Ursula Bainbridge

Ursula Bainbridge

(nee Schumacher; formerly Ruebsaat)

April 24th, 1925 – October 3rd, 2009

Ursula Bainbridge who died in St. Vincent Langara Care Home in Vancouver on October 3rd, 2009, was born in Rheinberg, Germany, in 1925. She was

known as an athletic, artistically gifted child, somewhat strong-willed and rebellious, which people said resulted from her father, Herbert Schumacher’s habit of treating her, the oldest of

his three daughters, “more like a boy.” Ursula’s teenage years coincided with the Allied bombings of German cities and towns in World War II; she spent high school years doing homework in basement air raid shelters, into which her mother, Mia Schumacher, had trouble dragging her every night because Ursula had a very sound teenage sleep. She passed her Abitur, high school matriculation (an uncommon achievement for girls in her generation) in 1943, and was drafted into the National Socialist Youth Labour Brigade and sent to work in a munitions factory. On March 27th, 1945, in Munich, during the carpet

bombing of that city, she married Helmut Ruebsaat, a childhood neighbour and now medical student; the couple ducked into and waited in air raid shelters three times on the way from the church to the city hall to collect their marriage license. In March 1952 Ursula and her two children Norbert and Ulrike followed Helmut to Canada, and the family settled first in Edmonton, and then in Castlegar in British Columbia’s West Kootenay

region. Ursula and Helmut were active singers, skiers, hikers and campers

in this then small community, and Ursula learned cooking, bread baking, knitting and spinning from local Doukhobor women who formed a good part of Helmut’s Castlegar medical practice. Her daughter Susanna was born in Nelson General Hospital in 1953, and her third daughter Gisela was born in the family’s 1956 Meteor sedan on the highway from Castlegar to Nelson in 1956. In 1960 the family moved to Vancouver, and in 1968 Helmut and Ursula divorced. By this time Ursula had enrolled in the University of

British Columbia and studied German Literature; in 1970 she earned her

B.C. Teacher’s Certificate, and in 1971 her Master of Arts Degree. During this period of her life she opened the family home on Pine Crescent to students, a number of whom were Norbert’s friends, who remember fondly her ability to create a homey atmosphere and provide

intelligent conversation. She remembered this as one of the happiest times in

her life. She moved, in 1971, with Gisela, to Vernon B.C. where she taught

English, Art and Physical Education in high school and elementary schools,

and later sold textbooks to Okanagan Valley schools. She was an active skier

whose little VW bug was said to plow through the drifts to Silver Star ski

hill more efficiently than many large masculine vehicles. In March 1972 she

married Jack Bainbridge, an old friend from the Castlegar days, who was

the Administrator at Vernon Jubilee Hospital. The couple moved around

frequently in subsequent years, settling in Vernon, Saanichton, Maple Ridge,

Mission, Victoria, and on Gabriola Island, and in three of these locations

Ursula and Jack built houses, an activity they enjoyed so much that, while building the Mission house on a mountain ridge above the Fraser River,

they lived in a pup tent for the entire summer house-building period. They

also frequently travelled through B.C. and camped in their VW Westphalia;

and Ursula, when at home, produced artful weavings, knittings, paintings

and pottery. While living on a small acreage in Saanichton, Ursula realized

her childhood dream of being a farmer, and, in addition to chickens, ducks,

geese, pigs and goats, not to mention dogs, she kept there a cow into whose

birth canal she one day, unabashedly, and to the extreme amazement of

Gisela’s childhood friend, Faye, thrust her forearm up to the elbow to help

the cow deliver her calf. During these years Ursula, often accompanied by

Jack, regularly visited her mother in Bonn, Germany, where she lived with

her younger daughter Hede Fulda, husband Ruprecht and their children Annette, Bärbel and Andreas. When Mia died in 1988 (at age ninety), these visits continued, and the Schumacher sisters and their husbands went on walking and canal boat tours together through north west Germany and Holland, and Ursula had the opportunity to renew her connection to her birth country and to her only living sister (her youngest sister Gisela having died in a tragic swimming accident in 1954). When Jack Bainbridge died in 2001, Ursula moved into Ulrike’s and Jon Bartlett’s home in New

Westminster and then to White Rock, B.C.. On a visit to Bonn in September

2004, she fell and fractured a vertebra, an injury from which she did not fully

recover, and which prevented her from continuing to live independently. She moved, in April 2005, into Cavell Gardens Care Home in Vancouver, and in June 2008, after a second fall, which further compromised her mobility, into St. Vincent Langara care facility in Vancouver. A third fall in late September 2009 resulted in a fractured hip, for which Ursula received ortho surgery, and the operation weakened her enough to count as the likely cause of her slipping away at 4:20 pm on October 3rd.

She is mourned by her four children, by her sister Hede and family, by her

first husband Helmut, by her grandchildren Sonja Ruebsaat, Morgan and

Bevan Bartlett, Alexander and Adam Ruebsaat-Trott, by her great

grandchildren Caleb and Caius Martin-Ruebsaat and by sons-in-law Jon

Bartlett and Bill Trott and ex daughter-in-law Hildegard Westerkamp. She is

remembered also by her many friends, among whom Melody Kimmel, who

visited Ursula regularly in her time at St. Vincent Langara and became a close

friend, deserves special mention.

All those who loved Ursula as mother, sister, aunt, great aunt, grandmother, great grandmother and friend will miss her adventurous soul. A memorial gathering will be held at the home of

Hildegard Westerkamp and Peter Grant at

685 West 19th Avenue in Vancouver

on November 7th, 2009, between 5 and 7:30 pm. In lieu of flowers or gifts please bring seeds, small indigenous plants, stones, or other durable memorabilia that can be incorporated into a memorial garden plot for Ursula.

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