The photographs of the Kaine family from the 1940’s show Doris and Helen growing into beautiful young women and Irving and Jean as a mature established couple. 

The family moved from Dunnville to London, Ontario when the Reverend Irving Kaine, a Presbyterian minister,  took a position that covered a number of rural churches. My Aunt Helen comments that they had to hear the same sermon three times every Sunday as the family accompanied Irving on his route! It must have been quite a change for them all as they were used to being imbedded in the social fabric of a single small town. At this point however, the girls were more focussed on the usual adolescent activities of the time like taking sewing classes, attending high school parties and meeting boys, so that can happen anywhere, small town or big!

Irving and Jean circa 1945
Irving and Jean circa 1945

As with all families, life marched on and Jean’s role as a mother began to transform into the “Nan” that all the ensuing grandchildren so admired and loved. Doris, my mother, got married just after high school and went on to have six children, become a teacher and eventually attain her Master’s of Education degree at the University of Windsor. But that is another story!

Doris graduates
Helen, Doris, Mahlon and Jean at graduation in the 1970’s

Helen, the younger daughter, attended her final year of high school in Owen Sound and became a nurse after training at the East General Hospital in Toronto where Jean and Irving (soon to be known as Nan and Gramp) had moved in 1949. Helen had the gumption and courage to take a  ship and embark on a six month hitchhiking trip in Europe with two friends after she graduated in the early 1950s. No small feat for a woman in those days! The love of travel and adventure passed on to her by her mother has taken her to over 40 different countries including Rwanda, Tibet , Peru, Croatia, Russia, Australia, Vietnam etcetera, etcetera. The more exotic the better! I was the bridesmaid at the wedding when the Reverend Kaine  in his last position as a minister married Helen to a young banker in 1957 and three grandchildren were eventually added to their family.

How proud Jean was!  She had instilled a sense of independence and confidence in her daughters and they both went on to be qualified as professionals, a teacher and a nurse.  And I am grateful that those values were passed on to me as I never questioned the fact that of course as a young woman I would attend university no matter what! My successful attainment of a Master of Social Work degree and career as a social worker was gratifying to both me and Nan.

Another value that we learned from Nan, was the importance of treasuring and nurturing family connections. The lives of her daughters, Doris and Helen, took very different paths but they remained committed to family get togethers with each other and with Nan and Gramp. For many years, Nan wrote a letter to me almost every week with many funny anecdotes and words of wisdom to help me on my way. And of course, I was not the only one.  My cousin Kim MacDonald Hicks says about her; “There seemed never to be enough room when she wrote those interesting letters to us. The pages would be turned sideways and upside down and her script would become almost impossible to decipher as it got smaller and smaller; again she was just always exploding with exciting events and thoughts to share. She was such an inspiration and her spirit lives on…”

Jean and Irving in Toronto 1951
Jean and Irving in Toronto 1951

As I reach this point in the story of my grandmother, Jean Wilhelmine Hasting Inglis Kaine, I wonder where to go next. I have explored her life from the turn of the century in Northern Ontario, marvelled at her sense of independence as she travelled across Canada as a young teacher in the early 1920s and looked at her position as a ministers wife and mother in a rural Ontario towns. I begin to have my own memories from this point in Jean’s life and am not merely gleaning the story from old photographs and recalling stories I have heard from others.  Jean was a woman approaching sixty living in a the growing city of Toronto in the new suburb of Parkview Hills as the Baby Boomers were being born and the world was rapidly changing in the post war years. Jean’s life would change as well as Irving left the ministry and embarked on a career as a hearing aid salesman. They moved to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; Greensboro, North Carolina and back to Florida at last. Irving was always an entrepreneur but that deserves more attention in another story.

As I review the original purpose of embarking on this tale as I wrote six months ago in Episode 1: “As the keeper of original family letters, photographs, artifacts and oral history that go back to the 1850s, I feel a deep responsibility to preserve and share this precious material with others. I have both treasured and felt intimidated by the legacy of more than 20 letters written by the Kaine family members from Huron County in Ontario to Aunt Bess in Ireland.

How to begin the daunting task of sharing the wealth? At the end and work back, chronologically or what? Maybe I will just to jump in in the middle and focus on a person who had a profound impact on my life: my maternal grandmother Jean Wilhelmine Hastings Inglis Kaine. A woman of small stature (she stood tall at 4 feet, 10 inches) but mighty spirit, she lived an amazing life as a confident and independent woman from the turn of the last century until her death in 1994 at the age of 97.” 

I realize that this endeavour will need to take some different directions if I am to accomplish what I set out to do. The future episodes related to Jean will most likely focus on the memories that I have of her and the influence she had on  me and others and there will be other segments related to the Kaine family history as described in the letters sent back to Ireland in the 1800s. Stay tuned!!

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