Bessie Mary (Heaton) Ellithorpe




Life and Work

Bessie Ellithorpe is the only child of Joe and Martha Jane (Jenny) Heaton, who emigrated from England to Canada. She was born in Wessington Springs, South Dakota, on June 21, 1920, while her parents were visiting friends from their homeland.

The Heatons owned one of the two cars in town. Even before she started school, Bessie and her mother crossed the river on many an evening for a ball game with the nine Ellithorpe children and their parents. Every summer, Bessie attended the week long church and CGIT camps. In the winter there was skating on her own front-yard rink or on the Red Deer River.

At the end of Grade 9, Bessie was offered the choice of completing Grade 10 or concentrating on her music lessons which she had, been taking from Mrs. Dominy since she was eight years old. Bessie chose the music lessons.

Once per week she rode to Olds in Mr. Faulkner's taxi to take lessons from Mr. Wright, the United Church organist. Bessie especially liked the stop at the road crew's camp near Harmaton corner because the cook always served them each a piece of pie. When she wasn't taking music lessons or practising, Bessie worked in the creamery, taking cream tests, collecting butter samples, pressing fresh butter into wooden moulds and writing the cream cheques on which many families depended for their only source of cash.

At Mrs. Dominy's urging, she began playing the organ for the United Church services during the late 1930s. Her fellow church members greatly appreciated her contribution to their Sunday worship as Lucy Morgan points out in her poem, The Organist. On October 12, 1940, Bessie married Nathan Ellithorpe, whom she had known since childhood. During the first years of their marriage, Nate and Bessie lived in a house next door to the Creamery where they both worked. In 1945, Nate left the creamery to start Sundre Lumber in partnership with John Macleod and Jack Morgan. Bessie stayed on at the creamery for another year until the new manager's wife was trained to take over her duties. The Ellithorpes then sold their house beside the creamery and moved into one located where the White Goose Restaurant is now.

Although Bessie was busy raising her three children, Lynne, Roy and Brian, she was active in the community as well. She is a charter member of the Royal Purple, a member of the United Church Women and the Sundre Hospital Auxillary.

From 1978 when Nate retired, to 1997 when he could no longer drive, the Ellithorpes spent five months of each year in the southern United States. Bessie continued to live in the family home after Nate died on January 13, 1998. In 1999 she moved into a suite in Lynn and Les Mackenzie's home on the farm, the same farm her own parents purchased in 1936.

Bessie says if she could say anything to young parents it would be to spend time with their children. "Go to everything with them when they are small. It is so important."

-By Edna Bakkin


Letter of Appreciation by Phyllis Burke

Bessie Heaton Ellithorpe has always been a fun loving person and a true friend. Her mother, Jennie and dad, Joe Heaton, made Sundre into a better place, as did Bessie's husband, Nate. Sundre Creamery, which they owned, had a happy atmosphere to all who came by.

Many people remember Bessie as the organist at the United Church for many years.

At this time, she is making a big change in her life - as she is moving to Westward Ho, to be closer to some of her family, and she will be truly missed here: but after all, it's only six miles away!

Good luck to you Bessie, and come into your town often.

The Organist by Lucy Morgan

The week has brought its load of worries,
And our luck seems gone astray,
Yet come, prepare we now for worship,
For it is the Sabbath day.

Softly, from the open church door
Comes the strain "Sweet Hour of Prayer"
Somehow all our cares grow lighter,
For the organist is there.

Cloud or sunshine, heat or snowstorm,
Inclement, or in pleasant weather,
She is there to help and guide us
As we worship there together.
And when solemn service ushers,
Man and maid through nuptial arch,
Seems there falls a special blessing
As she plays the wedding march.

E'en in time of deepest sorrowing, ...
When a loved one's laid away,
Gentle fingers on the keyboard
Bring some ease to saddest day.

Morals falter, values change through
Time, the ruthless alchemist.
Would that we were all as constant
As our priceless organist.