Hayes, Jennie

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                                     JENNIE HAYES
                 Realizing Childhood Dream; studies piano after 70-year interruption
                                  by Beatrice Jardine


Jennie Hayes of Blackville knows she doesn't have much time left to do all the things she wants to do. But there is one dream she is well on her way to fulfilling. After about 70 years of giving up her childhood dream of playing the piano, Hayes has started learning to play. Hayes is 82, she will be 83 on Dec. 26. She practises her piano every day. "I want to be able to play very good before I die," she said at her home Monday afternoon.

Hayes, who lived in Blackville all her life, is known for her encouragement and positive attitude towards life. "Never give up. Keep learning new things every day," she said with a twinkle in her eye. Hayes' daughter bought her a piano a few months ago and Jennie has started to fulfil her dream. She has been practising her piano faithfully every day, Hayes said. "I gave all my children music. I made sure they got piano lessons, even though at times they hated it," she said with a laugh. "I always wanted to learn piano. I started when I was about 12, but after a few lessons we couldn't afford it. My mother took lessons when she was young. We had a big piano, a Palmer. I remember my brother corning home from work one day and telling my sister and I that whoever could play the piano the best, he would give them lessons.

"Well, my sister tried out for it, but I used to play quite a bit, so I got the lessons. I was thrilled. But the funny thing was that it was my sister that owned the piano, she just didn't bother to play it. I remember my fingers going all up and down the keys that day.

Playing the piano was something I always wanted to do, so I decided I better get started, after all, I am not getting any younger."

She was married to James and they have three children, two daughters and one son. "(One of my daughters) wasn't too fussy about taking the lessons, she always wanted to be out with her friends, but I kept encouraging her," Hayes said. "She took guitar lessons about 10 years ago, so she has the music in her."

"I always hated taking piano lessons and was glad when my instructors moved away," her daughter added with a laugh. "But it is funny, because I know it was because of Mom that I love music and I credit her for me being what I am today. I am so proud when people say I am like my mother. She is a good, honest person who has always worked in the background to help people out. I always told her she didn't have to do this or that, but I find myself doing the same thing." Hayes also has a touch of arthritis, but that doesn't stop her, in fact she thinks the practise will help her hands. "I don't want to give anything up, life is too precious," she said. "I try to be active every day. I cook bread, cookies and cakes from my wheelchair." Hayes fractured her hip awhile back, but she enjoys cooking and is able to do it quite well, from her wheelchair. "Mom makes the best donuts in Blackville," her daughter said. "Plus she makes homemade bread, sugar cookies and pies."

Hayes used to win prizes for her tea displays when she operated a small convenience store with her husband in the 1970s. She would take a picture of the display and send it to various contests.

Hayes smiles as she thinks about the changes over the years. She credits her upbringing for keeping her young. "I think I have kept my youth because of the way I was brought up. I used to walk a mile to school every morning, run home for dinner, and be back before one," she said. "I was always active in sports and I continue to pIay cards on the weekend and I love going to church and listening to the choir. I enjoy the Blue Jays on television and I read the newspapers to keep in touch with things. And maybe I will never be able to play the piano well, but I plan on carrying on.

“I came from a family of eight. We always had parties, played cards and danced to an old gramophone. And hopefully, I have passed something good on to my children. I am very proud of them. I can't imagine life without children, they keep me young.

"I might go tomorrow, but I keep thinking I am younger than what I am, I watch my diet and have a stationary bike I use every day to keep me moving.

"I have always loved Blackville and the people who live here. I have had a good life and I look forward to tomorrow and what it will hold."


Source: Miramichi Leader – July 08, 1992

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                                     JENNIE HAYES
                                   By Margery MacRae


BLACKVILLE – Jennie Hayes attributes her longevity to her good positive attitude, her will to live, and her strong faith. On Sunday, Dec. 26, Hayes celebrated her 90th birthday with a family gathering at her home in Blackville. Hayes says she is fortunate in that she has had excellent medical care and thinks so much of her doctor that she keeps his photo beside her bed.

Her daughter adds her mother never smoked or drank, doesn’t eat any junk food, never snacks, and everything she eats is homemade. “We can be eating snacks all around her, but she never eats any of it,” she laughed.

