Aug. 1, 1920 - May 27, 2019
Evelyn Jean Bowie Lewington, resilient, independent, sharp and spirited to the end, passed away on her terms at Larigmoor Farm, with three generations of family members and beloved Willie, her Golden Retriever.
She was born in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, England, the only daughter of Evelyn Minnie Raggett and Alexander Bowie.
After being orphaned at the age of 10, she spent her early years in Penarth, Wales, and Solva, Pembrokeshire, South Wales. Later, she recalled dramatic tales of lobster and mackerel fishing on the rugged Welsh coastline with her younger brother, David, and older brother, Roderick, both much adored and who later predeceased her, as did older brothers Donald and Patrick. She loved to row, entering and often winning with her “Saucy Sue” and competing in sailing regattas in Solva with the “Red Wing.” Despite the loss of her parents and with her eldest siblings scattered to other locations, she grew into a vibrant, caring and good-humoured young woman who retained those traits throughout her life. Even in adversity, she maintained a spirited, pragmatic, optimistic outlook on life, always seeking solutions to move ahead with life to the full. As a youngster, she attended 17 schools in the south of England and Wales, but World War II ruled out the opportunity for university education. That in no way impeded her life-long commitment to learning, as she was a voracious, eclectic reader with interests across multiple subjects. She joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) in 1942, serving in various capacities, including radar operator and ambulance driver, until her discharge in 1945 as a Leading Wren.
She first heard about Peter Lewington, a Fleet Air Arm navy pilot lieutenant and her future husband, who survived being shot down in his plane by his own side during a training exercise. At the time, she was dating the captain of the ship responsible for the mistake and who feared he would be court-martialed. Jean and Peter married in 1946 and, with only a little training on farms in England and no more than $50 in savings, decided to emigrate to Canada in 1947 to start their post-war lives as farmers in a country where they knew almost no one. After working on farms for several years in Markham Township and London, Ont., they moved to Bryanston, Ont., and purchased what became Larigmoor Farm. There they established a winning herd of Holstein Friesians, later a cow-calf beef herd and eventually cash crops. When Peter added farm-writing for magazines and books to the farming business, Jean typed all his interviews, stories and book manuscripts, (including Canada’s Holsteins and No Right-of-Way) also serving as proof-reader, editor and advisor.
She was a formidable ally in numerous enterprises, none more important than their tireless campaign (including some precedent-setting court battles) to ensure protection and respect for farm land and drainage during oil pipeline installations. Somehow, Peter and Jean found time to be dog breeders, first with Spaniels and later with Weimaraners.
She had a deep love of the land and a keen, intuitive affinity for animals, and was imaginative and practical in figuring out remedies for sick or injured livestock. When a batch of chicks arrived and, unexpectedly, started to drown in their drinking water, most were revived when she suggested we administer a judicious drop of brandy down each beak and blow dry them with a hair dryer. The remedy worked. Under her watch, Larigmoor Farm became an important destination for strays and under-housed cats who, when they played their cards right, became established members of the household.
After Dad’s death, she chose to stay on the farm and crafted a new life filled with an assortment of animals - the llamas, a few beef calves, a small flock of sheep, laying hens and peacocks. None of these activities would have been possible without the partnership and support of neighbours Larry and Mary Jane Kemp, who made it possible for Mum to live her full, funny and interesting life.
On her own, she kept on learning, becoming an accomplished amateur painter and turning her hand to writing fiction and non-fiction, often related to the farm. A gifted, witty story-teller, she shared amusing tales (often at her own expense) of her youth in England, war service and life on the farm. But she was always interested in the stories of others and was an exceptionally gifted listener and a great judge of people.We all suffered at her hand at the Scrabble table. Throughout her life, in lean times and good, she demonstrated resilience and a zest for life and adventures, most recently with the youngest generation, that would not be extinguished.
She is survived by her three children, Ann Lewington Rexe, Jennifer Lewington (George Pearson), Roger Lewington (Patricia Clayton); her grandchildren: Jessica Rexe (John Hesketh), Kate Rexe O'Connor,
Deanna Rexe (Gerry Oleman), Trevor Lewington (Michelle Wilson), Meghan Lewington (Robert Bracken); and her great-grandchildren: Hillary Rexe, Georgia Clayton, Charles Clayton, Emma Hesketh, Philippa Hesketh, Anna O'Connor, Evelyn O'Connor, Graeme Lewington, Dale Lewington, Claire Bracken, Nia Bracken. She will be sadly missed by her sister-in-law, Doreen (David) Bowie, her daughter Ann Bowie Fletcher, and sons Ian and Nigel Bowie and families.
As a family, we are indebted to the care provided by Don Ewart and his colleagues, especially Colleen Ruthig, of Better Ways for Seniors, as well as the caring support of various nurses, particularly Kayla Gammon and Ruth Saunders.The funeral service will be conducted at St. John The Divine Anglican Church, 21557 Richmond Street at Medway Road, Arva on Thursday May 30 at 11:00 a.m. with visitation the hour preceding from 10:00 to 11:00. Interment at St. John’s Cemetery, Arva. A reception will follow in the church hall.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to London and Middlesex Humane Society, Doctors without Borders, Pioneer Park Association (Bayfield, Ont.), Royal Naval Lifeboat of St. David’s, Wales and St. Marys Healthcare Foundation.
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