Grace’s long and useful life ended, quite suddenly but peacefully, on Jan 7 at age 96, with family at her side. Our vibrant mother, aunt, grandmother and great-grandma truly triumphed over old age–happy, highly social and remarkably productive right to the end.
The eldest and last-surviving child of legendary Island naturalist and storyteller, Freeman “Skipper” King, Grace was born in Perdue, Sask. during the family’s migration from England. Grace and sisters Gwen and Kay were raised in Sidney, where she was a keen dancer, champion tennis player, nature lover, and onetime staffer at the Sidney Review. In 1939 she met and then married RCAF-man Bob Prittie of Burnaby at a dance. After the war, Grace put Bob through UBC working jobs from cleaning lady to hostess in West Vancouver’s first French restaurant. (Later her family would enjoy a culinary standard rare for the 60s.)
Tragedy struck in 1949 when first child, King, died of polio. It would be several years before she overcame her grief to begin a new batch of kids. The 50s and 60s found Grace in Burnaby raising three more children, teaching preschool, advocating for Downs Syndrome kids, all while managing husband Bob’s political campaigns. Moving to Ottawa in 1963, she slipped easily into life as an MP’s wife. A return to Burnaby in 1968 led to her next role, wife of Burnaby’s new Mayor Prittie, including a highly successful diplomatic adventure to Kushiro, Burnaby’s sister city in Japan.
After a divorce, Grace met widower Svend Mariager (at a dance!) and a new seafaring life began. They fished for prawns in the 70s in Howe Sound aboard Svend’s “Vita” then moved to Piers Island where they flourished as paragons of island self sufficiency and community service, and thanks to Grace’s hospitality and Svend’s homemade beer. With the move to Saltair in the 90s the ever-creative Grace jumped into new community pursuits, devoting many hours to both the Chemainus Museum and Hospital Thrift Shop.
When Svend died, Grace, 90, reinvented herself again, moving into the Peninsula Residence in Sidney, on the very site of a house where she had lived as a girl. Supported by family, she spent 6 happy years there, making many new friends–notably the Crafty Grannies, local legends for their tireless charity-focused quilting and knitting. Indeed Grace’s final community service was to present this year’s large cheque just two weeks before she died.
Grace will be greatly missed by many. Survived by daughter Heather Prittie (David Hocking), sons Bruce Prittie (Susan) and Ian Prittie (Elaine Iodice), grandchildren Carla, Sarah, Laura, Simon, step-grands Dawn, Tanya, Morgan, Simon and Rob, and 9 great grandchildren–including new baby Ella Grace.
Grace King’s life will be celebrated by family and friends in a gathering on Feb 21 at The Peninsula Residence, 2290 Henry St., Sidney, 2 to 3:30 p.m.