The elderly lady has had her share of illness during her lifetime; in fact, just three years ago when her kidneys began to fail, she was told if she didn’t go on dialysis, she wouldn’t have long to live. “I said I’ll take my chances on that, and so far, I’m doing fine without it,” she said, adding that in the last decade she has undergone a hysterectomy and mastectomy.

“I’m just so happy to have my memory because I think that’s very important,” she said.

Jennie Hayes was born on Dec. 26, 1909 to Angela (Layton) and Thomas McCarthy in Blackville. She attended the “old school on the hill” until she reached grade 9 when her parents decided to send her to the Convent in Chatham, a common practice in those days. “At the convent, I became Sister Saint Augusta. During my 1 ½ years there, I used to sit with sick patients at night at the hospital. I taught catechism, learned patience and other virtues from my religious affiliates, but I became lonesome for my family and left.

“After I came home, I spent many days helping around St. Raphael’s and became president of the altar society, a position I held for eight years. I trained altar boys and did other church-related activities when necessary.”

                               Piano-playing, weaving passions

From an early age, Hayes was always interested in music. In 1922, when she was 13, she had the opportunity to take piano lessons from Thomas Ross, a well-known local musician. “I took 21 lessons, but due to family financial hardship, I was unable to continue my music lessons. I never forgot my dream to one day play the piano, and in 1991, after sharing this information with my family, they got together and presented me with a beautiful keyboard. I spent many enjoyable hours making music rediscovering the keyboard.

After taking a course in weaving in her youth, it became part of her life, Hayes said. “I made a suit one time and modelled it in Saint John and again in Moncton. A loom was set up in my Uncle Bennie Layton’s store, and another lady, Leah Brophy, and I had a little business there. We made and sold scarves, towels, and even had our own woven material for sale if our customers requested it.”

St. Patrick’s Day was always a day of celebration for young Jennie McCarthy. “I took an active part in the plays and always enjoyed the socializing of it. The concerts were successful fundraisers for the church. One year on our way back from our travelling concert in Boiestown, a moose jumped out and struck the car I was in, giving us quite a scare.”

Riding on the hay wagon was something Hayes enjoyed immensely as a child. “I loved riding on the hay wagon. My uncle across the road from us had farm animals and I remember he used to keep butter, cream, etc. in an ice house.”

                            Husband Jim knew donuts had future

In 1943, Jennie married Jim Hayes and together the couple raised a family of three – two daughters and one son. She has two grandchildren as well.

“Jim worked as a cook for Ashley Colter at Diamond Construction, and when he retired, after developing back problems, he helped with the store we ran from 1958-1975. He used to bake donuts, apple pies, sugar and molasses cookies for the store, and they would sell out so fast. He was a great cook and couldn’t keep up with the demand! He always talked about the money that could be realized from having a donut store. This was a long time before Tim Hortons, but just look at that venture.”

Jim died in 1975.

Hayes recalled all the fun her family used to have when people would come to their home and they would dance to music from to gramophone. Sometimes they played cards, but they’d always had a lunch before leaving for home.

“I was a pretty good shot”

Another thing the Hayes family enjoyed was outdoor camping. “Jim and I used to hunt together, too, and also fish. I don’t like to brag, but I was a pretty good shot. I always got my share of partridge. Then there was a feast of partridge stew. I haven’t had a partridge for years,” she laughed.

Although her eyes are not so good now, Hayes recalled how she used to love to do crossword puzzles and remembered the $115 prize she once won from a daily newspaper.

Always having been artistically inclined, Hayes talked about how she used to participate in a contest every year sponsored by the Canadian Grocer. “I made a tea display for the store, took photos of it and when the contest results were announced, I was told I had won first prize of a silver tea service. I won other prizes too at different times. I did a light bulb display once when I painted faces on the bulbs.”

Recently Jennie spent 17 days in hospital and one of her worries was that she wouldn’t get her Christmas cookies baked. She likes to help make gingerbread men for her nieces’ families, her daughters said. “It’s her own personal gift to them. She has also sent out nearly 100 Christmas cards this year, with a letter in each one.”

Hayes’ family members are extremely thankful their mother has such an excellent caregiver. “She’s been with me for several years now and is just like a daughter. Jarmine (Hayes) is so dependable and is right here with me all the time. She works 72 hours every week; I’d never be able to find anyone better.” Hayes says Jarmine is always cheerful, loves to tell stories, and cooks great meals for her too.


Source: Miramichi Leader – December 28, 1999

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