June 11, 1936 – February 16, 2021
Message of Remembrance and Celebration of Life
Early Life: Born in Winchester, Ontario on 11 June 1936, Christena Mary Kelly was one of 9 children of Rose and Patrick Kelly. Her origins are French Canadian and Irish – and in many respects Christena was emblematic of the best of both.
She loved her Mom and Dad and cherished her siblings and their families and was in regular communication with them. Family was always the most important to Christena, the loving daughter, sister and aunt.
At school Christena showed her many talents, academically and in sports. She represented her school in regional track and field championships, excelling in sprinting and high jump, winning firsts in both events. Her other talents were recognised early on. She was ‘scouted’ when she was only in grade 10 – the nuns approached her to join their calling. But they had competition – as the local grocery store also wanted her and asked Christena’s mother Rose if they could hire her daughter, an offer that was accepted.
Thus, Christena left school at a young age to work for $6 per week at Fulton’s department store, paying half of her wage at home to support her family. She met her husband Ernie at church and so began a life-long romantic adventure, with Christena at its heart.
Housewife and Mother: Married on 1st September 1956, Christena and Ernie soon started a family – Patricia Karen (June 1957) (spouse, Sergei Vinogradov), Deborah Marie (August 1958) (spouse, Gary Skoye) Sharon Christena (October 1959), Jacqueline Rose (August 1961) (spouse, Frank Behrens) Carolyn Anne (July 1962) (spouse, Thomas Lloyd); Ernest Joseph (September 1963), (spouse, Amy Friesen), Shelly Lillian (August 1964) (spouse, Frank Lightfoot) and Marc Paul (June 1967) (spouse, Angela Richardson).
Christena’s family was her pride and joy. In addition to her 8 children (and their spouses), she had 25 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren, with one more on the way.
She took pride in the fact that all her children were potty-trained before they were one year old; cared for in real diapers made by Mom, washed by hand and put through that wringer washing machine and hung out to dry on that mile-long clothes wire that stretched from our farmhouse to the barn.
During the winter, the many clothes hung out to dry came in frozen solid; brought in to thaw by the fire. There was home-stitched clothing for us all; home-cooked baked goods provided for the many class bake sales; individual lunches packed precisely for each of her children.
Healthy home-grown fruits and vegetables from our large farm garden; gigantic pumpkins for Hallowe’en, and the best Christmases ever – sparkly events with that great big turkey meal and loads of specially selected presents, all wrapped, and mysteriously appearing from those never-discovered hiding places. And every summer – those amazing summer camping trips to Bon Echo and regular trips to Brown’s Bay for family days out.
If you ask her children what Mom was to them – well, in their own words, ‘Mom was our everything – Doctor, Teacher, Chef, Fisherwoman, Mediator, Best Friend, Confidante, Inspirator, Guardian Angel, Lighthouse, Soul-keeper, Selfless Servant, Absolute best Supporter.’ ‘She made the sun shine brighter, the food taste better; in her presence you felt loved, entirely enveloped in peace and completely protected.
She made us strong, she helped us to make our own choices, she believed in us and so we believed in ourselves. She made us leaders. Mom never said “no you can’t do it;” it was not part of her vocabulary. She supported us unconditionally and she made us think for ourselves, making us who we are today. The countless hours of early morning hockey practice, baseball games, after school sport, driving us to work, picking us after school dances or events – we never had to worry.’ She never had a harsh word to say about anyone. And she always kept a secret; you were sure she that she would keep your confidences and never, ever judge.
Christena accepted life fully, as it presented itself and she found the balance in everything. Her approach – if it rained, well that was good for the flowers; if it was sunny, well that was good for the flowers. For Christena, it was always OK, it was always just as it was meant to be, and she effortlessly emanated this aura of peace and calm.
All those self-help books (which she never read, nor needed) rolled into one quiet unassuming matriarch – simply, truly Christena. Christena’s children’s in-laws and extended families loved her dearly – and perhaps some even secretly pondered why their spouse had not inherited just a bit more of their Mother-in-law’s many positive character traits and talents. She embraced her extended family fully; everyone was loved and cared for completely.
Intrepid Adventurer: Christena travelled the world to be with her family. Her first big family move was from Cornwall to many other communities in Ontario, Alberta, and latterly, BC. Christena spearheaded the establishment of women’s and girl’s hockey in two regions in Western Canada, as founding President; she continued as its strongest inspiration and supporter for many years.
