Photo above, "courtesy of Clayton Francis Boyce."
This profile is an adaptation from the book, Four Generations-A Family History
By Clayton Francis Boyce
Edna Beryl Boyce and William Leith Wade
Edna Beryl Boyce was born in Deer Harbor on Orcas Island in a log cabin on October 11, 1908, during the time her father was employed as superintendent of the Orcas Lime Company. She was the youngest of the children of John and Almira Boyce. Edna Beryl told a story that her mother named her "Beryl" after a character in a story that she liked. During her young girlhood, Beryl was given the nickname " Keg". Kitty, Beryl's daughter, tells the story that this was a derivative of her mother's name that was used by some of the boys to tease her. They took her name "Beryl" turned it first into "Barrel," and then into " Keg!"
When Beryl was about two years old, the family moved back to San Juan Island and settled in the San Juan Valley. Beryl and her brothers grew up on the Boyce place on Little Road. They had no electricity and no indoor plumbing (those were the days of outhouses). They had to pump their water by hand from a well. For light in the house at night, they used kerosene lamps. Each of the Boyce children had their own individual chores to do. At least one of Beryl's tasks was to clean the glass chimneys on the oil lamps, which did not take long to become blackened with soot.
Pictured at left, from left to right: Adrian Allen Boyce, his sister, Edna Beryl Boyce, and brother, James Hamilton (Ham) Boyce
Photo "courtesy of Katherine (Kitty) Mildred Beryl Wade-Roberts."
Beryl attended what was known as No. 1 School. The school building was built on a hillside called Portland Fair Hill by the early settlers. Everybody walked to school, including Beryl, who walked a distance of several miles. All eight grades were in one room. Since there was no well at the school, the children had to carry water a considerable distance from what was then known as Jensen's Beach. In order to get a drink, the children had to share the same dipper. The room was heated by a big potbellied wood stove. Beryl attended No. 1 School until the 5th grade, at which time No. 1 district was consolidated with the Friday Harbor school district. After that, she rode a school bus to school.
In a video interview with Mona Meeker, made in 1994, Beryl tells how one time she was caught chewing gum in school. As punishment, she had to stick the gum on the end of her nose and go up and stand in front of the other students. She didn't say how long she had to stand there, but she did say that she was quite embarrassed! Beryl says she had a happy, enjoyable childhood. There were not too many girls around, so she was somewhat of a tomboy, growing up with all her brothers. It didn't seem difficult to find things to do in those days. While there was work to do, they also enjoyed swimming, picnics and other similar things. When World War I came along, things changed somewhat. Her oldest brother John Leroy, joined the Navy before he became eligible for the draft. Beryl tells how she experienced sadness for the first time in her life the day Leroy left for the service. When he came into her room early that morning to tell her good-bye, she said he shed tears that dropped down on her face as she lay there in bed. She told the interviewer that she could still feel that sadness even after all the passing years.
Before she was married to William Leith Wade, Beryl worked as a nurse's assistant for one of Friday Harbor's early doctors, Dr. Victor Capron. For a time, after their marriage, she and Leith owned and operated an ice cream parlor where Friday Harbor Grocery now stands. It was after they sold the ice cream parlor that Leith became foremen for the Friday Harbor Canning Company. It was at that time that the family moved into the company's house, located just up the hill above the cannery. About this same time, Beryl herself went to work for the cannery. In addition to that job, she also worked at various times for Sam Buck Insurance, Roark's Dry Goods and the Friday Harbor Post office. She ended her working career at the San Juan County Bank. We have been told that when Beryl worked as a teller at the bank, customers would refuse service from other tellers in order to " wait for Beryl." Considering her wonderful personality, this is not surprising.
Photo at right, "courtesy of Katherine (Kitty) Mildred Beryl Wade-Roberts."
She had developed cancer and died on July 31, 1996 at the age of eighty-seven. Fortunately, she was seriously ill for only a short time and passed away quietly at home with family gathered around.
