Tumbler Ridge’s matron passes away

Trent Ernst, Editor


Janet Hartford, one of Tumbler Ridge’s original residents and matron of the community, passed away July 17, 2014. She was 92 years old.

Janet was born in Delia, a small town near Drumheller, Alberta, in 1922, and grew up in Beaverlodge. At age two, she was stricken with meningitis, which affected her vision, and so she didn’t start school until she was nine years old. Despite her late start, she graduated at the age of 16, and went on to receive a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Alberta.

A year of working in the field taught her that it wasn’t the career for her, so she went back to the UofA and got her Bachelor, then her Masters, of Education. She became a teacher, working in Grand Prairie, Athabasca and Dawson Creek.

In 1952, she met George Hartford, who was also teaching in Dawson Creek. They got to know each other over the next four years, but in 1956, George transferred schools.

He quickly realized that it was a mistake, but one that could be easily resolved.  He returned to Dawson Creek and proposed to her. Later that year, they were married in Beaverlodge, and were together until George passed away in 2011.

The Hartford family quickly grew to six members. Nicola was born while the two were living in Trail. They moved back to Dawson Creek, and adopted a son, Robert. Janet gave birth to Doug, and adopted a daughter, Crosbie, just to keep everything nice and even.

George and Janet decided that Tumbler Ridge would be a great place to retire. In 1981, the two came to check out the town, which had recently been signed into existence, although construction hadn’t begun. They couldn’t find it.

While the town’s first school wouldn’t be finished until 1983, George began teaching in Tumbler Ridge in October of 1982, educating the children of the construction workers and mine workers in an ATCO trailer while the town was being built around them.

Janet began teaching in January of 1983, with Daughter Crosbie comprising the entire graduating class of 1983.

When it was finished, they would move to 100 Murray Drive, the first house built on the top bench.

While George became a town councilor and then Mayor and Administrator of the Health Centre, Janet became a tireless advocate for the community and volunteer.

She was a member of the Regional Hospital Board and a member of the Peace Liard Community Health Services Society. She sat on the Tumbler Ridge Library Board, was involved with the community Arts Council and received an Arts Council Award. She helped organize the Tumbler Ridge Art Gallery, the TRISPS Craft Fair in November and was the person who originally brought the Ten Thousand Village Craft Sale to town.

She sang in the Choral Society, produced the Millennium Daybook Calendar, but children and adults will remember her best as the driving force in the fundraising team which raised $40,000 towards the indoor swimming pool.

For years, Janet contributed weekly write-ups to the paper, And she conducted 60 weddings in her role as a marriage commissioner.

Janet received the Queen’s Jubilee Award Medal in 2000 for volunteer efforts and work in building Canada and Canadian communities, and the green space near the BC Rail Caboose is formerly known as Hartford Gardens, named after Janet.

Charles Helm, wrote about Janet and George in his book Beyond Rock and Coal: “For these retired teachers, retirement is not the same thing as it is for ordinary mortals. Between them, there is hardly a committee or board they have not sat on, a good Tumbler Ridge cause they have not supported, a volunteer position they have not filled. They serve as a timeless example.”

Janet moved to Victoria in 2011, and though she has not been to Tumbler Ridge recently, she will be sorely missed by everyone who knew her.