‘Don’t worry about me, I’m going to heaven’
Victoria WWII veteran led proud and fulfilling life
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.
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.
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.
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.