As I've written here many, many times, I learnt to read thanks to Mr. Mugs. As a kindergarten student in Toronto during the 1970s, the English Sheepdog Mr. Mugs was the star of our "learn to read" books and I loved them.
The creator and author of those early Mr. Mugs books was a teacher named Martha Kambeitz who moved to Toronto from Sedley, Saskatchewan. Martha was known as Mrs. Mugs, and soon also became Martha Gombita when she married Michael Gombita in 1983. They remained married until Michael's passing in 2003.
Mr. Mugs taught me to read, and a copy of the earliest book stayed in the family and was used when all four of my kids learrned to read. Even though Mr. Mugs books haven't been published in 40 years, that sheepdog was put to work only a few years ago when my youngest Morgan was learning to read.
The other day I enjoyed a lovely conversation with Judy Gombita, Michael Gombita's daughter, about her stepmother Martha and I can't wait to share this at the end of the month in the January 2024 memorial episode of Toronto Mike'd. The following words belong to Judy.
The (Drury, Wolfe, and Ramos*) kids were doubly blessed in having a loving Nana, who was also an exceptional teacher and personal tutor. Sitting together on the weekend at the dedicated work table in the Gombita home, the young grandchild was granted a personalized and immersive experience.
Martha was thorough: she prepared detailed workbooks, including lots of stickers and pictures. She demonstrated helpful tricks to improve reading comprehension.
Her instruction style was calm (never hurried), and non-judgmental, fostering a perfect learning environment. It was a great knowledge acquisition experience, followed by a yummy lunch with both grandparents, and then a parent arriving to take the grandchild home.”
The three families of grandchildren (#s relate to birth order)
Darcy Drury (eldest 1), spouse Sonya (McLaren)
Sarah Drury (blog commenter! 3), spouse
Alec Drury (5), spouse Nela
Jeremy Wolfe (2)
Jacqueline Wolfe (the next-Gen teacher! 4), spouse Jordan (Jakuszyk)
*Roxanne Ramos (6)
*Joshua Ramos (7)
“A special tribute to John Ramos, who was officially our late father’s PSW, and unofficially Martha’s loving rock of solicitous care and support, right up until the end.”
Martha sponsored John (from the Philippines) to be my father’s live-in PSW. She helped him study for his Canadian citizenship. She played a part in him meeting his wife (Sally). She was at the head table, as his “mother”, at their wedding (next to Sally’s mom, Lina, who became a dear friend), and their two beautiful (now teenaged) children, Roxanne and Joshua, consider her their beloved Nana, too. (All of the neighbours at Swan Lake Village knew John. Same with the PSWs and nurses at Union Villa.)
Talk about having an incredible impact on someone’s life! (But John deserves all of the good things, and more).
Sonya and Darcy visiting Nana, Easter Day 2023, during the Union Villa “Easter Bonnet Tea.” (Martha was very happy to see them. Some of the activities impressed her a bit less—although she did win an Easter bunny pin for the bonnet my sister Carol and her created, earlier!)
(Jordan), Jacqueline, Jeremy, (Nela), Sarah, and Alec, at last Tuesday’s visitation.
Another one of the incredible things Martha did for each of her seven grandchildren was to create an individual photo album of them, with documented moments during their childhood years. Albums were gifted to them (I think when they turned 18). Nela had never seen Alec’s before, so she was avidly going through it, with her SiL Sarah (and husband) providing commentary.
(Roxanne and Joshua hadn’t yet formally received theirs, so they were also so thrilled to have a physical demonstration of Nana’s love to look through during the difficult two days.)
Sister Susan’s friend has recently become a first-time grandmother. When she was in the Chapel Ridge room, she looked through the various photo albums, turned to Susan and ruefully said: “Martha has set the bar for being a great grandmother really high.”
As Jacqueline’s face is turned sideways in that photo, here is her at Martha’s 90th birthday party. (**And some final words from her at the end.)
Finally Roxanne visiting Nana at Union Villa in July 2023.
Joshua visiting in August 2023.
Photos by Dad (John). And I made sure to get permission from all four Ramos to share.
**I learned that Jacqueline had written a school essay about Martha (because Carol wanted a copy, to help her write the eulogy she delivered—you can now do this at the church!). I asked her about it. And reading this.
“I think I was in grade 7 or 8, and it was an assignment about a person you admired. Basically, the biggest quality I admired about Nana was her strength. I started it by writing about all of her accomplishments, but then focused on her love for grandpa, taking care of him, and still being so strong after his death. At this age, death was a hard concept for me to grasp, and Nana comforted me by telling me that the relationship and love you have for a person doesn't die.
It was a full circle moment re-reading that after she passed.