Gerrish, Bertha (Landry)

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                            BERTHA (LANDRY) GERRISH
                              By Margery MacRae

QUARRYVILLE – Bertha (Landry) Gerrish was just 18 years old and living in the tiny village of Paquetville when she met her future husband.

On July 18, Bertha celebrated her 90th birthday with many memories of the past 71 years of her life in Quarryville.

Bertha likes to tell how she met her husband Caleb. In the 1920s there was a large lumber mill in Paquetville and so it was there that many men in the Miramichi area went to work in the woods to cut lumber for that mill. “My father worked with a group of those men, and when they were looking for someone to wash their clothes for them he told them to bring them to our place. We thought that was great because we earned a little extra money that way,” she recalled. One of the men was Caleb Gerrish, a widower with eight children from Quarryville, and it wasn’t long before the couple fell in love.

Although Caleb could not speak French, Bertha could speak a little English, having learned it in the small one room school she attended. Of four brothers and three sisters, Bertha is the only surviving member.

“Caleb had married at 16 and had eight children before his wife died of a ruptured appendix,” Bertha said, adding that she was 19 when she and Caleb married in Blackville.

When she is often asked if she minds looking at a large framed picture of her husband and his first wife which hangs in the dining room of her home, Bertha, just laughs and says it doesn’t bother her a bit.

When the couple moved to the Gerrish homestead, Bertha remembers all the work there was to do, even to carrying all the water from a neighbours. Of course, Bertha was no stranger to work.

“We had lots of chores to do when I was young, and we had to milk cows as well as feed them, clean the barn and pile wood in the shed every day,” she said, adding that her family lived close to the school, and she never missed a day at school.”

“I also learned how to spin and card wool and even make blankets.”

Gerrish still makes occasional visits to her former home in Pacquetville where she enjoys visiting some cousins.

When she was younger, Gerrish was a member of the Ladies Aid of St. Mark’s United Church in Quarryville and she especially enjoyed making quilts with the group.

Bertha and Caleb raised a family of eight. She also has 18 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

An open house at Derby Rec. Center on July 27 from 7-9 p.m. has been planned by the family for their mother. All friends and family members are invited to attend.

Gerrish who is in good health, credits her longevity to the fact that she never smoked or drank.

Because her home is situated on the bank of the Miramichi River in full view of the old Quarryville bridge, Gerrish says when she heard there was to be a new bridge constructed in its place, she hoped to be able to live long enough to see that new bridge.

The elderly lady makes her home with her youngest son and his wife. When her daughter-in-law is at work at the Miramichi Senior Citizens Home in Chatham, a neighbour, Gail MacNaughton, comes over to keep Bertha company.

A Life Line, which is installed in her home, makes Gerrish’s family know that should their mother ever require it, help is nearby. In fact, when a tea was planned in Chatham for Life Line recipients, Gerrish was the first one to indicate she would like to attend.

Caleb Gerrish passed away on Dec. 4, 1958.

Source: Miramichi Leader – July 26, 1996

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