My lovely Aunty Kate died on 16 March 2022 at the age of 85 at the Lakeridge Health Oshawa Hospital, Ontario, Canada.
Like many others, I’ve been knocked a bit by the news. Despite living all the way up there in Canada, Kate has been a bit of a feature in my life over many years.
Kate was the oldest of my mother’s four younger sisters. She was the fourth child (the order being; John, mum, Tony, Kate, Sally, Angela, and Ronnie).
I first met Kate and Jimmy (James Dawson Hudson 1932 – 2012) when they came on a trip to New Zealand in the early 1990’s. They went on to make several trips down-under to visit mum and Angela over the years.
I was already a fan, however, having corresponded with them on a couple of occasions as a schoolboy. I remember we had to do a primary school project on a country overseas and mum steered me towards Canada because of her sister. A parcel arrived in response to my letter asking for some information on Canada. It was chock full of tourist pamphlets and a glossy magazine extolling the virtues of Canada. I remember feeling very lucky and spending hours pouring over the images of ViaRail trains passing through the Rockies, Mounted Police with their polished boots and lemon squeezer hats… and the ubiquitous maple leaf flag.
As a family, we all knew of our cousins in Canada (and the UK). Mum was a prolific correspondent with her brothers and sisters. We would have school, graduation, or wedding photos of the cousins on display in our home. Carolyn, John, Mark, Ian, and the identical twin’s Anna and Kathy. Over time their partner’s photos would be added and then their children.
Kate and Jimmy immigrated to Canada after mum and dad immigrated to New Zealand. I’ve often wondered what life might have been like had mum and dad moved to Canada instead… I’d be more polite obviously.
Katherine and I traveled to Ontario in 1993 as part of our “Grand Tour”.
I should note that there are a lot of Katherines in our family… My wife is Katherine. Her mother and aunt are Catherine and Katherine respectively! Our Katie is Katherine and, of course, Catherine Olive (Kate) whom I am marking with this entry.
We traveled to Toronto on one of those ViaRail trains, having crossed Canada from Vancouver (through the Rockies) to Jasper, then Winnipeg, and on to Toronto. We were met at Union Station, in Toronto by Kate and Jimmy. We were driven to Ajax to meet my cousins who had all gathered to greet us. Conveniently there was a Stanley Cup playoff game on an enormous, by New Zealand standards at that time, television. It was being viewed in a basement (not something New Zealand homes have). I was asked to decide what team I would support… the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Montreal Canadiens. I took my lead from my uncle (and host) and decided upon the Canadiens, to the annoyance and teasing of my Maple Leaf-loving cousins. On one of my visits to Toronto after Jimmy’s death in 2012, Kate asked me if there was anything I might like as a memento of my much-loved uncle. I asked for, and am the proud owner, of one of Jimmy’s Canadien’s caps.
Our 1993 visit with Kate and Jimmy set a course for a lifelong friendship. It’s funny to think of now but pre-email, Kate and Jimmy and I would regularly write long letters to one another. My letters were always emblazoned with New Zealand Nuclear Free stickers on the outside. Kate and Jimmy took great delight in taking us to the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station Information Centre as part of our trip.
The highlight of the 1993 trip was attending Ian (my closest-in-age cousin) and Sheila’s wedding in Goderich. We had never been to such a grand affair. Canadians have a party/get-together the night before the wedding. The wedding itself was brilliant. My aunt Angela, had also traveled from New Zealand for the wedding so we all spent time at Niagra Falls after the do.
That trip also marked my introduction to Tim Horton’s, recorded here.
Katherine and I flew off to Europe from Toronto. I remember my first impressions of London, the absence of skyscrapers compared to Toronto. I was determined to visit Canada again.
In 2001, I was working for the New Zealand Government and was awarded a scholarship to attend a business school anywhere in the world. It was an obvious choice for me (those brochures had really got to me) and I selected what was then called Queen’s School of Business (now Smith School of Business), in Kingston, Ontario. My November trip included a visit to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office in Ottawa and then the ten-day residential course in Kingston. From Kingston, I drove to stay with Kate and Jimmy in their new home in Whitby. I remember Jimmy and I marveling at the miracle that was the Hertz Neverlost Navigation system in my rental. It was a bulky thing and quite primitive given today’s Google map magic.
We had a fantastic time and did some day trips about the place. One that was very memorable was a visit to the Shrine of the Canadian Martyrs in Midland, Ontario. Noting that Kate and Jimmy were very (and I mean very) devout Catholics. Both worked for the Catholic Education Board for many years. They were missionaries in South Africa for a period, such was their faith.
So… we went to Mass in the Church built at the place where eight Jesuit Saints lived, worked, and died some 350 years before. Alongside the church, there is a working museum, set around the theme of the first European settlement in the area (http://www.saintemarieamongthehurons.on.ca/sm/en/Home/). After Mass we had some lunch and then Kate asked whether I would like to visit the museum (as we’d planned) or would I prefer to do a two-hour-long Novena? I managed to diplomatically suggest the museum option (and noticed Jimmy looking as relieved as I was when that was agreed). I used to tease Kate about that quite a bit.
I joined a company called Foster Moore in 2011. The company has a major client in Ontario, it then had an investor there and is now owned by a Toronto-based company. A rough back of a napkin count would suggest that I’ve been to Toronto around 22 times since 2011. On many of those trips, I’ve not been able to travel to Whitby (where Kate lived) as it’s about an hour out of downtown Toronto and I was usually knee-deep in some hoopla playing corporation games. But on a good few of the trips, I was able to cadge a lift off Ian and go and see Kate
On one occasion the universe aligned enabling me to surprise Kate with a visit on her 80th birthday. I’d arranged with my cousins to sneak into the celebrations. It was great fun as I just joined the congregation at a celebratory Mass in Kate’s honor. As she was leaving the church and being greeted by people wishing her a happy birthday, I stepped up and said the same. She was totally surprised and demanded to know “what are you doing here?” It was rather funny. She was mortified that she’d not been more polite. I thought it was brilliant. It was also wonderful to catch up with my Aunty Sally and Uncle Geoff who had also made the trip to celebrate Kate’s birthday.
It is always an honour to be welcomed to a Hudson family gathering. I have been to a small number of them over the years and cherish them all.
I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to visit with Kate at her retirement community in January 2020, before the Covid pandemic and all the restrictions that were imposed. I’ve not been to Canada (or anywhere outside New Zealand, barring a flying visit to Brisbane) since then.
Kate was in good form on that visit, it was clear she was slowing down a bit, but there was still a lot of laughter and her signature “oh my Lord” responses to my various stories. She showed me her apartment. It was adorned in photos of her children and grandchildren and, of course, in true Kate style also looked a little like a Catholic shrine. Every available wall held an icon, cross, or bible quote. I was so pleased to have had the opportunity to visit with her, as my trip was very last minute. Thanks to Ian, once again, for making it possible.
I will miss my visits with Kate. She was a very special person and was a link to my own mum in so many ways. We had lots of great chats and many laughs over the years. They are a strong bunch, those Harwoods, and Kate was no exception.
She had a fierce love and pride in her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren’s achievements. She loved Jimmy and they were a great team.
My love and condolences go to my cousins and their families. The matriarch of the Hudson clan has gone to be with Jimmy and the god she so firmly believed in. She was very proud of you all. I know… she told me often enough.
My love also to Kate’s remaining siblings; Tony, Sally, Angela, and Ronnie. You can be sure your sister is organising St Peter and getting the rosary started!
He hono tangata e kore e motu; kāpā he taura waka e motu
(Connections between people cannot be severed whereas those of a canoe-rope can)