Mom, citizen, gardener, dancer. Born on April 20, 1927, in Kamsack, Sask.; died on Jan. 9, 2014, in Grimsby, Ont., after a fall, aged 86.
“That Albertine, she was so active!” Those admiring words, from a friend who had known her since they were teenagers, captured a life filled with family and hard work, punctuated by fun and community involvement.
One of nine children in a French Catholic family, Albertine was a twin (to Albert). At the age of 16, she moved to Winnipeg to work and help her sister, who had a young family, a move that meant Albertine was, regrettably, unable to finish high school. Later she moved to Hamilton, Ont., where she worked in an optometrist’s office. She was also an active member of the Catholic Youth Organization, which is where she met Walter Muise, an Acadian from Nova Scotia.
They married in 1953 and soon joined 80 other families in the Sherbrien Homebuilding Co-operative, a group effort launched by two priests to build homes that would otherwise be unaffordable for some of the young families. Walter worked full time in the Firestone tire factory in Hamilton and also put in the requisite “sweat equity” of 20 to 40 hours a week to help build 81 homes in nearby Grimsby. Albertine, who by then had two children under the age of three, kept the household running until their new home was finished.
In the years that followed, Albertine stuck to her busy pace: raising three daughters and two sons; tending a large vegetable garden; canning and freezing the garden bounty; sewing clothes or, much to her delight, costumes for her girls’ dance recitals; organizing annual camping trips for a family of seven. Those trips to the Maritimes, Quebec and across Ontario may not have been much of a holiday for her, but we children never knew it.
Albertine put just as much effort into having fun. She acted in the local theatre guild and participated in fashion shows, played tennis, and took up ice dancing in her 40s. But what she enjoyed most was dancing. She and Walter were beautiful dancers, our own Fred and Ginger, and friends fondly recall the dance lessons given in our living room.
For years, she was involved with the Liberal party and helped organize enumerators for elections. When Walter was elected an alderman on Grimsby Town Council, they were further involved in civic affairs.
After Walter died suddenly in 1988, Albertine kept active in the community. She was an early member of the Grimsby Benevolent Fund and the Craft Guild and volunteered for the Grimsby Public Art Gallery. On her suggestion, the Women’s League at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, her parish of many years, organized funeral receptions for bereaved families.
In 1995, she married Bill Joyce, a long-time neighbour, friend and widower, and enjoyed a few more years of dancing and married life. Together they became members of the St. Joseph choir, which she referred to as their “choir family.” At her funeral, choir members wore purple ribbons, a nod to her favourite colour.
After Bill passed away in 2006, she moved into an apartment on her own, continuing to attend morning mass followed by coffee with friends. Afternoons were devoted to her beloved crosswords, reading or Blue Jays games (she would have been riveted by the team’s performance this season).
In her final years Albertine modified some of her activities, but didn’t lessen her involvement. At the Craft Guild, she was only required to tell a joke or story to the group as her contribution. How wonderful to discover, amid her belongings, a file labelled “Jokes & Stories.” Hers was a life well lived, actively, and engaged to the very end.
Janet Muise is Albertine’s eldest child.