Foley, Johnny (Hattie)

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                            JOHNNY (HATTIE) FOLEY
                             By Lorraine Glazier

Tucked away at the end of a lane and nestled on the shore where Bay du Vin River flows into the bay, is a Loyalist cemetery that dates back to 1828. The church is gone now. It was torn down in 1943 and replaced by the newer St. John the Evangelist church just up the road, built in 1921.

On the east side of the cemetery sits the cozy cottage of Johnny (Hattie) Foley. Her cottage is her home now and is adjacent to the old cemetery. Foley has a picturesque view of the bay and the cemetery from her large windows facing the northwest.

She moved to Bay du Vin about 12 years ago from Nelson and built her cottage on the site of the old homestead where she grew up. An accomplished carpenter, she was a workshop manager and taught carpentry at the old St. Thomas building, which is now part of NBCC. She framed part of the cottage in her yard in Nelson and had the frame transported to its present site.

As a young woman, in the early ‘50s, Foley joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and became an aeroelectrician. She was part of the flight crew on the Lancaster bombers and flew mostly test flights as a bomber reconnaissance trainer. She was the first airwoman aeroelectrician at the base in Greenwood, Nova Scotia. A woman ahead of her time, while stationed at Greenwood, Foley owned a Jawa motorcycle, a model that was built in Nova Scotia in the early ‘50s.

It was in Greenwood that Foley met her future husband, Joe Foley, who was employed as a plumber on the base. Following their marriage, they moved to Nelson, where the couple built their first house together. In the years following they had six sons.

Foley was never one to allow the grass to grow under her feet. She once owned and operated a restaurant called the Square Rigger and owned two race horses, Belle and her colt, Bells Dream. Initially, the new colt was not expected to survive because its mother was not producing enough milk. Foley was advised to put the animal down, but she was not about to give up on the little colt and, against all advice, and, with a powdered milk produced by Douglas Milk Co., she bottle fed it until it was old enough and strong enough to survive on its own. Dream is now 32 years old and is still going strong.

These days, Foley is content to paint beautiful pictures and maintains a vegetable garden while keeping an eye on the Loyalist cemetery next door. The Anglican Church dioceses maintain the property, but occasionally, when the grass starts to get out of hand, Foley takes it upon herself to mow the cemetery.

Last winter, Foley noticed the perimeter fence was looking shabby and needed to be replaced. This lady is not one to procrastinate when things need to be done. “The fence around the cemetery looked terrible,” Foley said, “and I wondered how I was going to get the money to pay for the repairs needed to the fence.” It wasn’t long before Foley had a solution.

This spring she painted a watercolor of the original church, made prints, and sold the framed prints for $10 each. She raised enough money to purchase new cedar posts and rope.

With the help of family and friends, new postholes were dug and the fence was rebuilt. But she didn’t stop there. Utilizing her skills as a carpenter, she built flower boxes around the base of each post.

From Brookdale nurseries she procured 128 geraniums in pinks and reds and planted them in the flower boxes she constructed.

Never one to stay idle, she already has a vision for next summer’s project. The view of the bay from the cemetery is partly obstructed by some alder bushes. Foley would like to see them removed next year and a couple of park benches placed on the front of the property. Foley says she will continue to sell her prints to continue to help preserve a piece of valuable history.

As we looked over the property and out toward the bay she said quietly, “I love it here, I just love it.”

Source: Miramichi Leader – November 1, 2006

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