Monica Hopwood (nee Williamson)1898 - 2004      

 

An Extraordinary Woman --- A Loving Mother and Friend

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Monica Hopwood (nee Williamson) was born October 30, 1898 at 64 Victoria Road, Widnes, Lancashire, UK.  Mona, as she is called, was born to John and Ellen Williamson (nee Farrell).  Her ancestors were Irish and Scottish.  Her paternal grandfather was born in the Shetland Islands and the remaining grandparents were born in Ireland and came to England around the time of the great Irish famine.  They settled in Liverpool and later in the Widnes/Runcorn (now Halton) region along the Mersey River and found employment at the various works and factories that sprung up during the industrial revolution in England.

 

The Anglo-Irish faith and culture of her parents played a formative role in the development of Mona's life and that of her brothers and sisters.  The Judeo/Christian belief in the meaning of life held special importance for Mona.  Her belief in God and in the gift of His church enveloped her thought and action throughout her life  The family attended of St Bede's Church in Widnes and she and her brothers and sisters were educated the local parochial school.

<---Mona 1905

Her father owned and operated a thriving tailor shop and her mother was a schoolteacher and an accomplished seamstress.  Her father became active in local town politics and was a Widnes Alderman for several years.  He also worked for the national Liberal Party and at one time supported and worked for Winston Churchill in his bid for a nearby seat in the House of Commons. Her father's business experienced hard times around 1905 and he planned to move his family to the New World.

 

Her father John and her brothers Nicolas and Sydney sailed for Canada in March 1910, landed in Quebec, and continued by train to Vancouver, British Columbia. Her mother and the remaining members of her family (Mary, Eileen, Phyllis, Doris and daughter-in-law Florence and her baby John) sailed from Liverpool to Canada on the SS Victorian in June 1910.  She recounts how almost everyone on board, except her, suffered from sea-sickness.  She remembers that the ship ran aground on a sand bar in the Strait of Belle Isle and lifted off with the next high tide.  Mona also recalls the train trip across Canada where the immigrant passengers had to buy food at railway stations and then, along with others, queue up to cook it on-board the train.

 

Her father obtained a job as a journalist for the "World" newspaper in Vancouver.  Settling in Vancouver, Mona attended Mount Pleasant elementary school.  The family moved to Penticton, British Columbia following her father's appointment as editor of the Penticton Herald newspaper in 1912.  After two years, they returned to Vancouver where Mona attended Florence Nightingale elementary school.  Her family attended the new St Patrick's Church and, as a member of young peoples group, made many life long friends through parish picnics, dances, pantomimes and amateur plays. 

<---Sweet 16

Around 1920 Mona, along with her brother Sydney, assisted her father in his new role as the owner/operator of the BC Western Catholic newspaper.  She performed secretarial and bookkeeping roles while Sydney managed the linotype printing press.  The business did not succeed.

 

Mona was then employed as a clerk at the regional offices of Canadian Pacific Railway at the Vancouver railway station around 1921.  A few month's later, her brother in-law Ashley Cooper, who was a telegrapher with Canadian Pacific Telegraphs, assisted Mona to follow her sister Phyllis into employment as a teletype operator.  In this capacity, Mona and Phyllis sent and received telegrams across Canada using the Morkrum-Kleinschmidt tape machines.  These machines were the latest technology of the day and were forerunners of the famous Teletype machine and of modern computers handling vast amounts of message texts.

 

It was during her years with C P Telegraphs that Mona met Thomas John (Jack) Hopwood. Jack's family immigrated to Canada from Staines in Middlesex England in 1913.  Shortly after his mother's death in 1923, Jack transferred from the Nelson BC telegraph office to the Vancouver office.  Jack enjoyed a reputation as a first class Morse code telegrapher and was assigned to, what were in those days, the "hot wires" --- specifically the stock broker and news wires across Canada and the United States.

