Georgetown Dawes Family Page

WELCOME TO October 2009 - small

...the online home of the Dawes family of Georgetown, Ontario, Canada (seen here in a rare staged family photo in October 2009).

Chris & Marcia Dykstra were married on July 24 1999, joined April 17 2002 by Nathaniel (or Nate, as he’s always been known), and on October 27 2004, by Simon, and by Charlotte Neeltje on May 18 2008.

We revise this page from time to time, so don’t be a stranger. The latest is at the end of the page

Please get in, or be in touch when you can. Our home address is 103 King Street, Georgetown, Ontario, Canada, L7G 2G8



Chris grew up in Kingston, and like his father David he followed a science-oriented path through high school and even registered for Astrophysics at Queens University when he finished. But, also like his father and two grandfathers, Chris loved music, and studied from very young and throughout high school. The difference between Chris and his dad was that Chris made a snap decision to become a musician, even as he was starting his University science degree. He paid his way through school as a french horn, piano and organ player in Kingston’s church, classical and theatre music, finished at Queens in 1988, and moved to Toronto to build a musical career, and to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps in the service of the church.


This particular branch of the Dawes family began to grow when Chris, after eight years in Toronto met Marcia Dykstra, they were married on July 24th 1999, in an orchard owned by Marcia’s family on the south shore of Georgian Bay between the Blue Mountains and the Beaver Valley. Carrying on her family’s interest in agriculture she had helped for years in the orchards, planted trees in northern Ontario and Manitoba, worked on a sheep farm in New Zealand: but Chris and Marcia met while she, a medical secretary by profession, was working in Toronto, living in Mississauga and singing alto in the Georgetown Choral Society. Chris had often performed with the Choral Society since 1990: but the town took on special meaning in 1996 when he and the GCS Board’s Secretary met and fell in love.


The house on King Street in Georgetown entered the family in December 2000, while Chris was Organist and Director of Music at St. James’ Anglican Cathedral in downtown Toronto. Chris had worked for St. James’ and lived in an apartment in the Cathedral Parish House for nine years before Marcia joined him there. The two began looking for houses in the Georgetown area shortly after they were marrried, partly because of its accessibility to Toronto and its airport, and partly because of the strategic placement in the middle of the various Dykstra locations in southwestern Ontario. The house, with a large back yard facing (to the delight of Chris, Nate, and eventually Simon) the historic Grand Trunk Railway (now CN), dates from the early 1920s and is near the town’s train station.


For two years Chris & Marcia lived both in Toronto and Georgetown, but when little Nathaniel David joined the household just after 9am on Wednesday April 17th 2002 they gave up the apartment, making Georgetown their permanent home. This photo is of Nate just after he was born in the Trillium Health Centre in Mississauga, at eight pounds even. Finding themselves suddenly 100% Georgetown residents and one person more numerous, the Georgetown Daweses felt a pressing need for more space in their house, and while Nate was still an infant, finished their basement (photo below), adding storage, office and recreational space, and a second bathroom. Nate was very helpful to this large and complex project whose time and cost overruns rivaled that of any government project.


Upon marrying Chris, Marcia decided to go back to school in a new field: Food and Nutrition, choosing Ryerson University’s undergraduate program. As Nate passed his first birthday in April 2003, the family decided to make a big change: Chris would give up his position at St. James’ Cathedral after twelve years, and Marcia, whose school life had come to a screeching halt when Nate was born, would resume it in the fall while Chris expanded his freelance practice and stayed home with Nate most days of the week. Marcia, who had found a part-time clinical support job at St. Michael’s Hospital during her studies before Nate was born, was fortunate to find a similar position there when she came back from maternity leave and went back to school.


The 2003 Academic year was busy for both Marcia and Chris, but with the help of family and friends everything seemed to fall into place. A big part of this was Anna Barbara Heiche, a family friend from near Heidelberg, Germany who helped out often when neither Chris nor Marcia could stay with Nate. She and Nate are shown here on the Bruce Trail, which runs very near the Dawes home, and which is a favourite destination of the family.

