Labrador History - 9 Epilogue

Mary Taylor9 EPILOGUE
When I came to Labrador in 1953 I never dreamt I would be there for more than thirty years. MY thoughts had been to gain one year’s experience in Labrador before going to India as a missionary. GOD had other plans, and Forteau became my home.
The time I spent working in Forteau was marked by great changes. By the time I left in 1984 the health system was well on the way to being fully integrated into the national system and nurses were doing what they “traditionally” did elsewhere, a far cry from the minor surgery, the dental work and the dog treks of the early days!
Changes were both local and regional as they affected the Grenfell Mission. In 1981 the Grenfell Regional Health services were formed, and the management of the mission was handed over to the Government of Newfoundland Health Services and to its local health boards. Dr. Gordon Thomas left St. Anthony in August 1977, but did not officially retire until the end of the following year when his assistant, Dr. Peter Roberts, took over as executive director.
The increasing population, together with better accessibility to the nursing station by road, increased patient loads and this in turn necessitated more staff. Jean Skelly, who had relieved me for my furlough in 1965/66, rotated between Mary’s Harbour and Forteau for a while and then became full time at Forteau. It was great to have another nurse to share the workload and also to be able to have a day off occasionally. In 1972-73 Jean took a sabbatical leave and spent a year at a mission station in Zambia. When she returned, however, she was with me only intermittently, working also in stations in Roddickton and Flower’s Cove, both in Northern Newfoundland. She left in 1977 to get married.
Other nurses came, so I was not alone for any extended period, and eventually a public health nurse was appointed, which relieved us of much of the travelling. Before the road was completed, however, we still held clinics in Red Bay.
The roads were very rough, especially during the spring breakup, and had large potholes at times. When it rained the mud reminded me of cocoa - thick and sticky - and was especially bad when one had to fix a flat tire! By the time I left in 1984, the road was paved as far as Pinware and by 1989 the pavement finally reached Red Bay.
In the early 1980’s, people were asking for a new Health Centre and one had already been opened in Flower’s Cove. A large donation started the project in Forteau and the Newfoundland Government provided the funds to complete the work. Construction started in the fall of 1981 and the building was completed early in 1983. A couple of months later we moved into a building that was much larger than the old nursing station. It was a delight to have so much space. I even had my own office! There were several clinic rooms and a doctor’s office as well as an emergency room, delivery room, laboratory, X-ray room and dental department. There were two holding rooms for inpatients, although we were not encouraged to house any one in the long term, the policy being to transfer to St. Anthony any patients that needed hospitalization.
By this time a doctor had been appointed to Forteau. Dr. Bokhout from Flower’s Cove had come across to us for clinics until a year or so before our move to the new building, when he and his family moved to Labrador. That summer we gained a full time Lab! X-ray technician. More nurses were hired and a regular shift system introduced which allowed the staff to have adequate off duty time. Quite a change from the days when one nurse did everything, but a most welcome change!
Unfortunately I was not able to enjoy the new facility for long, for I took an early retirement in 1984. This came about because of my father’s health.
In the spring of 1978, while spending Easter with Dr. and Mrs. Gray in St. Anthony, I got a phone call from my sister telling me that my Dad was seriously ill. She felt I should come. On the Sunday afternoon I flew to Gander on the mission plane and connected with a flight to Victoria, BC. Dad had a large blood clot on the left side of his brain, caused by a blow on the head when he was apple picking the previous fall, and underwent surgery at the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria (where I had worked in earlier years.) I cared for him during that summer itnd the following winter, and returned to Forteau in the spring of 1979.
That fall I moved into an apartment in Forteau. It was wonderful to have a place of my own but I missed my old room at \the nursing station with its many memories.
By the fall of 1983 my Dad had become increasingly feeble, had diabetes and was not able to care for himself. His condition improved during the winter, so I returned to Labrador in the spring to settle my affairs. I worked for that summer and then took an early retirement in September 1984.
Retirement was difficult for me at first. I loved my work, and I loved the people of the “coast” and missed them badly. In fact, when I was driving down the coast to Corner Brook, I cried nearly all the way! After being very busy for so many years, I could not settle to a life of ease. A couple of years later, I was able to get a part time job caring for seniors at a long term care facility on Vancouver Island, and that helped.
My Dad passed away in September 1989 and four years later, I returned to the “coast”, bought a little house and moved back to Forteau. I am still there at the time of writing.
The old nursing station was bought by two of my “babies”, both of whom I had delivered. They converted it into a delightful “Bed and Breakfast”, restoring it as much as possible to its original design. Peggy, the hostess, was born on Christmas Day 1958 and was the little baby who was so sick with whooping cough in 1959.
