Tuesday, March 06, 2012

A Tribute to My Grandma - Violet Bramhall Alger

I recently read a very touching post by one of my favourite bloggers, Miss Mommy, about her grandparents.  It really hit a chord with me and inspired me to (finally) put down in words what my Grandma, Violet Alger, meant to me.  Grandma had a way of making you feel like you were her most special grandchild, gave me some of my best childhood memories and had a huge impact on my life in the 18 short years I knew her.  Here are some of the reasons why:

Grandma loved classical music.  The radio was always on in the kitchen tuned to a classical station.  She greatly influenced my appreciation for classical music by taking my sister and me to concerts in the park and to hear symphonies.  Also, one day when I was quite young (I want to say maybe 6 or 7), there was a knock at the door and when my mom answered there was a delivery truck and a piano waiting there – a ‘gift’ from Grandma for Bev and me.  This was probably also her subtle way of saying she’d like us to take piano lessons, and we did.  I took lessons for about 6 years and passed my Grade 3 Royal Conservatory of Music exam.  Unfortunately I gave up the lessons (I had “better” things to do with my time when I was 13, like chase boys...), but what the lessons gave me was an ability to read music which really helped when I was learning to play other instruments in junior high.

Grandma’s house was always clean.  I mean spotless.  Even her kitchen.  She was the world’s best cook and baker, but I don’t ever remember a mess in her kitchen.  She was that good.  There was always a formal living room in my grandparents’ house, but you were never made to feel like you couldn’t be in it.  There were lovely things that we knew not to touch and antique pieces of furniture but there was also always a full candy jar that could be touched as much as we wanted. 

Like classical music, Grandma loved the theatre (and even forayed into acting herself!).  When she and Grandpa moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake when I was probably about 10 or 11 years old, she would take us to see plays at the Shaw Festival.  I have some great memories of going to lunch and then the theatre with her.  To this day, Bev and I love theatre and take in a play at the Shaw or the Stratford Festival when we can.  One day I’d love to even follow in her footsteps and be in a play myself – that’s one for the bucket list!

Grandma also fostered my love of books and reading.  She bought my sister and I the complete set of Anne of Green Gables books and we devoured them.  I am still an avid reader and credit her for part of that.  Those Anne of Green Gables books also are what inspired my sister and I to take a trip to Prince Edward Island a couple of years ago.  You can read about that here.

If you were a child of the 80’s like I was, you probably had a Cabbage Patch Doll (or two, or three…).  Those dolls went everywhere with me for awhile and imagine my delight when we arrived for a visit and Grandma had made my doll a dress and matching hat!  She was very talented with the sewing machine and dresses for our dolls made by her were extra special.  She also made Bev and I dresses to wear ourselves when we were little girls.  I remember feeling like a princess in a long red and white dress she made for me to wear at Christmas.  I wore it for my Grade 1 school picture too.  

Dresses made by Grandma, 1978 or 79 - I'm on the left
I have just realized that this could be an extremely long post, so I will start to make my points shorter! 

Grandma and Grandpa had the entire set of Dr. Seuss books.  Oh how I loved to read them over and over when we visited!

Grandma passed away before the days of email, but I’m sure if she was here today, she’d still write letters.  I loved getting letters and cards from her and still have many of them in an envelope.  I treasure them.

She loved to wear hats and she always wore dresses.  She loved costume jewellery and getting dressed up and she always looked fabulous.

Grandma and Grandpa ate organic food.  Or FOOD to them.  They had a huge garden and when they moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake they also had a small fruit orchard.  Grandma would pay us to pit cherries for her pies.  She helped to instill a good work ethic and always rewarded our hard work.
As I mentioned above, she was the world’s best baker.  She made this amazing light green frosted Easter cake that had marshmallow bunnies on it.  She actually took scissors to the marshmallows to make the bunnies and painted faces on them with a toothpick and food colouring.  If you were lucky enough to celebrate a birthday at her house, she would bake you a money cake and of course the birthday girl or boy always had the coveted quarter in their slice (remember, this was the 70’s or 80’s).

Grandma was a fantastic gift-giver and was always very thoughtful. Her Christmas gifts were always adorned with a special ornament and often they were something personalized – like an engraved silver bell or a craft she made herself.  I loved getting her gifts just for the ornament on top. 

Sadly, Grandma passed away suddenly 4 months before I turned 18.  For each of her granddaughter’s 18th birthdays Grandma had given them a ring.  I realized I wouldn’t receive one of these special gifts because she was gone.  I was wrong.  When the family cleaned out her closet, there, wrapped in birthday paper with a tag with my name on it, was my 18th birthday gift – a beautiful pearl ring.  I treasure that ring and hold it so dear to my heart.  Thank you Grandma, for planning ahead and for being so thoughtful. 

A wonderful tribute has been made to her, initiated by my Dad, in North Bay.  A pergola leaf with her name on it and a story to go along with it will be part of the waterfront redevelopment.  You can read more about her here.  She truly was a remarkable woman. 
I wish she were still here so that I could have known her for longer and so that I could have told her how much I loved her and what an impact she had on my life. I hope she knows.   


  1. Anonymous1:55 PM


    Thank you for the lovley tribute and reminder of what a remarkable human being our Grandmother was. I love the picture of her that you posted my Mom keeps that one framed. I could share similar stories but I'll save that for when we can reminisce in person. Thank God for our Grandmothers. Cousin Karen

  2. Anonymous7:31 PM

    Your beautiful tribute to my Mom will bring tears of grief, joy and remembrance to all who read it.
    Thank you Jenny. I could not have said it better.

  3. Jenn Bennett10:08 AM

    Oh Jen! I am in tears. I was on the edge almost from the beginning but when I read about the ring..that did it.