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Burns Lake woman draws inspiration from 'badass' sharp-shooting grandma

Last Updated Mar 8, 2020 at 1:13 pm PST

Hettie Thompson of Burns Lake was a champion sharp shooter in the 1960s. (Courtesy Rebecca Thompson)

Hettie Thompson knocked 'the socks off' men in target shooting

Learning about her grandma's story inspires Rebecca Thompson

'Grandma Hettie' was a sharp shot, a single mom and a helpful citizen

BURNS LAKE (NEWS 1130) – If Rebecca Thompson could have a conversation with any person in the world, living or dead, she wouldn’t choose a celebrity, world leader or famous athlete.

She would take the opportunity to sit down with her Grandma Hettie.

Thompson was very young when her grandmother, Hettie Thompson, died in 1979 – and because Grandma Hettie was a “complete badass,” she says.

Grandma Hettie was a trailblazer who continues to inspire her descendants, Thompson says as she reflects on her family legacy ahead of International Women’s Day (March 8).

‘Really cool and brave’

In the 1960s, Hettie defied the expectations of traditional gender roles. The Burns Lake, B.C., woman was both a champion target shooter and a single mother (a bigger cultural taboo at the time).

“She was just really cool and brave,” Thompson says.

Thompson grew up knowing her grandma was a formidable woman, but it wasn’t until she began digging through historical records that she got a clear picture of just how strong Grandma Hettie was.

A Vancouver Sun article from January, 1964, reported Hettie won a Canadian Association of Marksman competition with a score of 966 out of 1,000 – one point shy of the all-time record at the time.

“It was a really big deal that a woman not only won but had a very impressive score,” Thompson says. “Somebody who could really knock their socks off was unheard of.”

Thompson, who manages the courthouse in Burns Lake, has been shooting guns nearly all her life and considers herself “a pretty decent shot” but concedes she probably isn’t as accurate as her grandmother.

“I think she’d whoop me,” she says.

Left: Hettie Thompson with her sons Brian (left) and Donald. Right: Rebecca Thompson with her sons Matthew (left) and Logan.

‘I can do it now’

But Thompson also takes inspiration from what Hettie did outside the shooting range.

In addition to out-shooting men, she was engaged in more activities considered traditional for women: hosting bible study, embroidery parties and cooking for “hard-done-by” people in the community.”

“She went out her way in her community to help people that were falling through the cracks,” Thompson says.

Both women became single mothers to two boys through what Thompson describes as “difficult circumstances.”

“I thought, ‘If Grandma can do it back in the ‘60s, I can do it now,’ – and that gave me a lot of strength.”

And Thompson has tried to pass that legacy to her sons, Matthew and Logan, who are now young adults.

“I take it really seriously that those people that made such an impact on me when I was little don’t get forgotten,” she says.

Thompson isn’t alone in drawing inspiration from a woman who came before her, according to a press release from Ancestry, a service she used to dig up her family’s birth certificates, death notices, photos and newspaper articles.

“Women throughout history have changed the world with their strength, intelligence and determination to create a better future. This International Women’s Day, Ancestry is encouraging Canadians to seek inspiration from the achievements of women in their family history,” the release says.