Grace Bindle, who taught in Thompson for 30 years and continued to work as a substitute for 20 more after her retirement, died July 22 at the age of 80 after a two-year battle with cancer.
Bindle was born in Winnipeg in 1939 and grew up in Austin before attending teacher training in Brandon and teaching briefly in The Pas before coming to Thompson. She married Otto Bindle, the original proprietor of the Thompson Inn in 1964 and had three children, including current Progressive Conservative Thompson MLA Kelly Bindle. She began her teaching career as a substitute for kindergarten to Grade 8 in the mid 1960s before focusing on the younger grades and special education and eventually becoming a full-time kindergarten teacher.
School District of Mystery Lake co-superintendent Angele Bartlett said the division’s earliest record of Bindle substitute teaching comes from 1966 and that she was a Juniper School kindergarten teacher for three years from 1985 to 1988 when she transferred to École Riverside School, where she remained until her retirement in 1997, after which she filled in as a substitute teacher for kindergarten to Grade 3 classes until 2017.
“Grace continued to substitute teach until her health prevented her from doing so,” said Bartlett.
“She was an awesome mentor,” said Thompson Teachers’ Association president Cathy Pellizzaro, who started her career as a kindergarten teacher in the 1990s, just as Bindle’s full-time teaching career was wrapping up. “I learned so much from her.”
Pellizzaro said she loved having Bindle serve as her substitute and that even in retirement she was a fountain of good advice.
“Even after [retirement] she kept giving me ideas,” said Pellizzaro. “She was very helpful.”
In a memoir Bindle wrote, she said, “After I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, I miss the kids and adult colleagues. Over the years, I run into students I’ve taught or subbed and we chat. I miss them and am happy they have continued on with their education or are working here in Thompson. I am proud of all of them, knowing that I played a part in their lives and education. I’d be back in a heartbeat if I could.”
Bindle was also active as a volunteer, being recognized as Thompson’s volunteer of the year in 2010 and as one of the YWCA’s four Women of Distinction in 2012. She served with the Thompson Christian Council, the St. James Anglican Church women’s group, the Thompson General Hospital auxiliary, Relay for Life, the Block Parent program and the Salvation Army. She was also one of the founding members of the Heritage North Museum in 1987 and served on the board od directors ever since, mostly looking after fundraising.
Hospital auxiliary president Wendy Lucas said Bindle was already member when she joined the auxiliary about eight years ago.
“She did beautiful knitting,” said Lucas, even during the last two years when she was undergoing more than 40 chemotherapy treatments. “She did little tiny baby work socks. They sold as soon as we put them in the display case.”
Bindle told the Thompson Citizen about her knitting at a Northern Regional Health Authority lunch for volunteers in April 2018.
“I knit those little work socks for newborns and I’m the only one that does because they’re so fidgety,” Bindle said, referring to grey baby socks with red and white stripes at the top and a white heel and toes, like classic work socks. “I’ve been doing those for over 25 years.”
Bindle’s son Kelly said in his MLA Report in the July 26 Nickel Belt News that his mom was gracious throughout her cancer treatment.
“Mom spent her life teaching children in Thompson, caring for others and volunteering. She missed seeing schoolchildren, former students, fellow teachers and friends when her treatments prevented her from doing so. Mom appreciated the excellent care she received from CancerCare Manitoba and the doctors, nurses and other staff at Thompson General Hospital. Her thoughtfulness and giving heart touched many lives, and our family is grateful for all the kind messages, shared memories and the outpouring of support from those who also wish we never had to say goodbye to her.”
“She was a good person,” said Pellizzaro, who was also a fellow member of Bindle’s in the hospital auxiliary.
“I so appreciated Grace’s matter-of-fact, no-nonsense way of approaching everything she encountered,” Bartlett said. “She’ll be deeply missed by friends, family and colleagues.”
Bartlett also said Bindle never complained whenever she saw her during her two-year battle with cancer.
“She was resilient beyond belief.”