“Aunt” Mary Fowler had left us earlier (in July 1968) after being ill for some time. She passed away peacefully one night. We often heard her singing “We’re marching to Zion” in her little room at the top of the stairs and surely missed her, but “our loss was heaven’s gain”, as she so often quoted when she was praying.
George and Mona moved to Corner Brook in the summer of 1969. By that time they had four children, David, the twins, Ruth and Elizabeth, and another little girl, Lois. When Mona came home with Lois, I had her and the baby in the nursing station for a few days. When David saw his little sister and her wrinkled hands, he said, “Mummy, why are her hands so old?” I’m not sure how we answered that one! George and Mona lived in Corner Brook for several years. I spent many happy hours with them whenever I was able to get away to attend a conference or when en route to visit my family.
Over the years, George and Mona had the joy of seeing all their children saved as they came to a personal knowledge of the Saviour. They made frequent visits to the “coast” and in October 1982 George had meetings at English Point. The following year the family went to Vancouver for a year, George coming back to Labrador for a visit in the summer of 1984. He wasn’t feeling well and, shortly after he returned to Vancouver, he was diagnosed with cancer. He had surgery that summer but sadly his condition was terminal.
This news was a shock to everyone, but especially to Mona and the family. Mona cared for him at home. That winter Cornelia Linstead, a nurse who had worked with me in Forteau, went west to help Mona until George passed away a couple of weeks later. He died on March 2 1985.
Just before George died, one of the elders from L’Anse-auLoup went out to visit him. As he approached George said, “Here comes the little black-haired boy with the peaked cap.” This is how he always referred to Francis, who had been saved at the age of eleven in the old school house in L’Anse-au-Loup that first winter when George was holding meetings there. Some of George’s friends and converts were able to come to Vancouver for the funeral, including Wallace. He would have been happy to see them.
Wallace and Olive had four children, two girls and two boys. I had the privilege of delivering three of them. Their first boy was born in Newfoundland, when they were living in Rocky Harbour, and the others were Labradorians! They had the joy of seeing them all trust the Saviour. They are now all married and have families of their own. Wallace and Olive now live in Goose Bay where there is a little assembly.
John and Bertha had eight children, many of whom I delivered. In later years many of them came to Christ, some very recently during another time of revival. They are still living in L’Anse-auLoup. One of their daughters worked with me at the nursing station
and then later at the new health centre, where she is still working. Her mother was working with me when I first came to Forteau - so it was “full circle”!
“Uncle” Pierce and “Aunt” Rose were a very hospitable couple, as are so many people on “the coast”. They frequently
entertained people in their home during our annual conferences. “Uncle” Pierce had become an elder and when making the announcements used to say, “Now there are plenty of bake apples and partridge berries so there is no need for anyone to go hungry. If nobody asks you for a meal just follow someone home.”
Visitors stayed with the believers in their own homes, during the conferences, and were entertained by them. “Uncle” Pierce loved to sing. One of his favourites was “For to meet your mother would you like to go safe in the arms of Jesus.” Sadly, “Uncle” Pierce died suddenly of a heart attack in August 1981. We missed him very much. We sang some of his favourite hymns at his funeral and one could almost hear him joining in!
“Aunt” Suse was another gem. She used to gather the children in one of the homes and teach them gospel choruses and tell them Bible stories. They never went away hungry as she gave them a little “lunch” before they went home. She and her husband were living with their son Stanford at the time; they had a large family.
“Aunt” Suse also organized a “tract band” with some of the other women. They did up packages of tracts and mailed them to people in other communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, thus spreading the good news of the gospel. When she grew older, “Aunt” Suse continued to mail out tracts until her health failed. The year before she died she had the joy of seeing a couple of boys, she had taught in her little home group, trust the Saviour. She died in November 1997.
Stan later became a big help in our assembly at English Point where he became an elder. We always enjoyed his ministry. He and his wife Dinah had three children, two girls and a boy. A fisherman, he sadly was drowned in the summer of 1988 when out fishing with two other men. He got caught in the nets and was swept overboard and the other men were unable to save him. It was a shock to all, especially to his wife and family, and his death was a great loss to our assembly. I was away at the time caring for my Dad but missed him when I returned to Labrador.
Charlotte, Ed John’s wife, was Stan’s sister. She has a lovely voice, which she uses to minister to others when visiting in their homes. She is a real soul winner. Ed John has a concern for all and is a big help in our assembly.
Over the years many more people trusted Christ as their Saviour, and now there are little assemblies of believers at English Point, L’Anse-au-Loup, Red Bay and Charlottetown, which is a settlement further north in Labrador, and Goose Bay.
There is much more which could be said and many others whose stories I would love to tell but space will not permit. The object of my writing this book was to tell the story of my early years in Forteau and of the beginning of the special work of God there so I will bring this tale to a conclusion.