- MS 148
When Ruth Adair Peterson (nee Brooke) died August 1, 2008 in Reno, Nevada, a succession of remarkable events repatriated to Salmon Arm a collection of significant paintings which celebrate a lovely story, a loving family, and its community.
More than three hundred paintings by Ruth’s father, Arthur Adair Brooke, were found under her bed wrapped in a cotton pillow slip and tied with a green ribbon. They came “home”. The one-of-a-kind collection was archival in every sense of the word. It spanned an important period of time and documented rural life in the Mt. Ida District of Salmon Arm.
Ruth’s story begins in 1921. Life on the Brookes’ farm, Asterfield, was unexpectedly interrupted with her birth. She was a fourth child and the first daughter to middle aged parents Arthur Adair and Annie Florence Brooke. She was given her mother’s maiden name and raised like an only child, adored by her adult brothers. Family members tell us her parents were strict Baptists. Ruth left home to attend business school in Calgary. It was there she met the love of her life, a divorced American baseball player named Bill Peterson. Ruth followed Bill to the States and they were married in 1951. Ruth and her new husband lived in Oakland, California and Reno, Nevada. The couple had a long marriage until Bill’s death in 1985.
But the story really began with the artist. Born in Rome in 1874, Arthur Adair Brooke had a long journey to Salmon Arm, British Columbia. The eldest child of Arthur Swindells and Amelia Adair Brooke had little memory at the age of two of moving with his family to Switzerland. His father was a professional watercolour artist and supported the family of 9 surviving children by painting landscapes.
When A.A. Brooke finished secondary school he was sent to England before emigrating to Canada in 1890. The first stop in Canada was Manitoba where he learned to farm under the tutelage of Joseph Merry at the Barnsley Farm Home. Four years later, Brooke began working his own farm.
Brooke married Annie Florence Ruth in 1898. Their first son, Harold Arthur, was born at Barnsley two years later. The family moved to Didsbury, Alberta, and two more sons joined the family, Ralph Edward in 1902 and Ernest Cuthbert in 1903. A.A. Brooke worked a homestead and received his Western Land Grant in 1904.
Alberta was not to be the end of the journey. Brooke sold the homestead and its improvements, and moved the household west after purchasing 60 acres of the Goforth farm in the Mt. Ida District near Salmon Arm. They arrived by train in 1907 with two loads of settlers’ effects and set up residence, naming their new home Asterfield.
Still adjusting to retirement, the couple moved again, this time south to another farming community, Cloverdale in the Fraser Valley. Arthur Adair spent his remaining years painting.
Annie Florence passed away December 6th, 1957. After her death, Arthur ached with loneliness and moved to Siska Lodge at Lytton, B.C. to be with his son Harold. He kept busy painting watercolours to sell in the Lodge’s coffee shop.
Arthur Adair was a prolific artist and left a legacy of a significant body of work. The farmer artist sketched images all his life, using his drawings as inspiration for later watercolours. His landscapes depict Switzerland, Ireland, Manitoba, Alberta, Alaska, and British Columbia. Numerous watercolours and sketches are held in private collections, at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, the Dufferin Historical Society Museum in Carman, Manitoba and the Salmon Arm Museum. But his best work is said to be Ruth’s baby books that document his daughter's early life.
Arthur died thirteen months after Annie on January 13, 1959.