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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Mary Smith...Remembered

She experienced some difficult things in her childhood. The youngest girl of a family of nine, her three youngest brothers died within a year of each other from diphtheria. What was that like for the young girl, watching them die one by one, missing them? Did she imagine that she was next? Did she have nightmares?

Short in stature as is the family trait, Mary Smith was the sister of Ernest Smith, making her my husband's great Aunt. She grew up in Old Shop, Trinity Bay, where her father James (Jim) and mother Sarah had several businesses. Mary's home was a tiny fishing community at the bottom of Trinity Bay. 

               Old Shop shoreline today

The shoreline was lined with the stages and flakes where the people made the salt fish and the boats tied up. 

                  Boat tied up in Old Shop

The place was busy from spring until fall as the men pursued the elusive cod and the woman helped make the fish.

At the age of twelve, Mary jumped off a swing which is a common thing for children to do. However, the result for Mary was catastrophic and it affected the rest of her life. She broke her hip bone and pushed her femur into the hip socket. Medical care in Newfoundland at that time was less than ideal. Mary wore a cast for a time but the result was the injured leg was four inches shorter than the other. Her mobility was certainly affected from the injury, an infection, and the shoddy repair. Life became more difficult.  

Her family lived in Corner Brook for a time when her brother Ernest moved there to work in the paper mill. Then her mother, Sarah became sick, and Jim moved his wife and younger children back to Old Shop. 

     Sarah's headstone

There Sarah died and eventually Jim married Minnie. Mary, never married, lived with her father and step mother while her siblings all moved away and married. Eventually after her parents' deaths, Mary lived in the family home on her own. 

           Jim's headstone

However she had no means of support so she burned some of the furniture to stay warm.

Eventually Mary moved to St. John's and worked at an orphanage. I imagine her enjoying her life there with the orphaned children, supporting herself, being around people.

Then tragedy struck again. Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer and she was so despondent she told her nephew, Gordon Smith, "I feel like goin' down and jumpin' over the wharf."

Mary could not see a way through this latest health issue. However, her nephew, Andrew Smith and his wife took her into their home where they cared for her to the end of her life. 

The little girl from Old Shop found her place with people who cared for her and helped her to the end, something for which we all hope.

Note: It is curious that his knowledge of what happened to his sister, affected Ern and his interactions with the medical system. On the night that his grandson, Rick, was born, Ern celebrated a bit too much and fell down on his way home, breaking his shoulder. He refused medical treatment fearing a repeat of his sister's shoddy care decades earlier.

Rest in peace, Mary Smith. 

Thank you to Aunt Marie Smith for helping to bring Mary's story to her extended family.

Historical Note:

The name Old Shop comes from the name The Old Chop, the place where the original fishers cut wood for their boats. Over time, the name became Old Shop.


Unknown said...

This a great article about my grandfather's sister.

Marie Smith said...

I love writing these stories.

Unknown said...

Loved this story about my Aunt Mary. It's nice that she's remembered!

Marie Smith said...

Thanks, Aunt Marie. I love having Mary take her place in the family history.

bill said...

I think the Smiths lived just as you enter Old Shop on the left .My moms relatives the Kellys and Peddles lived there.