Remembering my grandma, Elma Jewitt, on her birthday

*I’m taking a short break from my Canadian baseball articles to pay tribute to my grandma Elma Jewitt who would’ve turned 105 today.

She passed away on February 27, 2001.

This is an article I wrote that was published in the “Lives Lived” section of The Globe and Mail on September 28, 2001 — nearly 22 years ago. I like to think I’m a better writer now, but there’s a tenderness to this tribute that I didn’t want to destroy by editing it. So here it is, as it was published.

And yes, my grandma was a baseball fan.

She is second from the left in the photo taken in Cooperstown in 1991 above, with my mom (far left), myself (in the Phillies uniform channeling my inner 1991 Dale Murphy) and my dad.


By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

It was fitting that the cemetery workers had problems lowering my grandma’s casket into her grave at her burial.

For all of her beautiful traits, she would be the first to admit that she was fiercely independent and stubborn.

Maybe this was her last little battle – her way of saying, “Just hold your horses. I’m going to go, but on my own terms.”

Yes, there was only one Elma Jewitt.

Sure, she was stubborn, but she was also completely lovable, funny and caring.

I know that if I was ever feeling down, a phone call to her would instantly cheer me up. And from the more than 500 people that came to her visitation, I think I can safely say that I’m not alone in my sentiments.

My grandma and me in 1998.

Born an only child to George and Annie Leitch on Lot 14, Concession 6 in Hullett Township (Huron County), where she attended a school with only one other child her age, it’s really kind of ironic that she managed to touch the lives of so many.

When she was growing up, her social life revolved almost exclusively around events at the Kinburn United Church. It was at this church that she would meet a young farmhand named Wilbur Jewitt – a man who would eventually become her husband.

They lived together on a small farm beside her parents – farming everything from pigs and cattle to grain and berries. Unlike her upbringing, she would have a large family: giving birth to four boys (Ron, Gary, Bev and Brian) and a girl (my mother, Glenyce) between 1941 and 1955.

When Wilbur was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour in 1962, she was forced to take the lead in running the farm. She used to speak with great pride of how her family came together to keep the farm going during this difficult time.

Around the time of Wilbur’s death in 1966, the government was buying land in the area. In 1971, it made an offer to purchase the farm that left her with little choice but to sell. Having lived on a farm her whole life, she was understandably apprehensive about moving. But she bought a house in Clinton, Ont.

Soon after the move, she accepted a position on the custodial staff at the Seaforth Hospital. Only knowing the lengthy hours that go into farm work, she used to say that her first pay cheque was the “easiest darn money” she had ever made. In fact, she grew to love her job at the hospital so much that she didn’t want to retire when she turned 65 in 1983.

But retirement would open a whole new world of opportunities for her. Having rarely strayed farther than Goderich, Ont., her retirement allowed her to take trips to Hawaii, Europe, Alaska, Cuba, California, Florida, Arizona and Washington.

It also gave her a chance to further immerse herself in community organizations such as the Forester’s Lodge in Kinburn, Ont., United Church Women, the Londesboro Women’s Institute, the Clinton Horticultural Society and Meals on Wheels.

Through it all, it was clear that her family was her No. 1 priority. Over the years, 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren were born (and many more after her death). She developed a special relationship will all of them.

In the final few months of her life, she remained positive and enthusiastic. When I went to visit her just days before her death, she was barely able to speak, but I remember her saying to me, “Kevin, I’m not doing worth two darns.”

Then, in her next breath, she asked me how my job was going. That was the kind of selfless person she was.

After she passed away, I initially experienced a deep feeling of sadness. This has since given way to a feeling of warmth when I think of her.

I may talk and write about her in the past tense – like she is gone forever.

But this is not entirely true.

For her spirit is alive and well in my heart.

10 thoughts on “Remembering my grandma, Elma Jewitt, on her birthday

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  1. I love this Kevin. When I think back to my younger days I think now of what a great woman Mom was. I don’t think I appreciated her enough when growing up. Thanks for remembering. Love, always from your Mom. I hope I have at least half the spunk, determination and love of others that Mom had.

  2. Kevin, that was a lovely break in my day. I don’t mind at all that you got off the baseball train for a day and went this direction. Your content is constantly riveting, which is whjy you have a growing list of followers. I’ve been luckier than most of your readers to have spent some time with you, travel with you, and see your multiple dimensions. Your grandma and your parents did an amazing job raising you, as one thing I am certain of is the accuracy of the adage “Apples don’t fall far from their trees.” Your readers at a distance likely don’t know that much about you other than your gift to put anecdotes, research, facts, experience, Canadiana, and passion into words like stone soup, and exposing yourself and your soul as you occasionally do lends credibility and motivates us to read your work. I’m fortunate to know a bit about you and Bob Elliott, but I would love to know more about Joe Falls, Mike Downey, Mitch Album, three more of my all-time fave sports writers. Elma is a girl’s name of German origin, a derivative of Wilhelmina, meaning “helmet” or “protection.” No doubt your grandma would have done anything for you, and no doubt she is beaming with pride that you gave her your focus today!

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