Dunnett, Ernest

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                                    ERNEST DUNNETT
                                   By Bonnie Sweeney


WHITNEY – He’s 91 and lives alone, but Ernest Dunnett is far from lonely. Music, laughter, conversation, love of God and his church play a big part in his life. His friends and neighbors will tell you he has a knack for making you feel better.

Friends are always dropping by, and when a few dropped in March 11, he didn’t find this out of the ordinary.

But when they kept coming, all 16 of them, he knew they were up to something. And as always, he was right. Two birthday cakes appeared, one from his housekeeper, who comes in once a week, the other from a neighbor. They came to celebrate his 91st birthday. “They’ve been doing this for the last five years or so. We have a great time and usually have some music and a sing song,” he said.

Ernest’s wife of 57 years, Marvel, played the piano in their church for years while he was in charge of the young people’s group. After Marvel died six years ago, he missed her playing. So two years ago, he figured he “could play that thing” and he conquered it.

He spends a lot of time making tapes, and has made about 40. “I made one just last week for a friend who wanted the old hymn which you don’t hear anymore: The Great Judgement Morning. It was a hymn my friend heard his father singing years ago and it took me some time to find it, but I did and made a tape for him.”

He loves to sing and is fortunate as he got older, his voice stayed strong. He can belt out any number of songs without music. Ernest loves the old hymns and the songs of old.

There doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day for him. He’s up at 7 a.m. and it takes “a little while to get the housework done,” but then it’s off to visit a sick friend or do some shopping.

He has a housekeeper come in Thursdays to clean the house, but he manages to immaculate in between her visits.

“I like doing my own meals and up until a short time ago I made my own rolls, but it takes up most of your day.” He abandoned that chore after a bakery opened up near his home. “Theirs are just as good as mine, if not better,” he says.

He still uses his snow-blower during the winter and drives his automatic Dodge truck. Some friends told him he wouldn’t be able to renew his driver’s license because of his age. Grinning, he stops for a moment, reaches in his wallet and pulls out his new license with his photograph on it. His friends were a bit surprised but he wasn’t because “I can drive just as good today as I could 70 years ago. I just told the girl at the motor vehicle office if I had to put that picture on the windshield I wouldn’t get it. She assured me that wouldn’t be necessary.”

Dunnett ready, waiting for judgement day

Their belief in God and their work with the church were major part of the lives of Ernest Dunnett and his wife Marvel.

Marvel died six years ago. They lost their one child, a daughter, years ago.

“We loved each other and we had a good, solid life together. She’s gone now, and people think I should be lonely, but I’m not,” Ernest said of Marvel.

As he places his right hand over his heart, he explains why he’s not lonely or unhappy. “I’m not preaching to you now, I only want to explain how I feel in here,” he said as he pats his chest. “I know in my heart Marvel is in heaven and I’m looking forward to the day when I’ll meet her again.

“I don’t mind telling people I’m happy, and why shouldn’t I be? I have my friends, my music and I’ve no worries. I’m going to meet Marvel one day and that will be a great day for me. Am I ready for the judgement day? I’m ready and waiting.”

Memories of youth remain vivid

Like his singing voice, Ernest Dunnett’s memory hasn’t faded. He shakes his head and laughs out loud, remembering friends and “some great times” in the lumber camps and “during haying time” – friends like Bert Mullin, Milt Astle and Bill Mullin.

He worked in the woods for Fred Sobey when he was younger for $17 a month.

His first car was a 1924 “open Chev” which cost $790 and no tax. His second one was a glassed-in two-tone four door Whippet which cost $890.

Married in 1933 and worked in the woods at the time it was “hard times. I didn’t think I would be able to tag my car that year, but my Aunt Margaret tagged my car as a wedding present. Grant you, we didn’t have much of a honeymoon.”

Later, Ernest got into painting, a job which was to last 40 years. He learned to paint “from an old fellow named Alex Hare.” His wife played a big part. “She mixed the paint, looked after the store and I took the van and was on the road painting. It provided a good life for us. We also sold rugs and wallpaper.” For a few years, his store was out of Flett apartments, then they moved to Whitneyville and ran a store from there.

“In the early twenties, I painted alone and then I started contracting. I did homes, the two banks in Newcastle inside and out and painted at Heath Steele Mines for a few years. I also painted quite a bit for Imperial Oil, doing their tanks.

Just last year he painted the interior of his home, including the ceilings. He dotted three of the ceilings with different colors and added matching borders.

He and Marvel didn’t take many vacations. He was always busy with the Young People’s Group at the Baptist church. “I enjoyed that. The young people came from the Northwest, Red Bank and Strathadam, there were about 30 of them, but eventually I had to let the younger people take over.”

Seniors find it tough

Ernest Dunnett has seen many changes over the years. He says, “You have to be pretty keen today to keep up with what’s going on.”

Commenting on the recent unemployment insurance changes, he said he has never had to draw a cent from the fund.

Seniors today find it difficult, he said, even himself. “It isn’t too bad for two people living on a pension, but it’s harder when there is only one.” To make ends meet, he has to account for every dollar.

Another enjoyment he has is watching his favorite hockey team – the Toronto Maple Leafs.

He’s an avid baseball fan as well, and, of course, it’s the Toronto Blue Jays.

He admits the Leafs “aren’t doing too well right now,” but he’ll always remain a loyal fan.


Source: Miramichi Leader – March 26, 1996

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