‘Don’t worry about me, I’m go­ing to heaven’

Vic­to­ria WWII vet­eran led proud and ful­fill­ing life

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA JENK­INS

While a fu­neral is typ­i­cally a place of mourn­ing and sad­ness, the Prid­dle fam­ily of Vic­to­ria viewed the one re­cently held for their fam­ily ma­tri­arch as a cel­e­bra­tion of 93 years of life and hap­pi­ness.

The late Beatrice Prid­dle, a Sec­ond World War vet­eran, had the ser­vice planned down to the last de­tail to en­sure ev­ery­thing was as she imag­ined. Prid­dle died on Satur­day, May 16, fol­low­ing a short ill­ness.

“Right up un­til her death, she had a full life and en­joyed it,” her son Harold told The Compass last Fri­day.

Af­ter his mother took sick, Beatrice told ev­ery­one she knew her time was com­ing, and she freely ac­cepted her fate.

Beatrice was a church-go­ing woman, a strong be­liever in faith and could re­cite scrip­ture. It was one of her many pos­i­tive at­tributes, Harold said.

War ser­vice

When Beatrice went to en­list in the Navy, although she didn’t im­me­di­ately get in, it wasn’t a sur­prise for many.

“When she went to the re­cruit­ing cen­tre, the only open­ing they had was Army,” Harold ex­plained. “Hav­ing sea legs, she wanted to be Navy.”

Af­ter ba­sic train­ing in what is now Cam­bridge, Ont., Beatrice was trans­ferred to Nova Sco­tia on the HMCS Pro­tec­tor, or the Point Ed­ward Naval Base. She was known as a mem­ber of the Women’s Royal Canadian Navy Ser­vice, or the Girls of the King’s Navy.

She spent three years sta­tioned there, work­ing in the sick bay, tak­ing care of those who were in­jured in battle.

For the past four decades she took part in lo­cal fes­tiv­i­ties that hon­oured vet­er­ans like Re­mem­brance Day events and Me­mo­rial Day cer­e­monies. She also joined the Royal Canadian Le­gion and even trav­elled to Beau­mont Hamel with her hus­band, also named Harold. They were mar­ried in 1944 and lived to­gether at Luxury Es­tates in Car­bon­ear un­til her death. The cou­ple was also the re­cip­i­ent of a Queen’s Ju­bilee medal in 2012.

She was very proud of her mil­i­tary in­volve­ment and was dressed in full uni­form for her fu­neral.

A ful­fill­ing life

For much of her child­hood, Beatrice would travel on the S.S. Kyle to Labrador with her fam­ily in early sum­mer, and of­ten stay un­til Oc­to­ber for the fish­ing sea­son. She has salt wa­ter in her veins, as they say.

In fact, Harold re­mem­bers vis­it­ing the now grounded ship with his mother last year. She could still iden­tify the dif­fer­ent rooms from the ex­te­rior win­dows.

Beatrice was a proud woman, one who be­lieved in good pre­sen­ta­tion. She walked with her head held high and her shoul­ders square. This was some­thing she tried to in­stil in her chil­dren at an early age.

Harold re­mem­bered how she used to scrub the dirt off of him and his sib­lings when they came in from a day of play at the sink. There was no in­door plumb­ing at that time, but that didn’t mat­ter. She would make sure they looked their best.

He re­called her en­ter­ing his and his brother’s room to give them a kiss good­night and say their prayers and plac­ing heated beach rocks wrapped in cloth in the bed on cold nights. They were some of his favourite mem­o­ries.

For years, Beatrice op­er­ated a small store in Vic­to­ria while her hus­band was away work­ing. She man­aged to sup­port her fam­ily while he was gone. Harold re­mem­bers her al­ways be­ing home.

“She was a great per­son and fam­ily al­ways came first,” he said.

She and her hus­band camped un­til they were in their 70s for en­tire sum­mers. It was her favourite pas­time, said Harold.

Say­ing good­bye

Beatrice and her hus­band lived long, healthy lives to­gether. They didn’t spend any time in the hos­pi­tal or suf­fer through ill­ness.

Harold is grate­ful for that, and noted it was dif­fer­ent hav­ing to visit his mother in the hos­pi­tal when she be­came ill prior to her death. Think­ing back to her last day, Harold re­mem­bered reach­ing for her hand while she was in the hos­pi­tal bed.

“At seven o’clock that night she closed her eyes and that was it. Took her last breath then. It was so peace­ful,” Harold re­called. “I took her hand, looked at her hands and said, ‘How many times did she wash them? How many times did she comb my hair? All the work she’s done for her fam­ily over a life­time with th­ese hands.’”

He vividly re­mem­bered her hands be­ing soft. For a mo­ment, he pauses, think­ing back to his fi­nal cher­ished mem­ory. But then he re­calls she wasn’t scared of death. She wel­comed it with open arms.

“She would say, ‘Don’t worry about me, I’m go­ing to heaven,’” Harold re­called with a smile on his face.

The fu­neral was the last good­bye. She had bag­pipes, like she re­quested. A trum­pet player played. It was a fit­ting cer­e­mony for some­one of Beatrice’s char­ac­ter.

She wore her mil­i­tary uni­form and re­ceived an hon­ourary mil­i­tary send off. It was a proud farewell, and it was one the Prid­dles will al­ways re­mem­ber.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

The late Beatrice Prid­dle, a Sec­ond World War vet­eran from Vic­to­ria, was given an hon­ourary send off last week fol­low­ing her death at the age of 93.

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