Obituary for Anita Haight (Houghtaling)
December 1 1930 – December 2 2017
Anita Haight (Houghtaling) was born on December 1, 1930 in Prince George, BC as the third of four children and the only daughter. A highlight of her childhood were summer vacations spent with her mother, siblings and friends in a family friend’s cabin on an island at Summit Lake.
She often recalled rowing a leaky old boat to shore for supplies while her younger brother Don frantically bailed water for all he was worth. She seemed to relish the danger, with this experience doing nothing to dampen what would become a lifelong love of swimming, boating and lakes.
When she was seventeen she was offered a teaching job at the Summit Lake School despite barely being out of school herself and not having any formal teacher training. Only a few months older than several of her students, she took on the challenge and liked it well enough to use the money she earned to put herself through Normal School.
In 1950, she received a telegraph offering her a teaching position at the Willow Brook Rural School in the community now known as Bessborough, northwest of Dawson Creek, BC. Room and Board were provided by Isabelle and Don Haight whose son Jack was the same age as Anita.
In the fall of 1952, she accepted another teaching job in Nakusp, BC. She loved the school and living by a lake, but in the end it was the charms of the northern homesteader’s son that won out. Anita returned to the Peace Country and married Jack Haight on July 4, 1953. The couple worked hard to build up a farm of their own in Bessborough. In 1957 they welcomed their first daughter Cheri, followed by Donna in 1959, and a third daughter Shannon in 1963.
In 1970, Anita went to summer school to get her librarian certification and returned to work as the librarian first at Canalta Elementary and then in 1972 at Tremblay Elementary where she remained until her first attempt at retirement in 1981. She fondly recalled her years as a librarian saying she loved working with books and the students so much she would have done the job for free. Under Anita’s watch, the library served as a safe haven where students knew they would always be warmly welcomed.
At Tremblay, she had a group of dedicated volunteers who loved to work on what Anita called “The Impossibles.” These were a handful of books and library cards that had somehow separated from each other, with the “impossible” object of matching them back up again.
Almost every week a parent would show up long after school was out in search of their lost child, only to find them buried in “The Impossibles” having lost all track of time. It always touched her heart when these now-adult students would approach her downtown and tell her how much they enjoyed spending time in the library with her.
She made many lasting friendships during her years at Tremblay. Joyce Neste taught kindergarten during Anita’s time there and remained a lifelong valued friend. Pearl Young, who assisted Anita in the library, was a close friend before, during and after her Tremblay years.
In 1982 Anita accepted the librarian position at the Northern Lights College library where she worked for another year and a half before deciding to give retirement another try. This time it took.
Anita had always maintained a few flower beds and a large vegetable garden on the farm, but once she committed to retirement, gardening became her passion. Jack aided her by dumping all around the yard grain truck loads of manure from their cattle. She loved to recall how a visitor stopped by while they were in the middle of this early landscaping and exclaimed in horror, “What are all those loads of !@#$ doing on your lawn?” “I don’t see any !@#$,” Anita quickly replied. “All I see is a beautiful garden.” And under her dedicated touch, that is exactly what those piles of manure became.
Anita always had a great thirst for adventure and once she retired she spent a few weeks out of every year travelling. She would often joke that for someone who loved water and travelling, it was odd indeed that she had chosen to live on a farm in the Peace Country with a spouse who was content to never leave home. They made it work. Jack happily stayed home while Anita jetted off every so often to see the world, always happy to have gone, but also happy to return.
The only time she may have hesitated to return was when she discovered New Zealand. It was love at first sight. She said it was the strangest thing, but she actually felt homesick for New Zealand. It became her favourite destination and over the years she would return to visit at least half a dozen times. Many of those trips were made with her good friend Anne Cook with whom she shared a love of gardening and travel.
Even more important to Anita than books, gardening and travel were her friendships and her family. Once a week she met up with her “card ladies” to play cards, drink wine and catch up on each other’s lives. It was a ritual that would continue for decades as the four friends traversed life’s many challenges together week after week after week. Three of them still do.
In the early years Anita hosted a community carol sing at their farm house every Christmas. The large country kitchen overflowed with neighbours singing, dancing and enjoying each other’s company.
Anita revelled in her family and cherished time spent with her children and grandchildren, always making the most out of every occasion. Traditions abounded as family gathered at the farm house decked out for birthdays, Easter, Thanksgiving and her favourite holiday of them all, Christmas.
She managed to make every grandchild feel valued and they each shared a special bond with her.
In 2006 Jack was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure which led to Vascular Dementia. In 2008 Anita courageously made the difficult decision to leave the farm where they had spent the last 55 years and bought a duplex at Chapel Hills Estates in Dawson Creek where it would be easier to care for Jack.
Not one to waste time feeling sorry for herself, she chose a unit based on the fact it had the largest lot and soon set about transplanting her farm garden into town. She designed pathways, had irrigation put in and carefully pieced together the garden of her dreams. Her new city garden flourished with a speed that was almost magical. It was incredible how quickly the shrubs and trees grew.
In December of 2013 Jack had to be moved into Rotary Manor and soon after Anita began having health issues of her own. In June of 2016 Anita moved into Assisted Living at Northview where she forged friendships with the wonderful caregivers and enjoyed the weekly music nights. In her final weeks her daughters had the privilege of caring for her at Donna’s home. She passed away surrounded by family and knowing how much she was loved.
Right until the end, Anita kept her wonderful sense of humour, her generosity, and her endless zest for life. She will be warmly remembered and deeply missed.
Anita is survived by her husband Jack Haight; her three daughters Cheri (Hal) McKenzie, Donna (Wayne Sawchuk) Kane, Shannon (Darcy) McKinnon; former son-in-law Larry Kane; grandchildren Crystal McKenzie (Shadi Fleifel), Kyle McKenzie (Amanda Wong), Myles Kane (Melanie Gauthier), Megan (Ryan) McLeod, Devon McKinnon and Dean (Jenni) McKinnon; great-grandchildren Rawad Fleifel, Makai Fleifel, Ira McLeod and Atley McLeod; sister-in-law Delores Houghtaling; numerous much-loved nieces and nephews, and many treasured friends including The Card Ladies -Norma Ralph, Pearl Young and Jeannie Lindgren.
Anita was predeceased by her mother Mary Scriven, her father Charles Houghtaling, brothers Chuck Houghtaling, John Houghtaling and Don Houghtaling and sisters-in-law Helen Houghtaling, Ann Houghtaling, and Doreen Hustak, and brother-in-law Frank Hustak.
At Anita’s request, no formal memorial services will be held, however the family will be hosting a Celebration of Life next summer.
Expressions of sympathy can be made to the South Peace Hospice Palliative Care Society, The Dawson Creek & District Horticultural Society, The Dawson Creek Municipal Public Library or the charity of your choice.