My grandmother, Janet Atkins, taught me a lot of things. She helped me learn to play badminton and card games, how to knit, and the difference between “may I” and “can I.” She taught me to pick raspberries, but never wildflowers.
She taught me history by sharing family photos and stories. I remember her showing me her father’s old fishing rods and her dance cards from the 1930s when she met my grandfather and FRI’s founder, George Atkins.
Above all, she taught me about generosity and that generosity comes not only in what you give but in how you support others.
In her 100 years, Janet Atkins supported a lot of people.
As a young woman, she lived in Guelph, Ontario, where she attended Macdonald Institute. She then took the Well Baby Nursing Training program at the newly opened Mothercraft Society in Toronto, putting her training to work supporting new mothers with at-home childcare.
In 1941, she married George Atkins and moved to his family’s farm in Oakville, Ontario, where she raised four daughters, supporting them with their countless school and 4-H projects, lessons, and church and community activities. Her daughters went on to start their own families. As a grandmother, she supported her 11 grandchildren by attending our school concerts, recitals, and hockey games. She encouraged us to travel and explore the world around us. In recent years she also enjoyed the company of eight great-grandchildren, supporting them by playing games and reading stories at the cottage on her beloved Bruce Peninsula.
Even in her nineties, she supported her community by playing the organ at Gateway Haven in Wiarton, Ontario, where she lived her last few years.
And, of course, her generosity extended to FRI. In the earliest days of the organization, almost 40 years ago, she recognized George’s passion and worked with him to send out script packages to agricultural radio broadcasters. As the organization evolved, she traveled with him to meet and learn from farmers and broadcasters around the world.
As I reflect on my grandmother’s life, I marvel at the adventures she had and am struck by how much the world has changed over the course of the last century. When she was born, there was no television and most people did not have telephones in their homes — let alone in their hands. If you wanted to learn about the world, you had to read a book or travel. Regardless of how much change she observed, some things stayed the same. Being generous of spirit and supporting those around you are two of those things. The power of radio is another.
Janet Babion Atkins (nee Blackwood), born May 8, 1916, died peacefully on April 17, 2016, in Wiarton, Ontario. She was the devoted wife of the late George Stuart Atkins, founder of Farm Radio International. This post was written by Sarah Andrewes, Janet’s eldest granddaughter and a member of FRI’s board of directors.