A few months back, Frances Graff was cleaning out a closet in her home in Washington, D.C., when she stumbled upon a 2003 clipping from the Globe and Mail – a Lives Lived column I wrote after the death of my cousin, Charlotte Grover.

The Globe story delivered a flood of memories. When Frances was a child, her family lived across the street from the Grover family in Toronto. Charlotte, whose place on the spectrum wasn’t fully recognized until later, was endearing, quirky and super intelligent – she even taught Frances’ sister Helen to read using the book Little Women. Charlotte was 5, Helen, 3.

Sisters Frances Graff (standing) and Helen Anderson.

Frances’ mother was fast friends with Charlotte’s mother, Rachel Grover, one of those all-round incredible human beings who was also a manuscript librarian at University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. The close family ties inspired Helen to become a librarian; Aunt Rachel was also her godmother.

Intrigued by the long lost Globe article, Frances decided to google the cousin behind the byline – me – and touched off a new round of serendipity. Up popped a Peterborough Examiner article about Life & Legacy, my book about my grandmother, which was sparked by a cache of letters preserved by my aunt – Rachel Grover.

Frances tracked me down and ordered the book.

It’s probably no surprise that all of this has resulted in several fascinating emails. But it’s hard to top the exchange in late May.

I mentioned in passing that I’d been invited to do a book presentation in Norwood Town Hall in mid-June. I thought Frances would be amused because the Grovers used to have a summer home in Norwood, and Frances and her sisters have magical recollections of regular excursions to the town.

Now some people, myself included, might see my Norwood presentation as an interesting coincidence. But for Frances and her sister Helen, it was an adventure just waiting to happen.

Before I could shout, “Don’t do it! It’s not worth it!” Frances had rejigged her summer plans to visit her Quebec cottage and added a side trip to Norwood.

After all, all she had to do was drive from Washington to Rochester to pick up Helen, and then on to Norwood, just east of Peterborough, all timed to arrive just before for my presentation. Holy smokes!

When Frances, Helen and I chatted in the garden of their Hastings B&B the next morning, the conversation was relaxed and comfortable. Sort of like spending time with old family friends.

Aunt Rachel – and my grandmother – would have approved.


3 thoughts on “Surely we were destined to meet

  1. Kathryn,
    Lovely story. I was a good friend of the late Flora J Coughlin who often spoke to me about her friendship with the Grover and Elmhurst families.I also knew your Mom Marion. When I lived in Westwood,Ontario, Mrs Jim Thompson was well known for her writings. Not sure if they were diaries? I do enjoy any history of this area. I would like to get a copy of your book “Life and Legacy of Ruth Birdsall Elmhurst”.
    Thank you,
    Margaret Payne. Peterborough Ontario.


    1. So wonderful to hear from you, Margaret. So many connections! If I am not mistaken, Flora was the mother of one of my former classmates, Phil Coughlin, who was always great fun. I would be happy to mail you a copy of the book. The cost (including mailing) is $25. I will, of course, need your address. Please email it to me at lydiaheinspublishing@gmail.com
      Thanks so much for getting in touch.


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