Lorraine Elizabeth Bartell was born in Stalwart Saskatchewan in the late 1920’s to David and Julia Maitland. She described growing up as the daughter of a one-room-school teacher in the depression with a father who loved ideas and reading. She kept the beautiful handmade game of “Monopoly” that her mother Julia made for her and her brother Keith for Christmas one year (tokens, money, and all). Lorraine had learned how to read as a very small child on her father’s knee and kept her thirst for learning and academic endeavours throughout her life. Lorraine graduated from high school at age 16, having skipped a few grades.
Living in Regina and then Calgary, Lorraine worked various clerical and accounting jobs, always with an eye, it seems, for a better or more challenging situation. For the first half of her life, her ambition was like that, accepting of context, but always pushing just a little bit.
And then she met Jake, the most charming, capable, and impulsive young man you could imagine. They married and moved to Hinton in 1956. Their son, Wyatt was born in 1957. Jake and his brother Gladwin moved their families to Fort St. John and started Bartell Bros. Construction there in that same year. Fort St. John was essentially under construction in the late fifties and early sixties, so it was a pretty good place to build a construction company, but a challenging town to raise a family in. Their first house had electricity after a few months and a biffy in the back. “It was crazy to expect Lorraine to move into that type of setting with a brand-new baby,” Jake says.
When Cheryl was born in 1959, they moved into a beautiful new home built by Jake. Diana was born in ’61. Lorraine was a bookkeeper at Hunter’s Furniture Store for a while. In the late ’60’s she turned to civic leadership. First appointed to the Library Board, then elected to the Hospital Board, and later the School Board. She was likely the only woman on the Hospital Board and when the chairman told her she could be in charge of social organizing and the coffee cart, she reminded him that she had topped the polls in the election and would be a part of the decision-making as much as the other members. It didn’t take long before she was the chairperson of the hospital board.
While on the school board in Fort St. John, she was instrumental in establishing Northern Lights College, the first college in Northern B.C.
In the 1970s she returned to academic life, taking a grade 12 literature course and later college courses when they were available in town. She golfed with her life-long friend Helen and played bridge every week.
In 1977 Lorraine and Jake bought a beautiful house in Lantzville overlooking the ocean. Jake restarted his company on Vancouver Island, and Lorraine took to gardening and being a supportive - if entirely non-helicopter - grandmother. It was a house and yard to roam in. It was at this time in Lorraine’s life where any lingering sense of needing to fit in or be something that she wasn’t just dropped away completely. To know Lorraine was to know a person who was curious and engaged, lofty and wise, and though certainly not without her hang-ups, lived consistently according to her own values.
In 1989 Jake & Lorraine designed and built The Nanoose house and grounds, on 40 acres of field and forest. It was their magnum opus.
If you were never at their Nanoose house, imagine a home built of cedar and glass surrounded by gardens that exist in communion with nature. Imagine a house rising out of the land as if it is part of the land.
Arriving, Lorraine will serve you tea or walk you around the garden or ignore you all together, depending on your need of the moment. If you want to play her grand piano, go ahead. If you want to sit in her meditation room or pick a tomato from her green house, ditto. There was no insider / outsider in that house. You grew out of it just as it grew out of the land. And people flocked there. It is preposterous to think of the sheer number of talented, curious, hearty-souled people who trekked out there over the years, all hoping Lorraine was home and would hear what they had to say.
Oh, and Jake and Lorraine knew how to throw a fine, fine, corn roast. Which they did annually for well over a decade.
Lorraine and Jake moved into Origin Independent Living a few years back. She was very happy to be with Jake, have lots of old and new friends nearby, and not to have to cook any more.
Lorraine loved being and thinking and gardening and talking about ideas. She kept old friends and made lots (and lots) of new ones. She also loved Blue Jays baseball and kept a score sheet of every Blue Jays game she watched. She was an excellent bridge player and loved to win. She read all of Proust with a grandson, the entire Encyclopedia Britannica by herself, and she loved Gabrielle Garcia Marquez’s magical realism. She was not a woman to censor ideas or to be afraid of them.
If you sit with Jake, Wyatt, Cheryl, Diana, or with any of Jake and Lorraine’s grandchildren or great grandchildren, you will see her right away in them. Lorraine was smart and rigorous, ambitious and open to Grace. She was loving, opinionated, and unflinchingly herself. She shines on through her family and friends.
We love her. She is missed.
By Lindsey Jay Bartell Walsh, Grandson
Lorraine loved flowers, and there were plenty of her favorites at the small celebration of life last week with her local immediate family, so no more needed. If you wish, donations may be made in her memory to Covenant House in Vancouver.