She loved hockey and keenly followed her favourite team, the Vancouver Canucks. And when the Canucks made the Stanley Cup finals in 2011, Christena attended a game in Vancouver, wearing her jersey, all smiles and entirely in her element.
When her youngest child Marc graduated, Christena and Ernie headed off to Campbell River, BC – ‘the fishing capital of Canada’ — where they built a house overlooking the Chuck – the Quadra Island lighthouse in view. She spent years fishing on the open seas on the Dolless, hauling up countless rock cod and all sorts of other things! The fact that she couldn’t swim and didn’t really like the water – well no worries – she just carried on in her customary enormously supportive way.
Christena was an active member of the Happy Wanderers and the Community Quilters in Campbell River. She helped to make many community quilts, one of which is displayed in the Rec Centre. Her quilt-making talents are legendary – she made one for each of her children, individually designed in specially selected colour schemes and unique designs.
Christena was an accomplished seamstress, sewing so many clothes – from pajamas to graduation gowns, and even wedding dresses — for her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. She made each of her children the most lovely Christmas tree-skirts, aprons, potholders, dishcloths – each to be cherished as special heirlooms. Christena attended seniors exercise class until the pandemic curtailed this routine. She loved to have her hair done weekly. She was always well turned out – and looked younger with years. She was an avid reader and kept up with the daily news.
In addition to being a full-time Mother and wife, Christena found time to work outside the home – she loved fabrics and dealing with people. Christena was an active member of the Women’s Institute. She also loved her work at several children’s nurseries, where she cared mostly for babies and young children. She worked in retail, where she would be busy stacking the shelves and serving customers. Despite offers to work in management, she kept her work part-time so she could focus on family.
Matriarch – Mother, Grandmother, Great Grandmother to us all, everywhere, all the time Christena had a twinkle in her eye – she was always up for a laugh, quick to tell a joke, play a trick or to win at a game of cards – and she loved it all; she was such a good sport.
Ernie was her forever love – and she agreed to renew her marriage vows on a couple of occasions – on their 30th and 40th wedding anniversaries. She and Ernie travelled back to Ontario for their 50th wedding anniversary (2006), the place of their marriage. Christena loved these wonderful celebratory occasions that brought together all the family.
Christena travelled the world to be with her children, appearing always exactly right there, where and when you needed her. She crisscrossed Canada and the globe for graduations, and other special events, including the births of most of her grandchildren.
Her international journeys took her to California, Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Scotland, Switzerland, and other parts of Europe. It was never about the travel; it was always about family.
Christena was in her element with her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren; she did everything for family. She was a perfectionist, without being stressed or ostentatious about it – just determined to do things right; it was an inborn trait, embedded in her very being and entirely effortless.
She loved a routine. Clear memories of her scrubbing the floors on her knees, polishing them till they shone with that funny floor-polisher; the rigour of the regular weekly fridge clean out; twice daily sweeping the kitchen floor; beds always made. Towels, matching and clean and fluffy.
And how could it be Easter, or Christmas or even your birthday, without a card from Mom? Our favourite meals always just quietly appearing when we each visited Mom. Christena was HOME for each of us, wherever she was, wherever we were. She bathed us in her love, and compassion; this magical charm that encompassed us – making us all feel like we were better people, that we could do anything, and that it would all be OK.
Christena always said that she had wished to be a school teacher – but, in life, she was so very (very) much more – she was our everything; a constant and steadfast safe haven for all of our storms, real and imagined.
Christena shared all that she was with each of us – she showed us how to live, how to love, and how to be… in her presence we were all the best versions of ourselves, blessed forever by her benevolence. We remain strengthened and comforted by her omnipresent serenity, generosity, and natural grace. We love her so much; we miss her so much; and we are deeply grateful. Christena, our very own saint, our forever shining light, rest in peace.
Christena passed away peacefully in Campbell River, surrounded by her husband and family. She is survived by her husband, Ernie, her 8 children, 24 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.
The family would ask that in lieu of flowers any donations be made to the Campbell River Food bank at Campbellriverfoodbank.com or to the Salvation Army, Campbell River, at Oceancrestchurch.org. With many thanks.