Post-St. James’ Cathedral, Chris has enjoyed a great renaissance, taking on many new projects and musical clients. Most notably, he has enjoyed renewed activity in university-level teaching and theatre music. In the realm of church music, Chris writes articles, gives workshops and advises churches on liturgical issues, and plays occasionally on invitation from colleagues for special celebrations in their churches. He assumed the Directorship of Canada’s Summer Institute of Church Music beginning in 2005 with its 36th annual Session.. Now Lead Musician for Toronto’s Church of St. George-the-Martyr, he also volunteers playing services and leading worship at Georgetown Christian Reformed Church, a community to which his family has belonged since September 2003. 


As it was for his mom and dad, Nate’s 2nd year was quite different from his first, mainly in being home with Chris instead of Marcia most of the time, but also spending vastly increased time with both parents together. Nate, it was already clear at this stage, was very smart, and had a great sense of humour (as the banana-phone snapshot suggests). But even as early as this another critical personality trait has manifest... unconditional responsibility to his family, his parents, and his God. This aspect of Nate’s life and ministry continue to inspire his parents and others.


In summer 2004 Marcia took on a new field-related work opportunity with the City of Toronto, supervising food services at Seaton House, one of North America’s largest shelters for homeless men. Work, educational and career-related pressures continued to define many aspects of life, especially the household schedule, but as we grew into a better-connected unit, we grew many experiences and accumulated many memories. Here, Marcia and Nate are shown on the latter’s first merry-go-round ride, at the Harriston Fair in mid-September 2004. You can’t see it here, but Marcia is mere weeks away from giving birth to Simon, and Nate, to having his first brother.


Our second son, the impatient Simon Haddon, arrived six minutes before midnight on Wednesday October 27th, narrowly missing being born on the Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude. He was perhaps aware of the catholic tradition of observing Feast Days on the evening before, and decided that, well, there was no time like the present. 

This sentiment was shared fully by his mother, who had worked her last shift at Seaton House ending at 9pm, went into labour seven hours later and stayed there for nearly 20 more, until we were finally blessed with our second child. Experts and technologies always disagreed on his due date: the last definitive word, on Monday the 25th, was “definitely not until next week!”. Simon was born two days after that assurance, at 7 lbs and 9 oz., and came home with mom and dad on Friday the 29th. 


We want to pay special tribute here to our delivery team of Dr. Paula Molnar (who had also played a starring role in Nate’s arrival two and a half years earlier), McMaster University nursing student Sarah Clarke, and VBAC Delivery Nurse Donna Reid (all pictured below), who we feel with our family doctor Dr. Alexandra Berezowskij and several other staff at the Trillium Health Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, made our second birth experience as comfortable, understandable and exciting as it could have been. To Dr. Molnar a very special note of gratitude from us: Simon was one of her last deliveries, as she refocused her career into other areas of medicine.


The two Dawes boys (pictured below in July 2005 when the rest of the family joined Dad in his annual week of work in Stratford) developed a wonderful (and excruciatingly cute) relationship, principally under the loving gaze of their mom, who was then home with them most of the time. Simon gazed in adoration at his older brother (come to think of it so do his mom and dad a lot of the time!), and while one would have to have classed Simon as more of a plaything than a person in the eyes of his big brother Nate, he certainly fell into the category of favourite plaything! From January 2005, because a good deal of Chris’ work was at home, all four Daweses enjoyed perhaps their greatest-yet availability to each other.

Nate & Simon Stratford


NS summer 2006Fall 2005 brought Marcia’s return to school in the form of a placement with the CNCP program of Halton Region Public Health. Chris finished his M.A in Music Criticism at McMaster in late April 2006, and continued his work for the Choral programs of the University of Toronto Faculty of Music, the excellent Theatre and Drama Studies joint offering of U of T and the Sheridan Institute of Applied Arts and Technology, and various freelance projects and engagements. Marcia’s maternity leave ran out on Simon’s first birthday on October 27th of 2005, and the months of November, December, January, February, March and April required us to jump many important hurdles, including simultaneous studenthood of both Chris and Marcia, a very demanding phase for the job Marcia held with Seaton House, and our first experience with regular offsite childcare with the wonderful Donna Van Ofwegen. 

