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Friday February 8, 2013

Elizabeth Jean Inkster

Musician, weaver, environmentalist, wife, mother. Born Sept. 24, 1945, in Oakville, Ont., died Dec. 25, 2012, in Queen Charlotte City, Haida Gwaii, B.C., of colon cancer, aged 67

Elizabeth was the third of Murray and Peggy Inkster's four children, raised in Oakville, Ont., in a home full of music, books and passion for gardening - all things that Elizabeth would embrace in her later life.

Normal conventions couldn't hold her and after dropping out of university she moved to Montreal and sang in night clubs.

There she met her first husband, Emile Vigneault, and the two took off for the adventure that would become the focus of the rest of her life.

Emile dreamed of getting out of the rat race and spending his time salmon fishing in British Columbia.

He and Elizabeth left Montreal in 1970 without a confirmed plan. Fate struck when they met a couple who told them the best salmon fishing in the world was on the Queen Charlotte Islands. That was all they needed to hear.

On arrival, they both found work at the Tlell River Lodge. Elizabeth became partner in a bakery while she was expecting their first child. Leandre was born on Dec. 27, 1970, and there are photos of Elizabeth kneading bread and dipping donuts with him sleeping in a sling on her back.

Shortly after that, Emile took a position as watchman in Shannon Bay on a small island reachable by outboard motor boat through a narrow tidal channel.

They stayed there for more than seven years and Elizabeth became an accomplished weaver there, her work sold throughout Canada under the name Inlet Weavers.

In 1978 they adopted Tami, a young aboriginal child born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Their experiences provided new knowledge about the condition, which they shared with local social services.

After leaving Shannon Bay, Elizabeth took a job with Canada Post and spent many years as the Postmaster of Tlell, Port Clements and ultimately Queen Charlotte City. It was not unusual for her to do last-minute deliveries on Christmas Eve when the mail had been delayed by weather.

Music was important throughout her life. She helped found the Edge of the World summer music festival, hosting it on her property for many years and singing there herself in her own magical voice.

She fulfilled a life-long dream two years before she died, producing a CD, My Wild Island Home. Her property also became a model for organic gardening. She raised chickens and grew vegetables, and provided a place for many young travellers looking for organic gardening experience.

On Dec. 19, 2012, she was married a second time, to Keith Alexander, her partner of the last 10 years.

Elizabeth was a beloved fixture on the Haida Gwaii. Her energy, passion and compassion will be missed by many.

Eleanor Nielsen and Janet Inkster are Elizabeth's sisters. Douglas Inkster is her brother.

To submit a Lives Lived: lives@globeandmail.com

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