Rice, Majorie

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                                        MARJORIE RICE
                                       By Cathy Carnahan


Marjorie Rice recalls when doctors were scarce, babies were born at home, and there were no telephones. The retired nurse from North Napan turned a century old on Monday.

“I was born across the road here,” she said in an interview on Wednesday. That old house holds a lot of memories. Rice and her three siblings were born in the MacKnight homestead. The neatly, green trimmed, white house across the road is home to Isabel and Murray MacNaughton, but that’s where Rice celebrated her birthday.

Isabel McNaughton is her niece, and another niece also lives nearby. Dorothy and Harold Gilliss live in the house just next to her trailer. “They bring my dinners now. They take turns,” Rice said smiling. “That’s one of Dorothy’s plates there,” she added, nodding to the cupboard. “I get my own breakfast and supper, but of course I don’t need much because they bring awful big dinners.”

Sparkling blue eyes twinkled beneath the old woman’s glasses as she sat in a big easy chair telling her story. A grin spread across her face and she shook her head. “One hundred years. It doesn’t seem possible although I can’t do much now. I’m kind of laid off,” she said.

The kitchen and livingroom are filled with mementos of the big birthday party on Monday. There are flowers, cards, plaques and candy. Rice is particularly proud of a large plaque presented to her by the Carmel United Church. She is a member of the church and the people who go there are her friends. They always have been. “I played the organ there for four years before I went away,” Rice said.

That was more than 75 years ago. When Rice was about 21, she moved to Woodsville, New Hampshire to train as a nurse. “I affiliated at Clinton, Massachusetts and I took post graduate courses at the Infant’s Hospital in Boston,” she said. “They wanted Canadian girls.”

A smile spread across her face again. Then she listed several neighbors and other Miramichi women who trained with her. They’re all gone now, but still remain young in Rice’s memory.

She was always proud to be one of the Canadian girls, but the United States was her home for about 60 years. She lived on the Connecticut River between Vermont and New Hampshire and nursed in both states.

“There were no roads like today. Let me tell you, there have been some awful changes,” Rice said. There have been great changes - the roads, telephones, and of course, radios. “Back then it was horse and buggy days,” she said.

A trip home to Miramichi meant travel by train, but Rice recalls she came just about every summer. When she did, the neighbors always knew if they needed help, she wasn’t far away. She delivered several local babies and still remembers the names of many of them.

She also recalls cleaning and sanitizing an American family kitchen one time for surgery. The family didn’t want their 16-year-old girl to go into the hospital for surgery, because “her Grandpa” had died there. “Back them days, we had to do everything,” Rice said. The kitchen was scrubbed down and disinfected and the operation was a success.

Rice never had any children of her own. “I was too busy with my career,” she said. She did marry. “It was Feb. 3, 1941. We went to Florida,” the woman noted smiling. She and Fred Rice were partners for 26 years. “He was from Winthrop, New York, and he was a railway engineer for 45 years. There’s his picture in the hallway,” Rice said nodding to a photo of a pleasant looking fellow. “He was a good man. We were very happy. Then he died in 1967 and I’ve been alone ever since.” She looked down at the floor and her eyes watered. “I put in a sorry time after Fred died, being all alone.”

On Oct. 31, 1975 Rice returned to Napan.

She glanced at the clock, got up from the chair and said, “I have to take my medicine.” She took a bottle of cold water from the refrigerator, turned, smiled, and looked out the window to her childhood home across the road. “I get my water from over home. It’s the best water in the whole world,” she said. The medicine taken, Rice returned to her chair.

She glanced down the hallway to some wood carvings not far from her husband’s picture and said, “See those hands up there?” A beautiful carving of hands in wood are at the top of the display. “Those are my hands,” Rice said. She drew her hands on paper, then carved them on wood. “This finger is laid up. That’s how I stopped,” she said, holding up a smooth old hand.

Wood carving is just one of many talents Rice has enjoyed. She also likes knitting, crocheting, reading, needlepoint and crafts. Her home is filled with beautiful items she has made and not far from her favorite chair are two black Bibles.

God has always been a good friend to her, she said. “Oh, yes, God has taken good care of me. God will always take care of me. If you have a decision to make, you ask Him and He will help you. It’s like the hymn, God Will Take Care Of You, Through Every Day O’er All The Way,” she added. “Without Him we can’t do anything.”


Source: Miramichi Leader Weekend – March 20, 1992

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