On May 19th 1987 at 2:15 in the afternoon, I met a dear couple who changed my life. I had no idea that I would spend the next twenty-one years getting to know them better. As long-term Deep Cove residents, Mr and Mrs Ashley and Rita Carr helped a rather naïve, well-meaning 32-year-old Anglican clergyman learn more about the meaning of life.
As some of the longest members of St. Simon’s North Vancouver, Rita and Ashley taught me much about the people and life of our congregation back in the early pioneering 1950s. Some of their stories, especially about going fishing with Bud the local Anglican priest, were hilarious and full of fun. Rita and Ashley had a way of making a person feel deeply loved and welcomed. They truly lived out the Golden Rule and the Good Book’s call to love one’s neighbour as themselves.
I will always remember that first home visit with Rita and Ashley on Dollarton Highway. As she always did in each succeeding visit, Rita fed me with juice and cookies, and then asked about my family and the congregation. She said to me “It’s about time to get back into the fold”, commenting that when children get older, it’s easy to become inactive.
Some people say nice things to clergy to make them feel better, hoping that they will go away. Rita and Ashley were people of their word. First Rita came back to church, dropped off by Ashley. But gradually Ashley returned as well. They had their favorite seat in the congregation. Even though the Carrs were older, they loved the liveliness of the younger people in our contemporary 10:30am service.
Rita and Ashley aged well. They were one of the most loving and good-natured older couples that I have known. Their deep love for each other ‘for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part’ was an inspiration to many younger couples. Rita was part of the Sweet Adelines singers for many years. She really was one of the sweetest Deep Cove residents that I have had the privilege of meeting. Rita and Ashley were always so good-tempered and kind to others. Even in the worst of times, they always left me feeling better after visiting them.
At the end of every home visit, I would offer to read the bible and pray with them. Rita was a deep woman of prayer. She always prayed with me for each member of her family that they would know Jesus’ love for them. Even after her health made her a shut-in, Rita kept in touch with her church family and friends. It was hard for her to not be able to attend her regular Thursday morning St. Simon’s NV home group. But she was always there in spirit.
On July 4th 2008, Rita went home to be with the Lord. Her husband Ashley deeply misses her. As a World War II ‘war bride’, Rita had three homes: England, Deep Cove and Heaven. Rita was ready to go Home. She had a deep confidence in what Jesus had accomplished for her on the cross, and a quiet assurance of the reality of life after death. Like many in the Deep Cove/Seymour community, I deeply miss Rita, and look forward to having ‘English tea’ with her some day in heaven.
One summer I was privileged to take the wedding of Ashley and Rita Carr’s granddaughter right in the Carr condominion. During the marriage service, I reminded their granddaughter of the great example that Rita had set, of Rita’s love and faithfulness: “Be like Rita. The love of Jesus shone through her.”
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
– previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News
-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada
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