Bert (Herbert Ralph) Topliffe
Submitted by Sharon Cox-Gustavson, friend of the Topliffe Family
Born: 30 September 1917 (Victoria, BC)
Death: April 2019
Herbert’s paternal grandparents lived in Mitcham, Surrey, in England, where his father, Frank Charles Topliffe, was born in 1880. Frank grew up poor with very little schooling and took up landscape gardening for a profession.
His maternal grandparents were Cockneys who lived “within the ringing of the Bow Bells in the heart of London”, as his mother told him. With alcoholic parents, they were a very poor family with several children, most of whom died of consumption (TB). Herbert’s mother, Ada Emily Basse (born in 1879), grew up with little schooling and became a devoted young officer of the Salvation Army.
Frank met Ada at the weekly Salvation Army meetings and after marrying, had their first son, Frank William, in 1905. Looking for a better life, they came with 11 other families from England in 1911 to populate the new Salvation Army Colony in Coombs. Because there was no work for a landscape gardener in the area, Charles and Ada moved to Victoria, where Herbert was born in 1917. After returning to the Coombs' colony in 1920, Frank Topliffe became the head gardener for General Money at the tourist attracting grand Qualicum Beach Hotel and golf course. Bert’s brother, Frank Jr. became the greens' keeper at the Golf links where he worked for 12 years. Young Bert helped when needed and vividly recalls his many fishing escapades with General Money. Most of Frank Sr. and wife Ada’s involvement in their community was church-related.
Frank Topliffe at the Piano (ca. 1920)
Ada in the background
Topliffe Salvation Army Colony Home (ca. 1911)
General Money Greeting Card (1935)
Eaglecrest Front Lawn
Bert finished Grade 8 in the French Creek School before going to work with his father. In the mid-1930’s, Bert helped his father lay out the gardens at the beach estate of Eaglecrest for General McRae, a wealthy entrepreneur from Vancouver. Bert then went to work in the woods, where his lifelong hobby and fascination with beekeeping was born through the discovery of bees living in the trees.
Young Bert couldn’t help but notice the new girl from Saskatchewan (a neighbour in Coombs) as she rode her bike to school in Qualicum Beach, and got to know Grace through the softball club. They were married in 1940 and raised two children, Jean and Ralph. Bert worked in the logging industry on Vancouver Island all his life, except for a 15-year period spent working in the Terrace area during the 1950s and 1960s.
Bert and Grace with Children Jeannie and Ralph ca. 1948
Grace (Weber) Topliffe's Parents Home on
Topliffe Home (ca. 1920) where Bert grew up
on Station Road