Diana Walker thanks Ahn who helped produce this Video.
(Ahn’s my niece, daughter of Goldie Denise Caldwell.
Thanks to Roselyn Phare (my sister) and Julie Dubyna (my niece, daughter of Roselyn and Keith Phare) who wrote Mom’s Story, which was read at Denise Eckstadt’s Memorial Service held in Salmon Arm on Saturday, October 4, 2008.
Denise was born June 5, 1919 in Johannesburg, South Africa, of British parents, and grew up in South Africa and later in England. She had two older brothers, Brian and Alan.
Her father, Sydney van Mentz, was the youngest volunteer for the Boer War in 1902 in South Africa. He came from Holland so he spoke Dutch and was an interpreter for the English Army (Dutch is similar to Africaans which is like an old fashioned Dutch). Later he fought in the First World War (1914-1918) and then became the Government Agent in Johannesburg.
Denise’s father died when she was only five years old. After his death, her Mother worked for an Import/Export Agent for Rolls Royce cars and traveled in Europe and America. Denise’s Mother spoke five different languages. Once Denise was introduced to Mr. Rolls by her Mother who said “This is my daughter, Denise.” Mr. Rolls said to Denise, “Are you de niece or de daughter?”
Traveling from Johannesburg, Denise attended boarding school in England from first grade on up. This was at the City of London Freemen’s School which still exists today. It was at boarding school that she learned to darn stockings and knit her first scarf. It was also required to take elocution lessons and attend the Anglican Church. When she was fifteen, she received a book called “A Gentleman of France” for good conduct and industry. She was also able to cultivate her love of writing, and entered the London Essay Competition in 1936. She won a book called “Silver Chief” by Jack O’Brien. Her teachers were like family. Her brother Brian was also at the boarding school, but the oldest brother, Alan, stayed in South Africa. Sometimes she would travel with her brother Brian to Paris where their mother had an apartment. Some vacations were spent at the seaside in Amsterdam.
Often she would tell us how she biked 60 miles from London to Brighton to visit family..This was a 3 speed, not 27 speed bikes like we have today
When Denise was fourteen, her mother died of cancer. Her Mother’s mother, Granny, was still alive and she looked after Denise. Granny was Jewish so they celebrated the Jewish holidays. After completing school, Denise trained at Guy’s Hospital. She was a nurse during the war and remembers wearing a hard hat because shrapnel came through the roof of the ward where she was on duty.
Denise’s brother Alan became a Major in the Army and her brother Brian was given the Distinguished Flying Cross by the King at Buckingham Palace in London, England.
Denise described how she came to Canada in an article called “A War Bride Story”
I was 26 when I met my Canadian soldier in Hyde Park, London, England. He asked if he could sit down. I said, “It’s a free country” and we started to talk. He was on leave and had no money to return to his barracks in the country. I offered to lend him the cash and gave him my address at the hospital residence.
I was surprised when several weeks later the Matron called, “Nurse van Mentz – there’s a military gentleman here to see you.” He had come to pay back the cash and gave me a present of chocolate bars and cigarettes. After we became engaged his officer had to check me out, so I travelled in the back of an army truck to the barracks. We were married in London, then he sailed home for discharge. I was booked to follow on the Aquitania with hundreds of other War Brides. We arrived in Halifax to hear of some girls already returning home!
In Medicine Hat, Alberta, the family met me at the station. It was awesome. To me it was an adventure with the world an oyster ready to be opened. But, by the second year, I felt that I would balk back to England if there had been a bridge across the ocean. We moved to a farm outside Prince George in B.C. We had “running water” but I did the running. I learned to bake bread and later, on seventy acres in Malakwa, traded a loaf of bread with my neighbors for a quart of mild. Blueberries were delicious there, but the mosquitoes horrible. I now joke that the family are still paying me for the cash I lent a stranger long ago and far away!
Diana was born in Medicine Hat, Alberta on what Grandma considered to only be good for a gopher farm. In 1949, the small family packed up their belongings into their Model T and moved to Prince George. Their second daughter, Roselyn, was born at home with no medical assistance on a chilly -27 degree winter’s day.
From there, they moved to Malakwa as Emil was employed at the Reiswig saw mill. In that small community, Denise made friends with all the local residents. Times were hard and groceries were charged at the local store. Diana started school and taught Roselyn all that she knew, so that by age 5 Roselyn decided she was ready to go to school as well and was accepted.
