#FHWC2013 (7): Saving Grace

Grace’s original birth certificate. My mother (Ethel) insisted I take care of it in 2015

Grace was sixth child of Hamer HEMINGUAY (also spelled HEMINGWAY and HEMMINGWAY) and Esther Ann NEEDMAN, both from Astley, Lancashire, England; but she was their first child born in Canada, 1913.

Nothing is known of her childhood growing up.

It was August 4th, 1934, at the age of 20, when she married a 22year-old James Henry ATKINSON in Grace United Church (Hamilton, Wentworth Co, ON).

She delivered her first child (a son), five weeks before her first wedding anniversary.

Another year (1936), another child; a girl this time.  They named her Lenore, but she died four months later, on October 5th — the birthday of her father, James Henry.  Lenore was then buried with her great-grandparents, Henry Orr WILSON and Isabella CLARKE in Hamilton Cemetery.  Unfortunately, there is not an inscription for her on the stone, only a note/card in the cemetery office.

Grace and James had four children: William (1935), Lenore (1936), James (1938) and Ethel (1940).

In adulthood, Grace was blind in her right eye.  When the blindness started is unknown, but my mother recalls Grace was blind in that eye from the earliest times that she remembers her.

She loved to draw; and once a week Grace would teach the school children how to draw a horse, or some other animal — whatever they wanted.  My mother was too young to attend school, but remembers walking to the school with Grace “to assist her on those drawing days.”

At home, it did not matter if she was cooking in the kitchen, hanging the washing outside or cleaning the house, Grace was always in her apron.

When Ethel was approaching her teens (1951), Grace fell ill.  William and James were already helping their father with the farm; so Ethel stayed home from school and tended to the chores of a farmhouse: fetching eggs from the chickens, milking the cows, feeding all the barn animals, cooking, cleaning, washing and nursing her sick mother.

Even though she was ill, Grace gave James three more children: Barbara (1953), Shirley (1955) and Robert (1956).

And helping to take care of the three little ones was added to Ethel’s chores.  She was not able to get back to school to complete Grade Six.

Then they learned the blindness in Grace’s eye was being caused by a cancerous tumour pinching on her optic nerve and brain. The doctors told them that it was inoperable.

Grace died August 17th 1959 and was buried in the Caistorville United Church graveyard (Niagara Co, ON).


  • In 1991, my oldest son (Junior) was born on December 21st.  He shares Grace’s birthday! Only 78 years difference
  • the B&W photo above, is the only picture I have of my maternal grandmother; and in it, she holds my mother!

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