. Jenny could never decide whether birds were more remarkable than trees or if it was the other way around. Being English, she loved the sea.
By the time she was 19, Jenny had entertained two proposals for marriage (at least, two that we know about), smoked for years, and was running with a pack of army dental officers, one of whom introduced her to the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (FitzGerald’s translation, of course). Having helped her mother run a hostel for the Canadian Legion War Services, Jenny was keen on the idea of immigrating and they crossed the Atlantic together on the Queen Mary in 1948. When she left her country of birth for this one, she embraced it fully. Jenny loved England, but she was proud of Canada.
In 1958, Jenny married a handsome coworker. They honeymooned in the bitter Manitoba winter and dwelt in Montreal and Toronto before buying a dilapidated farmhouse near the village of Washington in 1966. Gow worked in town while Jenny took up farming, raising two sons and a flock of cats. Boys love collecting things — a fondness she shared – and her young sons curated an eclectic assemblage of shells, feathers, eggs, arrowheads, and fossils, all displayed in a repurposed china hutch painted a garish orange and rechristened “The Museum.” She created a miniature North Pole for them as well, but Santa and his coterie were all rendered entirely as felt mice. From there, it was a small step to Toad Hall: a 55 cubic foot dollhouse, now accompanied by an entire village of Edwardian mice. If Jenny could recommend to you just one book it would be Kenneth Grahame’s, The Wind in the Willows.
Jenny liked the idea that people are kept alive so long as they are remembered and she diligently teased the citizens of Washington out of the historical record and back to life in the pages of her book: she was 79 when Once Upon A Time in Washington was published for the Plattsville & District Heritage Society. She has done similar work for her family, filling dozens of “Fampedia” binders with the records and recollections of people long since dead, but – through her efforts – not forgotten.
On a trip to England with her husband in 1995, Jenny returned to the town of Postwick which time had finally discovered. She was walking through the village, desperate to recall how it had been when she last saw it some 60 years before, when a car pulled up to offer assistance.
“Are you looking for something,” the driver asked.
“Yes, my childhood!”
There was a momentary pause before another, older, voice from deep in the car said, “Jennifer?”
Jennifer Harvey is predeceased by her husband, Gow. She will be missed by her sons Michael and Marcus; their wives, Catherine and Louise; and her grandchildren Alexandra (fiancé, Justin), Dylan, and Jennifer Ann.
Relatives & Friends are invited to a Memorial Visitation at the Glendinning Funeral Home 40 William St., Plattsville on Wednesday April 19, 2017 from 6-9pm. There will be no funeral service.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the Humane Society or the Sakura House (cheques accepted) would be appreciated by the family.