Ann “Hannah” Barnett

Ann “Hannah” Isaacs Barnett

Birth: October 2, 1916 in England

Death: March 22, 2000 (age 83) in Esquimalt, B.C.

Rabbi Lynn Greenhough gave the following eulogy at her funeral:
Today, a few days into spring, we come together to say goodbye to Anne Barnett, wife of Alf, step-mother to Ruth and Martin and beloved grandma to her grandchildren, Naomi, Dan, Jamie, Poppy, step- Grandma to Joanna, Ian and Sean, and grandma England to Nati, Elijah and Tova.

Anne Barnett died last Wednesday on the 22nd of March, at 84, almost 40 years to the day that she married Alf. Alf was first married to Helen, the mother of Martin and Ruth, but Helen died leaving Alf to care for the children, then seven and eleven. Alf turned to his wife’s family and asked for help. He asked Anne if she would come and help care for the children. Martin and Ruth already knew and loved Anne as their Aunty Anne, and their terrible loss was greatly comforted by her sweet and gentle presence. Anne mothered the children, even as she remained Aunty Anne, and in 1960 on March 29, Alf and Anne were married.

Ruth and Martin both talked with me about hard it must have been for Anne to step into their beloved mother’s place. Martin talked about the difficulty Anne faced coming into their family. “She knew she’d never be our mother,” he said. Ruth as the older daughter resented how Anne came into the family. Today, in some respects is a double mourning for them, as they remember their own mother, Helen.

And yet in her own quiet way Anne mothered them. She was a faithful and responsible woman, a woman who took these children into her heart, who worked without complaint, a woman who asked for little and gave much. Perhaps the loss of her own mother at two gave her the perspective and the heart that such an undertaking required. Both Ruth and Martin recognize her devotion to them, actions that bespeak Anne’s courage and determination, her humour and her will. I am sure Helen would have been eased greatly knowing her sweet cousin was stepping in to care for her precious children.

Martin and Ruth expressed fond memories of meeting Anne after school every Friday afternoon for tea and cream cakes in the Thornhills Cake Shop. Anne would take them out for their weekly treat after her weekly appointment at the hair salon. We talked about Anne finding her own ways to give their lives structure and sweetness in the aftermath of their loss.

After a few years, Alf and Anne bought a pub in Cambridge, The Rose. Pictures of The Rose hang on their walls, memories of good and busy days. Anne helped manage the rooms, as Alf put it; “She was the landlady.” Their lives were full. One of them always had to be present with the business, so for years they took separate holidays, Anne going off with her dear friend Margie. She travelled to Israel twice, and then, eventually, after his retirement, Alf and Anne also travelled together, seeing much of Europe.

While they lived in England Anne was a devoted grandmother to Ruth’s children. She loved them dearly and had her own special way with them. Ruth talked to me about how she would sing them back to sleep if they woke from their naps too early, a finger tip of sherry also inducement to their going back to sleep. Whether it was the song, the sherry, or her own sweet encouragement, invariably they were back asleep in minutes. As they grew older Anne kept up with her grand kids, moving from lullabies to the lingo of the day.

Anne and Alf came to Canada in 1989, following Martin’s trail to Victoria. Soon they were helping him in his business, the Rising Star Bakery, Alf doing the bookkeeping, and Anne making sandwiches. Her customers knew her as “the sandwich lady”, and as Martin noted slightly ruefully, near the end of her tenure in the bakery, she gave the customers whatever they wanted on their sandwiches. Anne worked the sandwich shift until her 80th birthday, hardly stopping her sandwich making even as Ruth walked through the door to help her celebrate. That was to be her last day of official work at the bakery.

Anne was able to be present for all of his children’s Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies. Nati, then — then Tova, most notably causing the whole family to cry as she burst into tears of pride at Nati’s Bar Mitzvah. First Anne started to cry, that set Martin off and soon everyone was in tears. As someone noted for her private nature this was a rare moment of public emotion, but one remembered with great love and affection.

Patsy and Anne also had a special bond, maybe as Martin put it because “they were both wives of Barnett men.” They were good friends and Anne loved Patsy very much. She also was very fond of Ruth’s husband Michael.

This past year was a difficult year for Anne. She suffered with progressive dementia, had problems with co-ordination that made her prone to falling, and was hospitalised for some weeks. Ruth told me about a picture that she particularly loved, a picture of Anne as a young woman in her bright yellow shorts suit. This past year the picture faded, the colours diminishing into shadows. So too did Anne’s handwriting begin to diminish, her letters smaller and smaller. Her voice faded as well, until she barely spoke again. But the last 6 months were stable, and with the help of their caregiver, Kitty, Anne seemed comfortable and secure. She died sitting in her chair, peacefully leaving this earth quietly, without a fuss, much as she lived her life.

When I asked Alf and Martin for Anne’s Hebrew name they told me that all the girls in her family were named Hannah, supposedly after an uncle in Poland, Alf thought. We remember the biblical Hannah for uttering the first recorded prayer. We read in her story how the rabbis misunderstood the movement of her lips, thinking Hannah drunk, when really she was utterly absorbed in her prayerful petitions. Anne, Hannah bat Moshe v’Sophie, was not religiously inclined, but the depth of emotion she showed at Nati’s Bar Mitzvah belies an abiding feeling for her Jewish roots.

In her own quiet way she helped create a loving family that then created the next generation, giving her and Alf seven grandchildren. She helped keep a sense of connection to Judaism alive even if she herself did not feel the need to be observant. Perhaps she knew the story of her namesake Hannah, and uttered her own quiet prayers, to help her through the hard places in her life. Anne was very private, only after her death did Martin and Ruth begin to find out about her life before she came into their household. They found old letters from airmen who fancied her during the war, where she served as an aide with the American red Cross. They found her parent’s ketubah, which revealed her Hebrew name, they found all the letters she and Alf had exchanged.

Her family remembers Anne with love and as we gather in this place of beauty this afternoon, we all remember her through their memories, a sweet and compassionate woman, an Eishet Chayil, a woman of valour. May her memory be for a blessing.

Gravesite Details: Row C -Plot 6

(nee ISAACS)
2 OCT. 1916 – 22 MAR. 2000

Alfred Barnett (1917-2001)

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