Beryl's funeral was held on August 6 at the Friday Harbor Presbyterian Church, with a large number of relatives and many people from the community present. In addition to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, many of her nieces and nephews came from various places on the mainland. Beryl is buried beside Leith at the Valley Cemetery under a spreading tree in a beautiful setting. The number of tributes spoken at Beryl's funeral by various family members and friends was impressive. Her eulogy was given by Shirley Neilsen, a longtime family friend. Prior to giving the eulogy, Shirley expressed these sentiments:
Seldom in one's life is one given the opportunity to pay public honor to a person of such exceptional character as was Beryl Wade. On Sunday evening when Kitty called and asked if I, as a representative of the Neilsen family, could read the eulogy being prepared for Beryl's service, I was overwhelmed with a sense of the honor at being asked to share, in that special way, in the public celebration of Beryl's life. The Neilsen family has been part of the extended Wade family for many years since Einar, as a boyhood friend of Beryl's son John, adopted the Wade home as his second home. Einar's sister, Margaret Crosby, told me last evening that it wasn't many years later that she too became just one of the many troops who passed in and out of the Wade house through the years under Beryl's watchful eyes.
Clayton Francis Boyce, Beryl's nephew, gives a fitting description to this truly unique human being; " I have this picture of Beryl as this wonderful mother figure with a giant mantle which she wrapped around her family and it was always big enough to envelop the entire community, including me.
In this day and age when words have little meaning, the concepts of fame and greatness are often confused. It is important for us to take a minute and recognize the difference. Someone said that there is 15 minutes of fame in every man's life. But fame is not what it's all about greatness is the issue.
I have come to believe that one can only know true greatness in a small community such as ours, and only over a long period of time for it is that unwavering dedication to principles that separates the truly great from the ordinary.
Beryl was an exceptional example of the truly great because while she lived her life unwavering in her principles and with unconditional love for her family and through them her community, she lived her life with incredible grace and modesty; with such simplicity of spirit and with such a love of life and warm sense of humor, that it affected all who came in contact with her. In my eyes, Beryl will forever live in the exalted ranks of the truly great. Perhaps in a lifetime one only need know one of these special people in order to recognize the difference between fame and greatness. We'd better hope so because I believe it will be a long time before we see the likes of Beryl Wade again."
Shortly before her death, Beryl had written the following letter to the editor of the Friday Harbor Journal.
My deepest appreciation to my family and friends both lifelong and new for your flowers, cards, expressions of concern and loving care during my confinement. Each and every one of you are counted among the treasures of my life. I now look forward to the day when I will spread my wings and "fly the coop." By coincidence, the Journal in which this letter was printed, came out on the day of her death. In the next issue of the Journal, Beryl's passing was reported in an article written by her daughter, Kitty Roberts, which included a short synopsis of her life. It was significant that the heading for this article was entitled, Edna B. "spreads her wings and flies the coop."
Photo at right, "courtesy of Katherine (Kitty) Mildred Beryl Wade-Roberts."
Beryl left eleven grandchildren and twenty-four great-grandchildren as well as numerous nieces and nephews. Beryl had a pet cat that she loved, and she was devastated when her cat died while she was in the nursing home recovering from pneumonia early in 1996. In connection with this, a remarkable thing happened during the service at the cemetery. At the graveside, just after Beryl's casket had been lowered into place beside Leith, and the preacher was saying his final words, a cat came from what seemed to be out of nowhere, scampered across the grave, and then came back and laid down on the green carpet that was spread on the ground beside the casket! This seemed to be a final fitting tribute to a wonderful lady who had so much love for people and for animals as well.
William Leith Wade was born on December 28, 1901 in Brownaburg, Quebec, Canada. His parents were William John Wade and Catherine Alma (O'Byrne) Wade. His mother's parents came to Canada from Ireland. When Leith was a small boy, his family came to the west coast and settled in Anacortes, where his father ran a cigar store. The family moved to Guemes Island when Leith was seven years old. Leith got started working on boats when he was still a teenager. At age fourteen, he was working the ferry that ran between Guemes Island and Anacortes. Over the years. Leith worked on a number of boats, including a mail boat that made a stop at Friday Harbor.
