MacDonald, Gertrude

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                                      GERTRUDE MACDONALD
                                      By Margery MacRae

Call her a Valentine’s baby – a hundred times over. On Feb. 14 Gertrude MacDonald will be 100 years old.

When MacDonald was born in 1896, Canada was just 29 years old, and Hon. MacKenzie Bowell was Prime Minister.

Born on a farm in Black Point, Restigouche County, to Charles and Janet Laughlan, she was the youngest child in a family of three.

The earliest memories this elderly lady can now recall are of having plenty of chores to do. “Before we went to school in the morning, we had cows to milk, as well as feed our sheep, pigs, turkeys and geese,” she said, before heading off to a little one room school. There were no grades as such in those days, MacDonald recalled, but rather everyone just went from one book to another, according to each child’s ability.

For anyone going on to college, there were special lessons. My older sister wanted to go on to Business College in Fredericton, so she received special attention. She wanted to become a stenographer. I wanted to be a nurse, but my parents just couldn’t afford to send me for training.”

MacDonald doesn’t recall at exactly what age her education came to an end, but because of her mother’s frequent illnesses, the young girl was forced to drop out of school and help out on the farm.

Two years ago, when there was a reunion at the little school in Black Point, MacDonald was there among many of the former students who gathered to reminisce about the by-gone days.

When she was 25, she married Earl MacDonald, a young man who was employed as a telegrapher for the CN in Jacquet River. “He was a friend of my brother’s who invited him home for dinner one night and that’s how we met,” she said.

Following their marriage, the couple moved to Jacquet River where they lived for four years. Then there were moves to Renous, Harcourt, and Blackville where they remained for 15 years.

MacDonald recalled their years in Blackville as busy ones, because in those days the train station was one of the community’s favourite places to gather. Watching the trains was cause for quite a bit of excitement, she said. The MacDonald home was in part of the station. “Crowds of young people used to come up to watch the trains come and go. It was something for them to do. “I remember when the St. Patrick’s concerts were held, there would be a lot of people come in on the Whooper and on the return trip if the concert wasn’t finished, we would hold the train for them,” she laughed.

She also recalled a few train wrecks when train men had to jump for their lives.

While living in Blackville, Macdonald was an active church worker, belonging to the Ladies Guild and the Women’s Missionary Society in the United Church. “We did a lot of quilting and catering to suppers in those days,” she said. “We would meet at members’ homes, have out meetings and do our quilting.”

Quilting is one thing that MacDonald still enjoys, and in the day of the interview was busily working on yet another one – the Colonial Girl. “I thought I’d try doing this one in a hoop,” she said. “It’s the first time I’ve quilted with a hoop.”

Thirty-seven years ago Earl and Gertrude moved to Blissfield to the home where she still lives today.

Early passed away in 1980 at the age of 86. Gertrude stayed alone until three years ago at the age of 97 when she was hospitalized for six weeks. “After that my doctor told me I’d have to have somebody stay with me. I didn’t think I needed anyone, but I had to take his advice. Now I have someone stay five days a week.” A lady with lots of friends, MacDonald doesn’t have any problem getting someone to stay on the nights when her regular worker is off. “I know the doctors didn’t think I’d be home again that time, but I came home and I was better than ever,” she laughed.

For the last few years, a number of her friends have been coming to her home to celebrate her birthday. But this year, being special, they have decided to get together in the United Church Hall in Doaktown on Feb. 14 from 2-4 p.m. and are inviting all her friends, and neighbours to come.

As for relatives, Gertrude says she doesn’t have many of those anymore, but she is expecting her late husband’s nephew and his wife to come from Florida.

As for secrets to her longevity, Gertrude says she doesn’t have any, but her sister lived to age 100, her father until 97, and her mother passed away at 85.

“I like to keep busy and have things to do,” she said, adding that she and a friend had just finished putting together a 750 piece puzzle together.

“I knit quite a lot and cook when I get the chance, but I’m not much for TV, except for the news.”

Source: Miramichi Leader – February 6, 1996

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