Circa 1936


Mabel Washburn

1915 - 2000

Hibbert Washburn

1907 - 2000



with Nancy and Sue Washburn


was many things to many people - daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, grandmother.  This has really been driven home to me in the recent hours as people have recounted to me their wonderful memories of Mum, Mabel, Nanny, Aunt Mabel.... 

  • How she would take in injured animals and nurse them back to health;

  • How she loaded her young son, my father Owen, into a car without headlights and handed him a flashlight to guide her and drove some necessity to Hibbert;

  • How, when her neighbour Gwenny Jone's pony died, she memorialized it for her in a painting;

  • How she and Grampie would spend every anniversary fishing at Pope's Cabin on Crystal Lake;

  • How hospitable she was ... whatever she had she would share, and what she didn't have she would send Grampie to get!


(Mabel Continued.....)

  • How she took part in the Ground Observer Corps, reporting on post-war airplane activity;

  • How adventurous she was when she and Grampie loaded up their camper and drove to visit us in Ontario camping with us en route to and from Thunder Bay;

  • How she loved growing things: the flowers in her garden and the plants with which she filled her front window.

To me, Mabel was Nanny.  I think that I speak for all us grandchildren when I say that Nanny's kitchen was the warmest place I knew growing up - full of cousins, patient dogs, cats with more personality than I have ever met, and a ready supply of cookies and strong, strong tea.


We learned a lot from Nanny about resourcefulness, imagination, humour and kindness.  These she often expressed with her hands, 


(Mabel Continued.....)

magically transforming scraps of cloth and yarn, and pieces of wood and plaster into charming and whimsical works of art.


For us kids, Nanny was quiet and kind:  in the hurly-burly of a large family gathering, when all the other grown-ups were settled into chairs "catching up", Nanny would always make time to find out about what we were up to.  She made us feel important and special.


And yet for all this Nanny was self-effacing and modest to a fault.  If asked about her youth, she would turn the subject away from herself, her life and her experiences, dismissing them as unimportant.  And yet as I look around myself today, I see a great legacy of love, kindness and gentle humour.  Nanny's goodness has been planted deep within us and nurtured by the care and kindness she showed us, even or maybe especially, to the youngest and smallest of us all.

Susan Blair, 19/12/2000

Return to top of page.


Mom told me that Grammie took Uncle Hibbert, at the age of two and one-half, back to England so her family could meet him. Apparently he loved to run around the ship, and he was soon a real hit with the sailors. One day he was exploring, and wanting to get a better look at the water, he climbed up and tried to wriggle head first out a porthole. Hot on his tail were some sailors who quickly grabbed him by the heels and hauled a very disappointed little boy back to safety.


Once they arrived in England, Uncle Hibbert soon discovered that his cuteness and gorgeous red curls didn’t impress Grammie’s youngest brother, five year old Chris. Apparently a very jealous Uncle Chris had had enough of everyone fawning over this adorable little fellow, so he grabbed Uncle Hibbert and dunked him in the horses’ water trough in an effort to drown him!


Uncle Hibbert survived this indignity and grew up to be a typical teenage boy who loved to hunt and fish.  One day he and Uncle Neal went out hunting partridge, and as they sat on a log eating a sandwich two partridges came along.  Well, Uncle Hibbert raised his gun and waited for the two birds to line up one behind the other so he could get them both with one shot. He waited, aimed, fired, and after the smoke cleared, he was amazed to see the two partridges walk away in opposite directions! Uncle Neal loved to remind his older brother of his excellent marksmanship.


My earliest childhood memories of my Uncle were shrouded in mystery. I remember seeing him driving this big green or brown truck/car thing that I thought he’d made out of shiny wood and metal. Compared to our tiny VW beetle this thing, in my childish eyes, was a wondrous sight. I figured Uncle Hibbert must be rich to be able to make such a contraption, and this led me to speculate just where he’d get so much money. 


This is where the mystery came in——because as a child I visited Diane a lot, we got to explore her house, her yard and the woods but never under any circumstances were we to go into her Dad’s shop and play. Aunt Mabel would have lunch all ready and just like clockwork you could look out the window and see Uncle Hibbert coming across the yard, always wearing that strange looking little welder’s cap. When he came in and washed up for lunch, Diane and I scooted out the door, headed for the shop but he’d always closed the doors so we couldn’t get in. It was wondrous to stand outside and hear the hammering and clunking and watch the windows light up brightly when he welded.