In summer 2006, Marcia took three courses, and worked just over half-time at Seaton House. With a very quiet May, June and August, July saw Chris fulfil his annual commitments as Director of the Summer Institute of Church Music and the Organ Concerts and Academy at Stratford Summer Music, as well as touring Slovakia, Hungary and Austria as organist to the Toronto Children’s Chorus, a new relationship he enjoyed into the 2006-2007 concert season which saw the retirement of the group’s Founder/Director Jean Ashworth Bartle, and which continues into the new tenure of her successor, Elise Bradley of New Zealand.


Nate and Simon up in a treeThe biggest stories of 2007 were unquestionably Marcia’s FINISHING her eight-year undergraduate phase, graduating in June on the Dean’s list with a Bachelor of Food and Nutrition science, and Nate STARTING Senior Kindergarten, his first experience with public education. Nate, now 5, continued to astound everyone with his skills and intelligence, but also his kindness, his responsibility, his almost-invincible good nature and his continuing heartfelt love for his family and others - qualities which have surely been enhanced by his experience as a big brother. Simon, approaching 3, like many kids his age displayed alternately a remarkably cute and ingratiating persona, a fiercely self-centred and utterly unreasonable temper, and an often-outrageous sense of joy and humour at most of what life brings him. He is a treasure to us all, no matter how he shakes things up. He and his dad, carrying on more-or-less the same way as they always have, gaze in loving admiration at Nate and Marcia, facing their new phases of life in their unique ways.


Charlotte small1On the Sunday (May 18th) of the Victoria Day weekend, as we moved into the annual peace of summer, we were joined by a 5th (and we firmly maintain, FINAL) Georgetown Dawes, Charlotte Neeltje, 8 lbs, 6 oz. at the Milton District Hospital. Neeltje is a Dykstra family name (given name of Charlotte’s maternal grandfather’s mother), which had become threatened with not continuing in the family line. It is also the original Dutch name of Marcia’s sister Nancy, who like many children of immigrants in their generation adopted an anglicised alternative. Spring 2008 had been busy for a pregnant Marcia, with a major replanning of the job responsibilities and procedures of Seaton House’s large Food Service staff, a job which fell largely to her. Safely on maternity leave, a well-needed rest for her and her family also returned the conclusion that her path to employment would require still more school. She applied, and was accepted into a Masters of Science in Community Nutrition at the University of Toronto, which she commenced in the fall.

Daddy's HatThe academic year 2008-2009 is a bit of a blur - Nate suddenly being in full-time school at George Kennedy Public School as a Grade 1 French Immersion student, and our little Simon as an enthusiastic Junior Kindergarten student at Harrison snatched both boys suddenly out of our care for large parts of the week, leaving bewildered parents with just the four-month-old Charlotte while Marcia tackled the excitement and stress of being a graduate student. One big development was the beginning of Nate’s formal music education in the Prep Choir of the Toronto Children’s Chorus, the commitments of which would have already have made it a full-family project even if Chris were not already a staff accompanist to the group. Marcia’s course work proceeded well, but always in the shadow of a looming full-time unpaid summer internship which taxed her stamina and drastically curtailed both the family’s earning power and traditional summer freedom. 


