September 29, 1925 – December 7, 2019
Our mum Elizabeth Bate was a regular feature on the Nanaimo waterfront, walking daily with a cheerful smile on her face.
Around her 90th birthday, the daily walks became too much for her tired heart. But she still enjoyed the view from her patio and the car trips to Piper’s Lagoon, Departure Bay beach or Transfer Beach in Ladysmith.
“Bits of me are wearing out,” she’d say, gracious as ever. She’d sit in her Queen Anne chair, CBC radio on at full blast, a cup of tea in her hand, her snowy white hair a halo against the sun outside.
Elizabeth, known as Biff to her family, was borne 94 years ago in England, the daughter of Eric Burgess and Annie Morgan. She grew up with her elder sister Pat in Kemsing, Kent and, as a teenager, recalled watching the planes flying over on their way to bomb London during World War 2.
Elizabeth and Pat were educated at Queenswood school in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, where she hated the purple uniform but excelled academically.
When World War 2 broke out, her father (Grampy), as export sales manager for W.J. Bush Ltd, found his commission-based income plummet. Elizabeth had hoped to study to be a doctor but this was out of reach financially. Instead she studied at the London School of Economics (LSE) as an almoner, now called a social worker.
During the war, the LSE evacuated to Cambridge and it was there she met her future husband, Michael Anthony Bate (Mike). They were both 18. Mike was called up into the Royal Engineers and saw active service after the end of the war in Burma, now Myanmar. After he returned, Mike enrolled at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge and the couple married.
They promptly raised three children: Tony, and the twins, Ali and Gill. Elizabeth had made it quite clear to Mike that she intended to work, and not be a home-bound house-wife, so common in the post-war period. Her first job was as a social worker at Northampton General Hospital.
In 1963, the family moved to Wells and later Chilcompton in Somerset, where she worked as a psychiatric social worker at Mendip Hospital. In those days, patients had been hospitalized for so long, they were institutionalized and she instigated a regime of rehabilitating patients back into the community as soon as possible.
In her fifties, Elizabeth’s eyesight started to fail with macular degeneration, but she learnt techniques to cope with it. How to fill a cup of tea without it overflowing. And braille. Her son Tony recalls walking into her house one evening, thinking no-one was home, but she was reading in the sitting room with all the lights off. Even though he was not expected, she recognized the footsteps and called out to him by name.
Elizabeth was the quiet anchor of the family. Growing up, it always appeared that Mike was the decision maker in family matters; but in later life that her children realised Mum had quietly made her views known to him first. She always voted socialist, and it was with great pride she said recently she had cancelled out every one of Dad’s right-wing votes!
After Mike’s death in 1996, Elizabeth moved to Nanaimo to be close to her daughters and grandchildren. She settled in happily here, loved being outside, listening to symphonies at the Port Theatre and was an active member of the St Paul’s church community.
Now, after 23 years on her own, she has gone to join her beloved Mike. We will miss you, Mum.
Elizabeth is survived by her son Tony (Trish), daughters Ali and Gill (John); grandchildren Toni, Louisa (Lee), Melanie (Danny), Lauren (Aaron), Michael (Kim), Joanna, and Cameron (Rachel); great-grandchildren Lauchlan, Jaxon, Hugo, Alexi, Amelie, Max and Parker; as well as many members of the extended family.
A church service will be held at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Nanaimo, Canada on Tuesday, Dec. 17th at 2 pm, followed by a reception at her home from 4 pm to 6 pm.
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