 

Mona came to know Jack during the years they worked together for C. P. Telegraphs from about 1924 through 1928.  Evidently, his happy persona, his gentlemanly manner, his devotion to his mother, his brothers and sisters and his gregarious and loving nature convinced Mona that he was the man for her.  As a welcome suitor for their daughter, Jack became a favorite of Mona's parents.  Although raised as an Anglican, he converted to the Roman Catholic faith just prior to his marriage to Mona.

                

Mona and Jack married on June 11, 1928 at St. Patrick's Church in the Mount Pleasant district of Vancouver. Monsignor Louis Forget officiated.  They honeymooned down the west coast to California and Tijuana Mexico.  Upon their return, the newly weds lived with her parents at 2905 Quebec Street in Vancouver.  Around this time, Mona's father John became progressively ill and eventually died in early 1929.   The Williamson family was devastated by this event.  Mona, who adored her father, felt the loss most acutely.

 

Mona gave birth to her first child, Farrell (1929), who was followed by Brendan (1930), and twins Mary and Eileen (1932).  Mona and Jack continued to live with her mother Ellen and her sister Phyllis.  During 1934 they traded residences with Mona's older sister Mary who wished to have her children attend nearby St Patrick's elementary school.  Mona and Jack and the four children enjoyed life at 3038 East 24th Avenue in Vancouver.   Twins Deirdre and Brian were born in 1935 rounding out the family to six.  In 1937, their residence was again traded with her sister Mary, and the Hopwood family returned to 2905 Quebec Street until 1943.  The children attended St. Patrick’s elementary school under the direction of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto.  The years spent in Vancouver's Mount Pleasant district were happy ones for Mona and Jack and the children.   Her aging mother Ellen and her sister Phyllis lived with Mona and Jack for some years during the great depression.

 

Mona’s family was musical and her father played and taught violin.  With her father’s assistance Mona learned to read music and to play the piano. She was self-taught and never took a lesson. Most of her children engaged in piano lessons.  The piano was an important part of Mona’s life as it allowed her to relax from her busy life as mother and housewife.  Sunday afternoon was her special time.  With windows of the house open on a warm summer day, music flooded the garden and the street nearby were people would sometimes stop to listen to Mona as she passed the hours in complete joy and contentment.  Several piano recitals were held at Mona’s home for the music students of the Sisters of St. Joseph.  On one memorable occasion, son Farrell and daughter Eileen played a lovely piano duet.

In June 1943, C P Telegraphs promoted Jack to Inspector of Communications at Nelson BC.  The family was, in a sense, uprooted from much of what was familiar and moved to 1221 Kootenay Street in Nelson.  The older children were entering their teen years and enjoyed living surrounded by the lakes and mountains of the Kootenay region of BC.  Nelson is small compact town offering many opportunities for the young in schools, sports and recreational activities.  The children attend St. Joseph’s Academy, operated by the Sister’s of St. Joseph’s of Newark, New Jersey.

The nature of Jack’s work made frequent travel necessary to manage the telegraph lines and offices from the Crowsnest Pass in the Rocky Mountains to Midway in the Boundary region of southern BC.  Mona found it difficult to adjust at first as she missed her mother who was in ill health.  She felt somewhat isolated and lonely.  However, her faith in God’s goodness and care shone through as she supported her growing children and adapted to life in small rural town.

               

New adventures became a part of the family life, such as hockey and bob-sleds in the winter and fishing and swimming in the summer.  The house was always a busy place as the friends of the children brought joy to family life.  These were the years of WW II and her teenage sons spent the summer holidays helping to maintain CP telegraph lines.  Unfortunately, Mona’s mother Ellen died in July1945.  This was a serious loss.  She and her mother were very close.  She longed to return to Vancouver and the comforts of being close to her large extended family.  Eventually her wish was fulfilled when Jack was transferred back to Vancouver in June 1946.  The new family home was 2961 Camosun Street, in the West Point Grey District of Vancouver.

 

A husband and a family of six children kept Mona, as always, very busy around the home.  Mona never complained as her family, next to God, were the most important joys of her life.  She enjoyed having her sisters and brothers to dinner frequently on Sunday, and most certainly for special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas.  This applied to her children’s friends too who often joined the family around the table as well as the family piano for a sing-song.   As had been the case in Nelson, Jack’s job required frequent out-of-town travel for days at a time.  Farrell now attended Lord Byng High School; the remaining children were enrolled at nearby Our Lady of Perpetual Help parochial school.