Family August 2008 smallWe had to combine Nate’s 7th and Charlotte’s 1st birthdays in the midst of this ordeal - but were happy to come out on the other side in the nick of time to enjoy our annual cottage trip to Green Bay Resort in late August. Somehow Chris quietly completed his sixth season on the staff of the Faculty of Music, his fifth as Director of the Summer Institute of Church Music (its 40th Session), and his ninth as an Artistic Associate of Stratford Summer Music. He also enjoyed working on a few major projects in 2009, including a run-out of John Burge’s “Mass for Prisoners of Conscience” to his alma mater Queen’s University and Lincoln Centre in New York; Soundstreams’ premiere of R. Murray Schaefer’s opera “The Children’s Crusade” (staged in a Parkdale warehouse during the Luminato Arts Festival) and a run of costumed performances of Bach’s Cantata Cantata, including a self-scripted introduction/stand-up routine as none other than the great Bach himself.

For Family Tree with labels - Nov 12In fall 2010 Simon, now in senior kindergarten, was permitted to join his brother at George Kennedy, somewhat simplifying the of two schools, two bus stops/times, two sets of school events, etc. To our amazement and thanksgiving Marcia’s courses have continued to allow Chris to maintain a few regular commitments to the Faculty of Music, St. George-the-Martyr and other employers while necessitating no regular paid childcare. One highlight of this period was the 80th birthday of Marcia’s dad, Sake Dykstra, and his 55th wedding anniversarywith her mom, Tjaltje It was for a family tree display at this memorable gathering that the roughly two-year spanning photo montage at the right was created by Marcia.


Nate’s memorable onstage enthusiasm (and occasional antics) in the Prep Choir combined to advance him to Training Choir 1 with the TCC, which in turn occasioned a shuffle that allowed Chris to accompany him in rehearsals and performances under the direction of Carole Anderson. While Marcia began year two of her Masters’, both boys began studying piano with Elaine Rusk in Georgetown, and although they have manifested very different gifts at the keyboard they share a solid interest and much promise. Chris while continuing usual activities, began a new monthly volunteer musical and narrative ministry to the large morning congregation of Georgetown Christian Reformed Church, growing directly out of his exploratory work at St. George-the-Martyr and the Summer Institute of Church Music.

At New Year’s 2010, Nate continues to lose teeth; Charlotte, to gain them; and Simon, to bare them, mostly in his wacky humour. With his intelligence and maturity we have to stop ourselves thinking of Nate as a fine young man - he is reading voraciously, living and learning insightfully, and continuing to care for and inspire his family’s emotional life - but he has lots of kid left to be. Simon, drawn in one direction by his brother’s example and in another by his fierce individuality and unique energy (as a second child his dad understands this situation well) is a different kind of inspiration - the highs and lows of unbridled passion and a casual yet committed love of life on a momentary basis. At 19 months Charlotte, who innocently unites her brothers in love, is at the centre of an expanding world of walking, talking, playing, and increasingly, socialising freely with an adoring family and ‘public’. As parents Chris and Marcia live growing awe of all three, and in ever growing thanks amid the usual challenges. 103 King Street will finally, God willing, receive its major expansion/makeover this spring while the family watches with great interest from a rented house next-door, hoping to reenter in the early fall season.

To close: a little scriptural New Year’s gift from dB:V, the Daily Bible Verse internet ministry:

Proverbs 4:23 - Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

Proverbs 4 is filled with instruction on gaining wisdom and having a life that is full and complete. Then near the end of the chapter the writer says, "above all else, guard your heart". Cesar Kalinowski, Pastor to the Soma Communities in Tacoma, WA writes,

    “Why is this so important? Because our hearts guide and direct all that we do. Every word that comes out of our mouth starts in the heart. All of our actions and choices are driven by the desires of the heart. We often spend large sums of money to guard our earthly possessions.
    The government spends untold fortunes to guard our nation. But God tells us that it is even more important to guard our hearts. If we don't it can lead to spiritual ruin! Who we are in Christ is being formed in our hearts.”

In our postmodern age this verse this too easily morphs into feel-good dime-store therapy... I think the message here is not just the 1970s’ era “looking out for number one”, or the more ancient “to thyself be true” - both perfectly sound mantras, as well as cultural cliches - but rather that if we believe God dwells in our hearts, this alone makes them worthy of care. 

May God help us to care for and share our hearts in 2010 - and may God bless you and yours as well.