Résidence Fulford Residence

1221 Guy Street - Montréal, Québec

 
 
 

March 2015

 

For the past 8 years, my mother Katharine Marie Grier Burpee resided at The Fulford Residence. She recently passed away peacefully as she approached her 101st birthday. Several days before she died, I was called to be advised that she was being moved to a room near the nursing station as the staff were aware that she only had a short time to live. I was fortunate to be able to see her a day before she died. She no longer knew who I was but after I spoke to her, she gripped my hand tightly for a few minutes, something I’ll never forget.

 

The care my mother received at the Fulford was constant. In the early years, she could pretty much look after herself. There were lots of activities, musical entertainment, exercise classes and regular bridge with the other ladies. My favourite activity was the women, sitting in their chairs, playing soccer. Some of them could give the ball a good kick! Sometimes I would arrive when the ladies were having a meal and I would join them to chat. I got to know them and would ask silly things like, “Are you behaving yourself today?” You can imagine the prompt answers I received that quickly put me in my place!

Mrs. Katharine Burpee

The ladies receive a lot of care at Fulford. They have regular appointments with the nurse, the hairdresser and have their nails carefully filed. Of course, as they get older, more care is needed and I saw great patience being given, even when someone like my mother didn’t like to be touched. Once a day, each lady is given her pills. In my mother’s case, approaching her with a few pills on a spoon had no possibilities of success, but if they were mixed with something nice and sweet, down the hatch they went.

 

Gradually, my mother lost her ability to see and to hear, and towards the end she no longer knew me. It was a very hard time for me as I tried my best to reach her. But a few months ago on a visit when I was trying to get her attention, all of a sudden, her eyes sparkled, a smile crossed her face and she said “Tommy” out loud as though she was talking to her young boy again. That broke my heart and will stay with me forever. But, don’t anyone else try calling me that if you value your life!

 

I have nothing but praise for the care my mother received at the Fulford Residence and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to other families. My only complaint, which I’ve voiced many times, is that they only take women and not men.

 

Thomas Burpee

 

 

 

 

 

Irena Kirkpatrick (nee Groten) was born in Russia during the middle of the revolution which was to sweep aside and attempt to erase all memory of the culture and heritage of her family. Although born in Touapsi, in the Crimea, her parents were both from St Petersburg. When she was born her father was a Lt Com of the Tsar’s navy in the Crimea, a post he held until the surrender of the navy to the Bolsheviks in 1921. He escaped to family estates in Germany and then Canada but Irena and her mother remained in the Crimea until they were granted visas to leave in 1923 under the fabrication that they were going to the funeral of a cousin in Riga. That escape from tyranny no doubt shaped much of Irena’s attitude to intolerance and my fortune was to have been the child of her instruction.

Mrs. Irena Kirkpatrick

Upon landing in Canada and meeting her father for the first time as a young child Irena began her life here in Montreal a refugee from a homeland and way of life which she would never know. Although neither of her parents could return to Russia for a visit, Irena did so for the first time in the late 1970’s returning twice more to the land of her heritage and to her grandparents house in St Petersburg, (now the state Museum to the performing arts). She was proud of her heritage and retained her native Russian language skills her entire life although to speak with her was never to hear even so much as a trace of a Russian accent. Her family’s education had included French and German and so Irena was unusually equipped to deal with the bilingualism of her new found home in Quebec.
 

Growing up on St Urbain and then later on the east side of Sherbrooke St., Irena was educated at Montreal High School on University and would have accepted the offer to study at McGill had finances permitted. Her father died at an early age and to supplement the family income she trained as a secretary and took up various positions ending up at Dominion Douglas United Church in Westmount where she met her future mother-in-law Edna Richardson, of St Mathias. Thus began a lifetime love affair not only with her beloved husband John G. Kirkpatrick but with her adored mother-in-law.


Irena was married to John in the Russian Orthodox Church here in Montreal, a church little known to those of a more insular Westmount background, one which would mark the joining of two very different cultural backgrounds; Irena’s Russian Orthodox/Lutheran heritage and John’s Scottish Anglican heritage. With John she raised four children, three daughters Xenia, Kathleen and Patricia and a son Joseph.


In childhood Irena’s family and certain members of the Russian community kept up the tradition of going to stay in the country side in the Laurentians to escape the harsh heat and humidity of summer in the city. This would continue as she and John inherited a small cottage from John’s mum and added to it so as to accommodate four children, a maid and a cat called Minnie. Every week-end come what may Irena would pack up the family and off to the country we would go and indulge in whatever sport of the season be it skiing, riding, swimming, tennis or a spot of golf. Mostly I remember long summer days spent either exploring the countryside or cooling off on our small island outpost in the middle of the Riviere Simon with mum baiting a fishhook, laying out a picnic and reading a book ll at the same time.


Irena had many different past times one of which was gardening and as an offshoot of this, flower arranging, especially along the traditions of Ikebana of which she was an acclaimed grand master. Her love of the outdoors continued when in her late 50’s she and John decided to become certified scuba divers. Not an easy sport to pick up in your late 50’s but somehow they did and were able to enjoy several years under the deep blue of the Caribbean, South Pacific and Red sea. All of a sudden what was opened up to Irena was a whole other world of underwater sea life which we as children came to know from our other island home in the Caribbean.


Essentially however Irena was a people person. She was an excellent listener and as she had indulged in acting in the amateur theatres of her youth she was a source of endless entertainment. As a child I still remember waiting with eager expectation her coming to read to us as she put us to bed. She loved to entertain, and did so with great pleasure and an elegance which earned her quite a reputation.


But above all will I remember Irena’s passionate concern for those whose life circumstances had given them very little hope of ever being able to help themselves. She was a tireless worker for various charities during her adult life, and was always lending a hand to those new refugees to the country who needed a bit of a ‘leg up’. She was particularly fond of volunteering at the Fulford Residence and as first Directress saw the advent there of Provincially supported services.


None of these did Irena forget in later life, and whereas in recent past time she was unable to visit others or attend meetings she was always eager to receive visitors and support the causes she had always felt needed her support with a gracious generosity that marked most of what she did no matter where she was.


In a nutshell it was my mother’s sheer delight in discovery that so enchanted me. It did not matter what the issue or who the person or in what country an event happened, Irena wanted to know all the details and never ceased to ask questions. Nothing was ever accepted simply because that was the way it had always been done. Indeed the opposite was true. And so as I grew up I grew up with the happy maxim that to explore the unknown was a gift to be cherished and not wasted.


My mother’s energy and love are still too close to me to be able to write with any dispassion but then that perhaps would be an unwelcome event as it was her passion for life that made so much of what has happened in mine just so much fun.