INNISFAIL – It was 45 years ago when Annette Gray was visiting the United Kingdom when she not only had a chance to see Queen Elizabeth II but witness a most personal smile from the sovereign.
“I think she was looking at my 10-year-old son Johnny scaling up the fence at Buckingham Palace,” said Gray, who at the age of 85 is an accomplished writer and author from Innisfail. “She was going out, and then later on she came in and saw him going up. She had the biggest smile on her face.
“I know that she wasn’t looking at us. She was looking at that scamp,” she added with a chuckle.
Gray was one of more than 30 Innisfail and area residents who attended the Memorial Tea for the Queen in the Tea Room at the Innisfail and District Historical Village on Sept. 23.
Fifteen days earlier on Sept. 8, the Queen, who had reigned since 1952, passed away peacefully at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. She was 96.
Last week on Sept. 19 the Queen was laid to rest in the King George VI Memorial Chapel at Windsor.
Gray said she attended the Memorial Tea to honour the Queen and because she was special for her family.
“Both my folks came from England. It was very important for our household to revere the Queen,” said Gray. “She was a wonderful, stable person and we just had every respect for her.”
Anna Lenters, president of the Innisfail and District Historical Society who helped organize last June’s Platinum Jubilee Tea, told the Albertan on Sept. 8 she would immediately organize a memorial gathering of local devoted royal watchers to honour the Queen.
The Sept. 23 afternoon gathering at the Tea Room was appropriately dignified with a mood that was respectful and best described as light.
“It's lovely to see all ladies of all walks of life. There's a young boy here with his mom. They're all signing the book of condolences,” said Lenters, who appreciated the “light” mood of the event. She pointed to the Paddington Bear that was included at the Memorial Tea’s Queen display.
“She (Queen) did the little spoof of Paddington Bear and took the marmalade sandwich out of her purse,” noted Lenters with a big smile.
Mostly though, citizens were there to salute a sovereign who was unforgettable during her lifetime, and will remain so even in passing.
“The Queen has always been a part of our lives,” noted Sylvan Lake’s Alison Rainey. “We lived in the UK for 20 years, and she is a stabilizing force. She's above politics. She's remained steadfast in what she was committed to from a young woman. She just has been an amazing person.”