There was a small company of Seventh Day Adventisit believers in the area, and a neighbor, Mrs. Hickson invited Denise to bring the children along to Sabbath School and church. Denise had been listening to the Voice of Prophecy on the radio, and was convinced that these people lived according to the Bible and wanted to become part of the church. She was baptized in Vernon.
Two children were born in Malakwa. Her third child, Rhoda, was born in 1955, and Goldie Denise was born in 1958.
At this point, Denise decided it was time to get back into the work force. As the story goes, she bundled up six month old Goldie and took her along to the interview at the Shuswap Lake General Hospital. She told the head nurse that she had four kids and really needed a job. Happily, she was accepted and worked there as a nurse for many years. The family lived in a house on Lakeshore Road, which is now part of Willow Cove.
Her husband died in a tragic car accident in 1968, leaving her alone with four daughters. Times were tough, but with the help of God, Denise worked to support her daughters. She appreciated the support and friendship of the church family.
Their annual summer holiday was spent in a canvass tent at Camp Hope which is run and operated by the Seventh Day Adventist church. The family once travelled by train. She made lifelong friends during Camp Meeting and looked forward to the yearly time of spiritual refreshment and fellowship.
In 1969, she faced yet another hardship when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She took chemo and radiation treatments, and went on to live a further 39 years. She then retired from the hospital and began selling religious and health related books. She ended up doing more visiting then selling books! She was one of the few women involved in this type of church work, but she enjoyed it and managed to sell several sets of Uncle Aurthers Bed Time children’s bible story books and copies of The Desire of Ages.
In 1975, Denise attended an Eckstadt family reunion in Alberta and reconnected with her brother-in-law, Alex, who had also recently lost his wife. The two shared common bonds and were soon married. Alex moved to Salmon Arm, and they began their life together.
At that time, the only SDA church in the area was the one in Silver Creek. So in February 1971, Denise arranged to rent the Anglican Church in Salmon Arm so members could meet regularly. She had a vision of having an SDA church flourish in Salmon Arm. The members soon began building their own church, and the first worship service was held on Christmas Day, 1976. Denise always shared her friendship with God and spent countless hours volunteering for church and school.
Her children grew up, got married, and began to have children of their own. Soon Denise was introducing herself as a proud grandparent. Her grandchildren include Jesse and Gabriel, Julie and Andrew, Sabrina and Ahn. She loved spending time with all her grandkids, taking them to feed the ducks, going for walks, and going to the beach.
Grandma always had an interest in healthy living which of course was encouraged by the church. She always attended the Breath Free Programs offering rides and support to those in the program who were trying to quit smoking. For exercise, Grandma joined a walking group called the Pink Panters who would wear beautiful pink scarves and walk and talk. Grandma writes “My theory is that we walk, we turn pink and then we pant.”
Our family thinks she had the first Health food store in Salmon Arm. She was selling vitamins and supplements from her home. However, Grandma was such a generous soul that she ended up giving away most of her products but made lots of friends.
Grandma was adventurous and loved to travel. She made a trip to New Orleans in 1985 to attend the General Conference. In 1991 she visited New Zealand for a period of six weeks. She always said she would have loved to have stayed six months. Also, she travelled to London, England in 1997 to visit relatives and to Jamaica with her friend Ruth. During the trip to Jamaica she gave away some of her clothing and one suitcase as she felt those people needed the items far more than she did!!
Family was so important to Grandma. She loved them and made sure each one knew that she was praying for them. She was always thinking of ways to spoil her grandchildren, as every good grandma should. She often took us to the waterslides and McDonalds, or had us come for a sleepover, or made us chocolate chip cookies (once she forgot the chocolate), or went on field trips and attended our school functions. Grandma lived with Diana, Jesse, and Gabe for 12 years, and enjoyed sharing in the excitement living in a house with teenage boys brings. Grandma often challenged Gabe to a game of scrabble – I don’t know if he ever beat her!
Grandma was probably best known for her generosity, helping out anyone who needed it. Many of you have had the pleasure of wrapping one of her scarves (or Grandma’s hug as she said) around you on a chilly day. Grandma always had a positive outlook on life. If you asked how she was, she would smile and say “Happy!” Grandma encouraged people by being a very faithful correspondent. Many people have received a cheery, newsy letter from her – it is thought that at one time she was corresponding with 200 people.
It is her cheerful and loving spirit that will live on in our memories as we look forward to seeing her again when our Loving Saviour comes to reunite all of us.
Click here for more: Thank you to each of you who shared your thoughts, prayers and memories
Diana Walker, Roselyn Phare, Goldie Denise Caldwell and Families