Florence was almost a centurion, she witnessed substantial changes through the course of her life.
The eldest of seven children, Florence Rachael Noyes was born at home to Wallace and Mary Noyes on October 5, 1908 in a little community called Noyes Crossing named after her grandfather.
Her family first earned a living through farming and cutting lumber using a sawmill powered by steam. Eventually the family constructed a prosperous hotel.
Florence helped her mother out as best she could with the many duties of running the hotel. Her father Wallace was the welcoming host of the hotel saloon.
When Florence was about six years old the hotel burnt down. Everyone survived the fire and grandpa managed to save quite a few barrels of whiskey from the hotel but all else was lost and the family had to start anew.
After the fire they moved in with relatives until they could get back on their feet. Florence, being the eldest daughter had a huge responsibility to help out with all the other children and learned the skill of mothering and care-taking at a very young age, which proved in her life to be her forte.
Florence attended school from grade one to eight in a class of roughly 10 kids, most of whom were relatives. Even though she walked about three-four miles to school she loved school and was said to be the teacher’s pet.
Frequently the Noyes’ even boarded the teacher at their house. After grade eight Florence went to stay in a convent in St. Albert and worked as a nanny and housekeeper for several years.
Fate stepped in one night when Florence attended a Swedish party with an admirer. A young man named Carl Holmgren stole her attention and eventually swept her off her feet. They married on May 2, 1941 and shortly after moved to the Vancouver area near the Port Mann Bridge for a couple of months were Carl made a living by cutting peat moss. Later they decided to settle in Palling where Carl had previously built a dove tailed log house by hand in 1926.
Florence and Carl had two children, a daughter Mary and a son Chuck. She was a devoted mother and wife and held her family above all else.
Friends of Florence say the remember her coming to Palling, a smart-dressed city girl in a blue suite. Florence was soon back to her roots raising cattle, chickens and performing other farm chores. As she approached most duties in her life, she worked hard, never backing down from getting her hands dirty. Her small stature did not hold her back. Looking after 700 chickens, milking many cows, growing large gardens and raising two children, she almost always maintained her calm nature. Life with coal oil lamps, outdoor biffys stocked with Eaton’s catalogues, and hauling water was hard work, but Florence took pride in her role. She grew wonderful gardens, and entered and won many prizes in the local fall fairs. She was very involved in the community and was part of the local recreation commission and women’s institute. When her children were grown Florence worked in the laundry at the Burns Lake Hospital for nearly 20 years. She also volunteered for the Burns Lake Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store for many years.
Florence always had a special rapport with children. She took in child borders when they needed a place to stay and especially loved her grandchildren and great grandchildren and was very protective of them. When a grandchild was about to be punished she was always the first to shed tears. She was never too busy to spend time teaching her grandchildren and all of them are proud to say they learned something from her.
Florence always made sure she reserved time for special friends. She loved to play cards and often took part in whist tournaments and such. Although she suffered with arthritis for many years, had hip replacements, knee replacements and eventually was wheelchair bound her fierce determination to enjoy life and stay young kept her going. Even though her driver’s license was taken away at age 89 she would not give up and was determined to drive again and studied diligently for her driver’s examination at age 92. Her subtle sense of humour and “little giggle” delighted all who knew her. Cheerfulness was another of her virtues.
Florence lived on at the farmhouse in Palling long after her husband Carl passed away in 1976. She continued to have chickens and poultry which included several exotic breeds including guinea hens. Not until she was in her 80s did she move into her own apartment in town.
She lived on her own until the age of 97 when she was finally convinced to go into the Pines. Giving up her independence wasn’t easy for her and Florence even talked about getting a shack of her own one day to share with some of the girls.
Florence will always be remembered for her strong will, bundled in a small package. She claims a stature of five foot two, though she would never let us measure. We know she was taller than Edna. Her great grandson Tye will always remember her as his “little Grandma”.
Her legacy will live on in the impression she has left on all of us who enjoyed our time with her. We are all better off for knowing Florence; our grandmother, mother and friend. She will be sadly missed and fondly remembered.
Florence truly “lived” life for all of her 98 years. She passed away peacefully on Dec. 17, 2006, after hearing how the Palling Christmas Concert went, an event she attended every year for 63 years.
Florence was predeceased by her husband Carl in 1976; brothers Dan, George, Buster and Frank; sister-in-law Yvonne Noyes; brother-in-law Stan Bell.
She is survived by daughter Mary (Sivert), son Charles (Shelly); grandchildren Shawn (Cindy), Carmelle (Tony), Maria (Devin), Blaine (Renae); Dean (Robin), and Shane (Andrea); great grandchildren Liam, Chase, Tye, Fharon and Logan. She is also survived by sister Clara Bell; brother, Cecil Noyes (Myrna); sisters-in-law, Elsie Noyes, Mary Noyes and many nieces and nephews.
Donations can be made to the Palling Hall and Recreation Commission at the Bulkley Valley Credit Union.