I never told Diane that I had it all figured out—-I knew what her Dad


(Hibbert  continued...)

was doing--he was making gold or silver to pay for his huge car!  I never got to go inside the shop, unlike my brother Jim, who apparently went in on a regular basis; however, Jim loved to get as close as possible to our Uncle so he could see what marvelous things he was doing. It always shocked Uncle Hibbert to turn quickly, find he’d trampled Jim under his feet, and he’d holler, “Get out of my road, Jim!” Evidently, this scenario and dialogue were repeated often.  Of course, seeing Uncle Hibbert happily driving all over the countryside in his wonderful backhoe, only cemented in my mind his enormous wealth. I thought that machine must have cost millions. 


My Uncle was a very talented man who not only could work that backhoe like it was merely another appendage, but he also loved to invent and create things. He could weld, hammer, fix, and rebuild almost anything.  According to my brothers, Ron and Jim, they thought he could perform miracles because when they wanted a drive shaft cut down to fit their old jalopy, they naturally enlisted Uncle Hibbert’s talents. In order to shorten the drive shaft, the boys took it upon themselves to whack a big chunk out of the middle and lug the remaining lengths off to our Uncle to hitch it back together  and make it work.


I know Uncle Hibbert loved to play cards and apparently his best poker face came in real handy one night as he and Larry were driving up through Grand Bay. Uncle Hibbert was at the wheel and Larry dozed beside him. Suddenly, Larry heard a siren and discovered a police car had pulled them over. He didn’t know why and his perplexed father didn’t know why either. The policeman came to the window and informed my Uncle that he’d been speeding through the last three speed zones. Uncle Hibbert, with a very serious, straight face, looked at him and informed the officer he’d only been traveling with the flow of traffic. The officer checked the license and told my Uncle to continue on his way--despite the fact that there was no other traffic to be seen anywhere!


Uncle Hibbert loved the outdoors and would sweep Aunt Mabel off her feet by taking her fishing on their Anniversaries. What more could a man ask for? Fishing and the woman he loved.


During March Break one year, he, Larry, David, Uncle Neal, Gary and Dale went out to Uncle Hibbert’s woodlot to cut firewood. Gary fondly remembers that when it came time to boil the kettle at lunch, our uncle was the only one to do this. He would measure the loose tea in the palm of his hand, drop it into the kettle and wait for it to boil. 


Go to top of Hibbert's story. 

(Hibbert  continued...)

Once it reached a hard rolling boil, he’d take the kettle off, wait a minute, put it back on the fire and repeat this procedure two more times.  This insured you’d get a great cup of tea, and no matter how long that kettle took to boil, it wasn’t ready until Uncle Hibbert pronounced it ready. He kept the leftover tea in the sometimes covered kettle, which he plunked into the snowbank, so it could be enjoyed later as a nice cold drink when they were parched from working so hard. Gary said it would be a bit bitter, but it sure quenched your thirst.


When Uncle Hibbert worked out in the woods, he loved his tea breaks. He’d stop his work and boil the kettle at 10:00 and again at 3:00, always arriving back home by dark.  


Sometimes David would sneak off to the woods alone to cut firewood but it wouldn’t be long before he’d hear a tractor coming and there would be his Dad who’d followed him. He’d climb down from his tractor, do a day’s work, have tea, and then head home. What else would you expect a man of 80 to do?


Besides enjoying a good strong cup of tea, it seems Uncle Hibbert also appreciated Anna’s talent for hitting potholes when she’d have occasion to drive him places. He’d willingly point out that she wasn’t doing a good job because he was sure there were a few holes back there she hadn’t hit!


A few years ago when I was visiting Uncle Hibbert and Aunt Mabel, I decided to have a frank talk with him. I told him how he’d always scared the living daylights out of me when I was a child, because, well, to be quite honest, I thought he was a bit gruff and sometimes even grumpy! Uncle Hibbert quickly grinned but just as quick he frowned a little and said, “Is that so?” I went on to tell him I was sure glad he’d mellowed with age because now it was a hoot to visit him and terribly hard to get away. I loved to tease him about becoming an old softie who loved to watch mushy soap operas. He was quick to point out they had good story lines filled with mystery and intrigue, and there was always a crises needing to be resolved.


Whenever my Uncle had to be admitted for a blood transfusion, I’ve been told that the nurses loved to see him coming in. Since he wasn’t being admitted because he was ill, he teased and tormented them, cheered them up and brightened their days.


Uncle Hibbert gave each of us a wonderful gift--the gift of memories. He is and will continue to be a big part of our lives whether in our conversations, our shared genealogy, our jokes and stories, our work ethic, and the ability to meet whatever comes our way head on with determination, grit, and dare I say stubbornness?

Debbie Gill 28/03/2000

Return to top of page.