 

The years rolled by happily and one by one her children safely reached their mature years.  Thanks to Jack, almost all managed to gain beginner’s jobs at CP Telegraphs before branching out to other fields.  Each in turn married wonderful spouses.  One by one the grandchildren arrived to bring great joy and happiness to Mona and Jack.  As with most grandparents they were very solicitous of the welfare of their children and their families.  Mona and Jack could be expected to visit each family frequently, offering good advice as most parents do, and being very generous with their love and help.

 

After almost 50 years of service, Jack retired from Canadian Pacific Telegraphs in June of 1962.  At that time daughter Mary accompanied Jack and Mona on a trip to England, the land of their birth, and also an organized tour of Europe.  They went and later returned by boat on the Empress of Canada.  Mona and Jack visited relatives in England, Mona in Widnes and Manchester.   Jack however, was unable to contact any Hopwood’s in the greater London area and in Staines where he once lived.   Jack, who led an active life found retirement somewhat boring but managed to assist Mona at home and keep in constant touch with the children and ever increasing numbers of grandchildren.  Jack’s health began to deteriorate in the early 1970’s.  He died in 1974.

 

Thus began the long years of living alone for Mona.  As for many mothers who experienced life surrounded by large families, Mona made the best of it!  She sold the family home on Camosun Street and desiring to be near an old friend, rented an apartment in West Vancouver near the shore of English Bay.  She was restless and kept busy by visiting her married children in the Vancouver, Victoria and Sechelt.  In 1976, her daughter-in-law Eva arranged for her to move into a Kiwanis Care Home self-contained seniors suite in North Vancouver near Eva and Farrell.  She passed many contented years at the home.  She made new friends and enjoying the close proximity of shopping, doctor and church.

 

In August 1994, at the age of 96, Mona realized that she could no longer look after herself entirely.  Cooking, shopping and getting around by herself had become too difficult.  She entered the Kiwanis Care Home “Intermediate Care” section where her medicines, laundry, meals and recreation were carefully managed by the nursing staff.  In March 1998 Kiwanis transferred the people under “Care” to a brand new building nearby.  Mona was given the privilege of cutting the ribbon at the opening day ceremonies.  The years rolled by and Mona was granted a long life.  In 2002 Mona was present at the opening and consecration of the new St. Patrick’s Church in Vancouver.  She had also been present as a 13 year old at the opening of the original St. Patrick’s Church in 1911.

 

On her 100th birthday, Mona was honored by Queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister Chretien, Pope John Paul II, and many other dignitaries as is the custom for those attaining such a great age.  As of the date of this writing, Mona is now 105 years old.  Each year her birthday on October 30th is celebrating by family, friends and the staff of the Kiwanis Care Centre.  Her children’s love for her is so great.  Mona misses Jack very much.  Her love for Jack is frequently expressed in terms such as “such a loving husband”, “such a good man”, such a “fine father” and “a wonderful provider for his family”.  She never forgets Jack and her family in her prayers and her daily devotion saying her “Rosary”.

 

Mona suffered a marked deterioration in her health in the last year of her life and died after two serious falls that help to bring on a shut-down of her body functions.  She was surrounded by her six children and several grandchildren the day before her passing.   Her son Farrell was with her when she died at 3:43 AM of Tuesday of April 20, 2004.

 

God graciously placed Mona by our sides  for so many, many years.  What an extraordinary gift and blessing for us all!   We thank God for our dearest sweet Mona!  She is now safely at peace and joy with God and with the deceased members of her family and friends.

 

 

                                     Mona's 87th Birthday - Lots of Hopwood's                                Nicola Springford (nee Williamson) and Great Auntie Mona ca 1987

        Mona at her 105th Birthday Party                            On her way to her party                   Visiting the family - August 2003

 

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Composed and submitted by her son John Farrell Hopwood - January 11th, 2004

Revised April 25, 2004.