Colford, Avilla

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Colford Honoured With Dollard Medal

By Margery MacRae

Avilla Colford, Blackville, was one of three New Brunswickers to receive the Bishop Dollard medal of merit in December. This medal named in honour of the first bishop of the diocese, William Dollard (1842-1851) is given to lay persons whose contribution to the life of the church has been outstanding. On Dec. 18, Bishop Edward Troy came to Blackville to present Colford with the prestigious award at a service held at St. Raphael’s Church where she has been a life-long member. Rev. Vincent Donovan, local priest spoke of Colford’s distinguished career. “She is distinguished for her outstanding qualities of mind and heart and her notable contributions to the life of our parish and the community of Blackville,” he said. Colford was born in Blissfield in 1910 to John and Elizabeth (Kervin) Colford and graduated from high school in 1927 and Normal School in Fredericton a year later. After one year stints in schools in Blissfield, Bartholomew and Dalhousie, Colford returned to the Blackville school where she taught students in both the elementary grades (17 years) and high school for another 25 years. “Forty-two years of devoted, skilled and compassionate service to the education of the youth of her native community,” the priest said, adding that while Colford was immersed in the challenge of teaching, she was also confronting the daunting task of upgrading her own qualifications as a teacher. “Much of this work had to be done via correspondence, summer school and night courses. Blessed with natural talent and a spirit of dogged determination, by 1960 she had earned a bachelor’s degree in Arts and Education,” he said. Although eligible for retirement in 1965 and prepared to do so, it was not to be as she returned to the class room for another five years, finally retiring in 1970. On July 1, 1967 Colford was honoured for distinguished service to her country and community with the award of the Centennial Medal. “Beginning in 1932, the year of its formation in the parish, and for 62 years thereafter, Colford has served as a member of the Catholic Women’s League. During those years she has served in every office in the organization, including that of president, to which she was elected a number of times,” the priest continued. Two years ago she received a 60 year medal. Colford played her part in staging St. Patrick’s concerts which were first begun in 1921. These concerts were supported by Colford in whatever manner was called for, whether as a member of the cast, as a backstage worker, or as an organizer or promoter. “She also assisted in serving suppers, organizing card parties and other money raising activities for the support and promotion of the religious life of the parish. “She was not even above volunteering to visit the homes of parishioners to raise funds to pay for whatever work needed to be done,” Rev. Donovan said. “This remarkable lady, who before the days of church caretakers, was willing to not only clean the church but do the more demanding tasks of painting, trimming or doing whatever needed to be done to keep the church in good repair.” Until 1993 Colford was a lay reader in her church. Colford was also influential in organizing the first Credit Union in Blackville in 1936. “The Credit Union remains to this day a monument to the vision and foresight of its founders. Colford’s name is not listed among those courageous pioneers; another generation had to intervene before it would be acceptable for women to assume their rightful place in public affairs,” Rev. Donovan said. “Nevertheless, when the twenty-fifth anniversary of the foundation of the Blackville Credit Union was being planned in 1961, Colford was recognized as the person most qualified to draw up a history of that institution that has contributed in such a significant way to the growth and development of this community. “She was there at the beginning and had remained an informal, loyal and active member throughout the intervening years.” The Blackville priest said he felt it was very fitting that Colford, the great-great-granddaughter of an Irish couple whose marriage was solemnized in the presence of William Dollard, the then resident missionary priest on the Miramichi should be receiving a medal struck in the name of that same missionary priest and bishop.

Source: Miramichi Leader – January 10, 1995

Part 2

HAPPY 90TH Colford celebrates birthday today By Margery MacRae

Avilla Colford celebrates her 90th birthday today. Forth-three of those years were spent in classrooms around the province. “When I graduated from Normal School (later known as Teachers’ College) I went to teach in a one-room school in Blissfield which had Grades 1-8. There were 10 students in eight grades. I also included a couple of girls in grades 9 and 10 who wanted to write their matriculation exams. One later went on to become a teacher and the other a nurse,” she recalled. The next year, Colford went on to teach in another one-room school in the community of Bartholomew, near Blackville, with a few students in eight classes. From there, she went to Point La Nim, near Dalhousie where she had 12 students in eight grades.

In the early 1930s, Colford returned to Blackville where she accepted a position at the school located on the Lockstead hill. She still has some of the old school registers containing the names of her students of whom she has many pleasant recollections. “When that school burned in 1934, I taught at the public hall for a year. Bessie Parent was the other teacher, and we taught in the same room, each of us sharing the same space. “Monica Donahue and the principal, Tom Everett, had their classes in the old hotel where Bliss Barry’s house now stands. We stayed there until the new white school was built in 1936.” Things were somewhat different in this school as the young woman had 57 students, but they were all in three classes – Grades 4-6.

For the next two decades, Colford continued to teach in Blackville Superior School, for many years in a Grades 3-4 classroom. “I intended to retire in 1965, but they needed a teacher to teach French, so I continued on for another five years, I really retired in 1970,” she laughed.

Big Changes

One of the biggest changes she has seen from the time she started her career was respect that children had for teachers many years ago. This is something which is missing in most classrooms today, she said. “Children were taught at home to respect teachers, but this is not always the case today. Discipline is a big problem today, making teaching so much more stressful.

Colford was one of nine children born to John Colford and his wife, six of whom are still living. Ella Duffy passed away in 1972. Also deceased are Eva (age 7) and Phyllis (age 16). One adopted son, Theodore, died in 1937 at age 21.

“My father worked very hard as the village blacksmith and he educated all his daughters. We lived in Upper Blackville until 1916 when we came to our present home in Blackville. People used to bring their wagon wheels to be repaired and their horses shod and they thought we should live in Blackville as it was harder for them to get to Upper Blackville in those days. So that’s when we moved here and my father set up his shop.”

When Colford was growing up, there were no telephones except in public buildings, no radios and no passable roads in winter. “For those who did have cars they put them away in winter. We would walk to school in snow up to our knees,” she recalled. As for entertainment back then, Colford said there would be little parties at each other’s homes and other games which the children enjoyed. We used to memorize a lot of poetry, and Marguerite can still recite many of those poems.”

Then there were the St. Patrick’s concerts in which Colford played a big part. “I was always involved with them from when they started in 1932 until they came to an end a few years ago. I used to direct some of them too,” she said.

Colford and her sister, Marguerite, still go out to walk quite regularly, walking to the post office and store several times a week. She also drives her car to Newcastle occasionally. “I’ve been blessed with good health and have never been admitted to the hospital. I spent about an hour there this past winter when I had a bad case of the Flu. I’ve been in for X-rays, but that’s all. I do have a bit of arthritis, but no pain.”

Source: Miramichi Leader Weekend – June 30, 2000

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