Regan, Burton & Theresa

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                    Burton & Theresa Regan Celebrates 54 Christmases Together
                                    By Cathy Carnahan

Christmas has always been a special time for Burton and Theresa Regan and they’ve had a good many. He is 84 and she is 81. They were married on Sept. 29, 1937 and have been together ever since. Their relationship goes back a few years beyond their married years too. Burton and Theresa were both born and raised in Semiwagan Ridge. It has always been their home. During the interview, when asked what they like best about Christmas, Theresa said, “Being together.” Burton smiled bashfully. When asked if he agreed, the smile grew wider, he looked at his wife and nodded his head. “A nice thing, too, is that Burton didn’t indulge in alcoholic beverages,” Theresa said. “He’d take a social drink, but that was it.” Burton only smiled.

The couple live in the old Sullivan homestead where she was born. The small, white shingled house dates back about 140 years. A barn with new siding is located nearby. Its empty now, but memories of time gone by still bring a twinkle to Burton’s eyes. “We kept cattle one time and a few sheep. Mostly everyone in here kept sheep one time, but then the bears got so bad everyone got rid of them,” He said. “We kept a few chickens, too, and we used to keep a couple pigs and kill them in the fall.” Burton’s livelihood, however came from working in the woods and that meant Theresa was often left to run the farm. There were many chores including milking, separating, churning and making butter. If it was time to kill the chickens, she did that, too. It was simply a way of life.

Burton is a tall, quiet man and sat quietly on the couch just inside the kitchen door as his wife shared their story.

Memories Are Fresh

Time has stolen their youth, but not their memories. “My dad always worked in the bush,” Theresa said. “I don’t think Mom ever left us alone, but Dad came home a couple of days before Christmas and then they’d both go to town and stock up for Christmas.” There were five children in her family, but each of them got something, she said. Burton, from a family of nine, also remembers Santa arrived faithfully every year. Gifts were left by their stockings and the stockings had candy treats, nuts and fruit. The most treasured item was the orange. “It was a great Christmas gift, oranges in them days,” said Theresa. “Today it’s a daily thing.” She recalls her mother always put a light in each window during the festive season too. “Do you remember that, Burton?” she asked. The old man nodded his head and smiled. “It was all oil lamps that time,” he said. There was, in fact, no electricity for many years.

Their five children were just about grown up when they put power into Semiwagan Ridge, Theresa said. That was a big event. Then the family could have outdoor Christmas lights. She recalls one year when their dog chewed the lights on the tree. It wasn’t so funny at the time, but the memory of it makes the couple laugh. That old dog has been gone for many years, but they now have Burton’s brother’s dog, Clancy, for company. The medium-sized, black canine lay napping behind the wood stove oblivious to the laughter and conversation. “Christmas was not like today. There wasn’t much money circulating, but the children always got a couple presents,” Theresa said. “I always done the shopping for Santa Claus and had it put away before they’d get home from school.” Santa also stuffed the children’s stockings, just like he had one time for her and Burton, she said. As the wings on the clock drew a bit past noon, the short, friendly old lady decided it was time for lunch.

Lots of Company

“We have lots of company and I do enjoy getting a meal,” she said. The kettle was put on to boil and a variety of sweets and goodies was carefully arranged on a plate next to some pretty china cups. Chocolate-iced coconut squares are Theresa’s specialty as her tasty fruit cakes. She’s been making them for more than half a century. “Mother always made fruit cakes and steam pudding so I guess I just followed in her footsteps in that respect,” she said. The smell of chicken roasting in the oven, the smiling faces and the warmth of the wood stove gave the kitchen a pleasant aura. “We always had one big meal every day,” Theresa said. “We’re able to look after ourselves just like we always did. And my husband had two gardens last summer, just like he always did,” she said proudly. “We raise potatoes, carrots and beets, enough for ourselves and a little more than we need,” Burton said. “He gives a lot away,” Theresa said, adding that he grows much more than potatoes, carrots and beets. Burton, however, is too humble to brag or boast of what he does. Theresa is a quiet and modest person too, but she doesn’t mind people knowing she’s proud of the man she married 54 years ago.

They’ve had many wonderful Christmases together and say they cannot recall one any better than the rest. “It seems to always be the same. It seems to always be such a happy time and I’m sure it was the same with Burton,” Theresa said. “Everyone was always well.”

Good Health

Burton again smiled and nodded his head. He and his wife thank God for their many blessings, including a good family and good health. “I had my hip broken 16 year ago and we’ve never been to a doctor since,” Theresa said. She cooks, cleans and knits and he keeps busy splitting kindling, stoking the old wood stove and watching for the mail to come. The pace in life has grown slower for them, but Christmas remains as special as always. They still decorate a tree in the living room each year and another three outside. Their daughter, and her husband, live just next door and are always ready to lend a helping hand

Theresa plans another big turkey dinner for Christmas Day and looks forward to the family coming home. She and Burton also plan to attend Mass on Christmas Eve. They started going to the special service when they were just children and it’s a ritual they’ve cherished each and every year since. It’s been a lifetime commitment.

Source: Miramichi Leader – December 23, 1991

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