This is the story of Bryan Mahon’s grandmother, told in five installments.
(In the previous instalment we saw Elizabeth relocate to the Capilano Suspension Bridge property, which Edward Mahon had recently acquired. She took on the demanding responsibility of managing the operation, and improving the landscaping. When her eldest daughter, Lilette, moved away after her marriage to Edward Mahon in 1911, her isolation became more acute. The gap was filled by Elizabeth’s second secret marriage to much younger Archibald MacEachran, who proved his ability in expanding the tourist potential of the operation. But he was also hiding a secret: he had been previously married and his daughter was coming to join them.)
In spite of her generous attitude, Elizabeth felt a new distance wedge itself into her happiness. Perhaps she foresaw that her own chapter was approaching its ending and she parted with the letters that had been so dear to her, telling Waller to read them and burn them, as:
… apart from ourselves they are of no value to anyone.
Mac did not encourage a relationship between the two women:
She is very pretty, looks like my Mac and seems a nice girl. After she got to Vancouver, I saw her three times. Mac used to go down in the morning [to the residence he had obtained for her] and would come back about one or two p.m. I saw nothing of them. I begged Mac to include me but he said he wanted her to himself. She came up to the Canyon twice. I had no chance of talking to her.
On Sept. 30 Mac told her he was leaving the Canyon as he had obtained a house in Vancouver. As Elizabeth related to Waller:
The last words my Mac said to me, “Betty I will come and see you. We will be together again.” Tomorrow is a month since he is gone. … Here I am alone and I know my Mac loves me and I love him. After all, loving someone and being loved is wonderful. So in my innermost soul, I know my Mac will always be mine and I his.
In 1934 Elizabeth retired from her position and Edward drew up a leasing agreement with Mac to operate the business. Later that year work started on a new house across Capilano Road. By the end of October the reunited family — which now included Mac, Elizabeth, and Irene — abandoned the ageing Cliff House and moved to their new residence.
Sadly, Elizabeth did not enjoy her new happiness for long. She fell ill in January 1935, just as the family was about to depart for California. Her intestinal complaints and fainting spells were alarming enough for Mac to seek out Dr. Miller, who lived in the neighbourhood. He ordered immediate hospitalization.
Daughter Lilette visited her daily and was able to report to her brother Waller on the day that she died:
I had to go to a School Board meeting in the evening, we were striking the budget, got to bed about 2 o’clock in the morning. Mac rang me at 3:15 to say Mother had suddenly become much weaker. … I got a taxi and hurried to the hospital. I was just a few minutes too late. But I think it was just as well. Mac was with her, she was perfectly rational and conscious and might have been startled and alarmed to see me arrive at that hour of the night. As it was when Mac arrived from the Canyon she took it quite simply and naturally, said she had been asking for him. He sat and chatted about the weather and simple things and she to him, when she began to breathe more gently, gave a little sigh, tucked her head in the pillow and went away. It was a lovely way to die without pain and struggle. …
Elizabeth died in the morning hours of Feb. 12, 1935 at the age of 71. Twenty one of those years had been spent at Capilano.
Edward had the Cliff House demolished and he further severed his connections to the property by selling it to MacEachran for $12,000 — $8,000 cash and the remainder in $1,000 annual payments at six per cent interest.
Elizabeth is buried in Vancouver’s Ocean View Burial Park. A simple epitaph trumpets her other great love in life:
ALL FLOWERS WERE HER JOY
I am greatly indebted to Judy Watten, of Kenwood California. Her father, Waller Rebbeck, was the recipient of the earlier Rebbeck letters that Elizabeth had kept, as well as letters written to him by his mother while he was working in the US from 1927 until her death in 1935. Judy transcribed and compiled much of this record, some of which I initially accessed indirectly via Marolyn Mahon for my biography on Edward. I approached Judy directly so I could go to greater depth for this article.
Walter Volovsek’s website can be found at trailsintime.org
Previous installments in this series
Macao to Capilano: A Life Journey, Part 4
Macao to Capilano: A Life Journey, Part 3
Macao to Capilano: A Life Journey, Part 2
Macao to Capilano: A Life Journey, Part 1
The Old Glory weather observatory
David Thompson: Mapping our region
Reappraising the Franklin Expedition
Connecting with Albert McCleary
Lilette Mahon: A mentor’s gift
Edward Mahon: Searching for a legacy
Edward Mahon: A stimulating childhood
Intrigues: Castlegar’s lacklustre childhood
Perceptions: Adrift on the River of Life
Local history interwoven with rivers