Obituary of Yvonne Elden
It is with great sorrow that we announce the passing of Yvonne Elden, resident of Chetwynd, British Columbia, at the age of 94 years.
THE LIFE OF YVONNE LOUISE ELDEN
Resident of Chetwynd since 1954, homesteader, educator, librarian, art gallery owner, policy maker, grant writer and fundraiser, Yvonne Louise Elden (nee French) passed away peacefully December 9, 2021. Born in Duncan B.C. on November 14, 1927, she completed a General Arts degree at UBC after graduating from Magee High School at 16. She then travelled and worked in Europe for four years before returning to Vancouver B.C., where she completed the Normal School program to become a teacher. Rather than accept a teaching job in the big city, Yvonne borrowed her brother’s International pickup and drove north through the Pine Pass on the then-unpaved Hart Highway with girlfriend (Maida Jackson) to assume teaching duties at the one-room schoolhouse in Little Prairie (renamed Chetwynd in 1958).
At a time when the population in and around Chetwynd was composed of Indigenous People, homesteaders from Saskatchewan and a handful of European bachelors, Yvonne recalled: I took part in community from the beginning, belonging to the Ladies Club, taking my school ball-team to ‘picnics’ at other communities in the summer. I’d taught the girls to throw a ball and bat and we had a good team. I brought National Film Board movies out from Dawson Creek to show in Ernie Pfanner’s garage, cleaned up and serving as our dance hall on a winter Saturday night! The Houde brothers played violin music for us to dance to…My job was to shut up the hall and return Ernie’s keys to him. I suppose we cleaned up the garage on Sunday morning!
At a Bingo night at her one-room school, Yvonne met Otto Elden (1904-1992). In 1955, they married and set up residence on his homestead west of Little Prairie. Together they proved-up land title to create hay fields and pasture on both sides of the Pine River. They began a family (4 children).
This was a life not yet with modern luxuries such as indoor plumbing, electric lights, or refrigeration. With only basic public infrastructure, locally sourced materials, and almost no professional services, there was constant risk and a steady stream of adventures borne of deep mud holes, long winters and living from what could be grown on the farm or gathered from the land. Yvonne taught her children the value of physical work and intellectual discussion creating a warm and hospitable home where she fed haying, surveying and hunting crews in the early days, and groups of her children’s teenage friends in the decades that followed. Wild berries, fresh vegetables, and fruit from gardens in the summer became home-canning for the long winters. Gallon-sized glass jars of homemade cookies had a central spot on her busy kitchen counters. Homemade bread baked in the wood stove oven every Saturday for decades. Poppy seed and carrot cakes, lasagna and hand-decorated Christmas cookies became familiar staples at family celebrations. She tended her gardens with a passion, in later years producing brilliant bouquets of flowers to be given along with the ever-present home-cooked meals. As Yvonne herself said: I was always a country girl!
As her children grew and as Otto’s illness limited his ability to farm, Yvonne returned to teaching, first at the Don Titus Elementary School, then as teacher and finally Librarian at the Chetwynd Secondary School. When recollecting her experience of one-room schoolhouses, first as a young child at the Koksilah School in Duncan BC, then teaching at the Little Prairie one-room school, Yvonne said: “We had few books, no TV or films or filmstrip, no learning assistants, or speech therapists, no aides. We had water in a pail and outdoor johns, and it was cold in the winter when the East [wind] blew. Well, most of the pupils from those early days are doing just fine, thank you. Whatever the deficiencies of their earliest education, they are holding good jobs and raising fine families. Many of them are still around, and although they would have to say that today’s students are more comfortable, and healthier, and have more interesting materials with which to learn than they did, they might agree with me that the larger schools of today cannot match the social experience of the one-room school, where older and younger, boy or girl, native and white, played and worked together in relative quiet and harmony because they were neighbours and needed each other.”
Yvonne contributed tirelessly to local and regional community organizations after she retired from teaching. Until the very last years of her life, she was involved either behind-the-scenes or upfront, making time and financial contributions to individuals, arts and social service groups, the Chetwynd ski hill, 4-H clubs, the public library, the art gallery, memorial gardens, a seniors’ residence and, serving as a School Board member and chair. The role of School Trustee gave her the opportunity to foster a positive environment in which all could excel and contribute.
“She was one of a kind. She truly cared about people. With her bountiful energy she encouraged and inspired many people. Her energy and enthusiasm in promoting people in whatever endeavour they were into, was just admirable. She went out of her boundary to kindle, inspire and support people, especially where their art was concerned. Not only as a politician, but as a member of her community, she truly cared about those around her. She was a true pioneer as well and knew a lot about living in a countryside. She certainly made a deep impression on me.” —-Joyce Kamikura, Artist
At age 89, Yvonne moved to Surerus Place in Chetwynd. She was so thankful that the Surerus Place facility allowed her to continue living in the town that she loved. To the staff of Surerus Place, who supported her during the three years she lived there, and to Dr. Graham and the long-term care staff at the Chetwynd Hospital, who ensured that she was well looked after during the last year of her life, Yvonne’s family says Thank You to all who cared for her. We will remain forever grateful.
Yvonne’s vivacity and enthusiasm, generosity and strong sense of northern hospitality are celebrated and will be missed. She leaves behind her children (4), grandchildren (9) and great. grandchildren (4), her brother’s families, Otto’s German relatives and plenteous friends, colleagues, students, and allies. Niece Lyn French says that “She was ahead of her time, never letting gender stand in the way of what she wanted to do or achieve. I will remember her for her ‘can do’ spirit and remarkable life.” She was grateful for every moment and every person and would want us to say thank you to all of you, whatever piece, whatever moment, that you played in her life, short or long, in which your lives met with hers.
When the grass is green and the flowers bloom again, there will be a gathering to celebrate the wonderful life of MYG (Mother, Yvonne, Grandma).
In the spirit of Yvonne Louise Elden, who worked so hard to make the Peace Country a great place to live and set an example of how words and deeds, no matter how seemingly small, can make a difference, donations can be made towards a new Library for Chetwynd in Yvonne’s name for those wishing to.
Make payable to Northeast Regional Community Foundation and mail to: 904 – 102nd Avenue, Dawson Creek, BC V1G 2B7
Put “Chetwynd Library – Yvonne Elden” in the notes section of the cheque
Go to www.nebccf.ca
Click on the DONATE button: Choose “General” and indicate “Yvonne Elden” in the Note section.
Very Respectfully, Reynars Funeral Home & Crematorium
Our most sincere sympathies to the family and friends of Yvonne
Elden 1927 2021..
reynars funeral home & crematorium
Death notice for the town of: Dawson, Province: Colombie britanique
Yvonne did so much for not only myself in my artistic career, but for the arts in general. She inspired so many. Thank you Yvonne for all you gave to the world.
Much love Sherry Williams(Tobber)