Marie Ganzeveld (nee Leon) and Mel’li’Toh meaning Little Aunt passed away on Sunday, March 5, 2023. She is survived by her daughters, Janice Annette (Tim) Brandle of West Kelowna, and Carolyn Grace (Tony) Taylor of West Kelowna; 7 Grandchildren; 12 Great Grandchildren; the Paul Family and the Leon Family of Sts’Ailes of Harrison Mills; and numerous half-brothers and half-sisters. Marie is predeceased by her loving husband Jelte Ganzeveld; her mother Emma Leon (nee Paul) and father John Leon; son, Richard Bruce; grandson, Garrett Martindale; and sister, Grace Bernice Bobb (nee Leon).
Marie was born in the Coquileetza TB hospital in Sardis BC on May 2, 1942. Her mom, like so many others at the time, had contracted tuberculosis. At the age of 3 her mom passed away. Then after alternating with relatives for a year and her dad being in the army, she was taken to the St. Mary’s Indian School in Mission, BC where the sisters of St. Ann looked after her in their living quarters where no other children were allowed and was treated very well. Later, life at the school became very difficult and strict once she started grade school. Her sister Grace being at the same school and being 5 years older helped a lot. She stayed for 14 years just occasionally going home to her reserve in the summer months.
In 1958 she met her husband and along with her girlfriend Shirley Morris, they decided to run away from school in the Spring of 1959 saying her grades were always failing, so smitten with her boyfriend she could not get him out of her mind. In the Spring of 1960 Jelte proposed and she was married on September 23, 1960. They lived in North Vancouver for 10 years. With a strike looming with the IWA Union and a good possible chance her husband would not be working she decided to get a job at Stedman’s 5 and Dime at the coffee bar. Then went to work at the Burrard Dry Dock where she managed the foreman’s lunchroom.
Marie had always said she wanted 6 children and was blessed with having 3, Janice in 1961, Rick in 1962 and Carolyn following in 1970. Her main goal always was to be a good mother and grandmother as she never knew what it was like to have a mom and by every word in the dictionary, she far exceeded that goal. She ran a day care center in North Vancouver in a converted cabin and garage on their property looking after as many as 24 children aged from 3 months to 14 years at a fabulous price of $1 a day each because she was adamant to be home with her kids when they came home from school.
She was a great seamstress sewing all her own clothes, dresses, Jelte’s shirts and all her children’s clothes, she would also do alterations and recycle her relative’s clothes for their children. She cut hair for friends and family throughout the years including Jelte’s to the very end even though he didn’t have much left.
In 1971 after travelling throughout Europe for 6 weeks they joined their brother and sister Henry and Mina Kerkhof and moved to the North Okanagan Valley to Grindrod where she ended up on a dairy farm, thinking they were moving so far into the wilderness she loaded up with sewing supplies, bolts and bolts of material and sewing equipment. Four years later they bought another farm 6 miles down the road where they intended to use as a crop farm for the dairy.
She started doing craft shows with her daughter Janice at the local malls, knitting as many as 140 sweaters for the Christmas season, all her own original designs and could not keep up with the demand for more. Twenty-five years after her marriage she obtained her Native Status and became even more interested in her native heritage and started doing native artwork. She again excelled in her work and several times was asked to teach at the University of BC, but she was too shy. Some of her pieces were given by the City of Vancouver and Burnaby to the new speaker of the house in South Africa and to the Governor General of Canada at the time. She did the Pow Wow trails for 3-4 months a year all over BC and Alberta selling her art works and then would come home to make more over the winter months to do it all over again. Her natural talent and her love for her native heritage came to life using acrylic paints, and pastel chalks to create soft deep tones unique in her ceramics work. Her patience for painting on feathers was unheard of at the time and became an admiral addition to her work which was later copied by others many times. She revived some of her lost culture through the making of leather shields, spirit stick, medicine wheels to name a few.
Marie moved to West Kelowna in 2002. Her and her husband travelled extensively through the USA, Europe, Barbados, Indonesia, Hong Kong to name a few. They were snowbirds for 35 years until her health deteriorated in 2013.
Marie was proud of her heritage and always remembered her home “By the River” and her people.
A Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, April 22, 2023, at 1:00 p.m. at Emmanuel Church, 2600 Hebert Road, West Kelowna, BC.