In due time, Leith fell in love with Friday Harbor. He had a sister living there, whose husband operated a butcher shop. Leith eventually moved to Friday Harbor and lived with his sister and her husband for a time. He first got a job delivering meat for his brother-in-law. Beryl said, "they just sort of saw each other. Beryl was sixteen years old when they had their first date.
Beryl and Leith went together for about three years. They were married on December 20, 1927 in Seattle, at the home of one Leith's sisters. Following their wedding, they came back to San Juan Island, which became their lifelong home.
After they had been married for a while, the work situation on the island was not too good, so Leith took a job working on a pile driver in Anacortes. Previous to that, a situation had occurred where he had been able to get a disabled boat started for another fellow. This man worked for the Friday Harbor Canning Company, which was located on the Friday Harbor waterfront, south of the ferry landing. One day, someone from the cannery contacted Beryl and asked her to get hold of Leith and tell him they wanted him to come to work for them. It seems the man he had helped had told the people who ran the cannery of the incident, and they had need of a man who knew his way around boat engines. He did go to work for the cannery. For some time he was skipper of the fish tender Nereid, a buyer boat, the same vessel that Neil later skippered and John Wade engineered on. Leith later was skipper of the Sockeye, another fish buyer boat, a job he held for several years.
Leith worked for the Friday Harbor Canning Company for 22 years. In later years, he was the superintendent of the cannery. He, Beryl and their family lived in the " cannery house," just a short walk through the trees and up the hill above the cannery. This area, including where the cannery was located, is now all apartments and condominiums.
The cannery eventually went out of business. When this happened, Leith, along with another man, formed their own pile driving company. Leith remained at this occupation until his death on April 12, 1986.
Beryl was the official family historian, but more than that, she was a very special person one who loved everyone and in turn, was loved by everyone.
Leith and Beryl had three children. Richard Alexander Wade was born on May 5, 1930. Rich is married to Mavis Howe and they have three children, Richard Jr., Michael and David. He spent much of his life as a commercial fisherman. He is now retired. Rich and Mavis have their primary residence on Camano Island, but generally spend their winters in Arizona.
John Lowell Wade was born on March 8, 1932. He was formerly married to Cora Bennett with whom he has three children, Kristy, Jan and Mark. John has had a dual career, as a schoolteacher, and as a commercial fisherman. As of 1995, he was still substitute teaching on occasion, and is still fishing, in partnership with his son Mark. They own two boats. John lived and taught school in Seattle for many years, but now lives in Bellingham. John is currently unmarried. We have been told that John's daughter, Kristy, is also in the process of writing a family history.
Katherine Mildred Beryl "kitty" Wade was born on December 21, 1933. She was given the nickname " Kitty" because her mother thought she resembled " Kitty Higgins," a little red-haired girl who was a character in a popular comic strip of that time period. About 1970, she took the name " Katherine" to more or less formalize her nickname, and because several women in the Boyce and Walter families had that name.
Kitty is married to Kipton Johnson " Kip. Roberts. Kip is a native of San Juan Island. He taught school in the Friday Harbor school system for twenty-five years, retiring in 1989. In addition to general subjects, Kip taught shop and physical fitness. He also was a long-time tennis coach, turning out a number of successful tennis teams. Of particular interest is the fact that Kip's family line traces back to Frank (Warwick) Boyce, one of Lucinda Boyce's two sons who were adopted by Stephen Boyce.
Kip and Kitty live in Friday Harbor, just a short distance up Park Street from the house where Beryl and Leith last lived before their deaths. They have four children; Cherie Kay, Peggy Lynn, Nancy Lorraine and Roy Leith. The children are all married and have families of their own.
For many years, Kitty has been the unofficial (maybe official!) Boyce family historian. She has blessed us all by caretaking the wealth of information on our family, and has made much of this history possible for all of us to share for generations to come.
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