1926 - 2018 (92 years)
||Elizabeth Franziska |
||20 Jan 1926
||Elizabeth Ponsford |
|Eby ID Number
||22 Feb 2018
||Ailsa Craig, Middlesex Co., Ontario
||1 Jun 2020 |
- Lifetimes: Music and poetry lover found joy in life despite childhood trauma
Elizabeth Ponsford, formerly of Waterloo, born: Jan 20, 1926, in the former Czechoslovakia, died: Feb. 22, 2018, of age-related illness
Elizabeth Ponsford never considered herself brave, often worried that any fear she felt was a personal weakness. Her daughter thinks otherwise.
Karin Smith tells stories of her mother as a young woman growing up in Austria climbing the Alps wearing a dirndl and sleeping in mountain cabins. Or how, during the war, Elizabeth and her cousins learned there were prisoners of war who were starving so they would watch the camp's jeep patrols to judge those few minutes when the fences were unguarded and the girls could pass potatoes through the wire.
"I'd say to her 'so you call yourself a coward?' that was pretty brave," said Karin. "She would always say, 'I'm such a chicken.'"
But Karin does understand where her mother's lack of confidence comes from. Born in the former Czechoslovakia, Elizabeth's mother died shortly after giving birth and with three older brothers and a deaf sister, the father was unable to cope. He called his mother-in-law in Austria to come fetch this newborn.
"My grandmother had her till she was 12," said Karin, adding that the grandmother fretted about what would happen to Elizabeth when she was too old to provide care. When the time came, Elizabeth was sent to live with her beloved uncle Walter, a kind and loving man who happened to be married to a woman who never wanted children and could be very cold.
This disjointed life had an impact on young Elizabeth.
"It coloured her whole life," said Karin. "She never felt secure, even when she was older and that never changed."
As a young adult in Austria, Elizabeth became a kindergarten teacher, a job she loved and according to Karin, where she excelled. After meeting and falling in love with Karin's father, a handsome Kitchener-born, Romanian-raised charmer, the couple married and their first child, a boy, died at five days old. In 1950, the couple left Austria for opportunities in Canada, moving directly to Woodstock.
Though her husband was fluent in English, Elizabeth was not and it would have take considerable work to requalify as a teacher in Canada.
"My dad did not support her so she went to work in a factory," said Karin, noting her mother did teach Saturday morning German language classes.
Eventually, Elizabeth landed a better job in an office and the couple had two more children, Karin and her younger sister Judy. Even then, Elizabeth's feelings of being alone as a child played into life decisions.
"My mom said they had another baby so I would never be alone," said Karin.
With two little girls, Elizabeth often said that what she really wanted was to be a stay-at-home mom but her mother-in-law had come to Canada, moved in with the family and provided all the child care plus cooking. Elizabeth wasn't needed at home, so she worked.
In the mid-1960s the couple decided to move to Kitchener, though the marriage was already in trouble. Karin said that as a couple, they were very different people. Elizabeth was the homebody, her husband was the social butterfly.
"They were total opposites," said Karin.
Elizabeth continued commuting to her job in Woodstock until retiring and the marriage eventually ended. Elizabeth was single for a couple of years before meeting her second husband, Reg Ponsford, a tool and die maker who had worked for Avro Canada, a company that designed fighter jets.
Karin said both her parents remarried in the 1970s and both had long, successful marriages the second time around. Reg died in 2015.
Elizabeth's favourite role began when her daughters had children.
"She loved being a grandma," said Karin. "My son called her 'apple pie grandma.'" Elizabeth loved making the scrumptious dessert for the kids. She was also endlessly patient, no matter what protracted games the little ones came up with. One particularly annoying toy barn mooed every time the doors opened and Elizabeth would have to listen to it over and over and over.
Throughout her life, despite the upheaval and the endless changes there was alway music to soothe Elizabeth.
Karin said her mother had grown up in Austria, the heartland of classical music.
"We'd clean the house listening to the 'William Tell Overture,'" she said. The music was rousing enough to inspire cleaning.
Claude MacDonald, host of CKWR 98.5's "Candlelight: Classics and Poetry" on Wednesday nights, received regular calls from Elizabeth and remembered "she was so full of life and happiness."
Hosting the show since 1999, Claude has had many regular callers but Elizabeth was special.
"She loved Schubert, Wagner and Tannhauser," he said. Elizabeth was particularly fond of poetry and loved the stories about the composers, stories that often reflected sad lives.
"She had such compassion for the composers," he said. "She impressed me as a lovely, sincere individual."
The two developed a friendship, though they never met, and when Claude received a phone call from Karin that her mother was nearing the end of her life and asked him to put together some of her favourite music on a CD, Claude complied. Actually, he went one better, rifling through his collection for his fan's favourite music then dedicating an entire show to her.
"She passed away, she didn't hear it," said Claude.
Granddaughter Jordan Rutledge said, "She loved the radio guy."
Jordan had not been close to her grandmother until the last few years, when Elizabeth and Reg needed help with daily care in their Waterloo home. Jordan cherishes the time she had with her grandmother, getting to know the funny, stubborn and big-hearted woman.
"She became my best friend, you could tell her anything," she said. "No matter what was going on, she'd make me laugh."
Hill, V. (2018). Lifetimes: Music and poetry lover found joy in life despite childhood trauma. TheRecord.com. Retrieved 20 March 2018, from https://www.therecord.com/news-story/8336167-lifetimes-music-and-poetry-lover-found-joy-in-life-despite-childhood-trauma/
|Died - 22 Feb 2018 - Ailsa Craig, Middlesex Co., Ontario