Richard, Ernest and Anna

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                                 ERNEST & ANNA RICHARD
                            Share 60 years of love, marriage
                                      By Gail Savoy

A strong bond of love exists between Ernest and Anna Richard. Their gliding rockers move together in perfect unison. Quick glances, smiles and laughter mingle as the two tell the story of their 60 year marriage. The couple remember their wedding day clearly. “It was a windy day,” said Anna in French, translated by her daughter, as she pointed to a picture of the wedding party. “Look at his hair. It’s all messed up,” she laughed.

The couples’ daughters two smile at the photo of their youthful parents, who were married at St. Francois de Salle in Rogersville on May 14, 1940. With only Anna’s sister, Beatrice, and Ernest’s brother, Armand, present as witnesses, they were joined in holy matrimony by the parish priest. After the ceremony, a celebration dinner was held at Anna’s parents’ home. “When we left there we went to Ernests’ parents where a supper was held for us and a dance,” said Anna pausing. “We never left.”

The young couple took up residence with Ernests’ parents and his brother. Ernest said the reason they moved in and never built their own home was because his parents, Augustine and Josephine, were elderly. “We had to look after them,” said Anna, upon whom most of the responsibility fell.

A young woman of 16 when she married, she was no stranger to hard work. After leaving school at 13 she worked for families in the area as a housekeeper.

During their first five years of marriage, Ernest, 13 years her senior, worked in the woods from fall to spring, only coming home at Christmas. The couples’ family had begun to expand and Anna’s days got busier. Her two daughters told of how hard their mother worked.

                              Hard Work Never Hurt Anyone: Anna

“There was no electricity in the house and the hand pump for the water was in the basement. My mother carried all the water needed each day up from there,” her daughter said. Anna interrupted her daughter to point out that hard work never hurt anyone. She would know. In addition to caring for her growing family and elderly in-laws, Anna also tended the farm. A large garden was planted each spring. Five or six cows provided the milk and cream for butter. Pigs, sheep and chickens supplied the other necessities for the family.

After Ernest quit working in the woods, he found employment at a mill in Plaster Rock. He left for work each Sunday and made the trip back to see his family on Saturday. In the years leading up to his retirement, he worked in the Rogersville area as a carpenter.

Over the years the family grew to include 13 children, seven sons and six daughters, born over a span of 25 years. The eldest is now 59 and the youngest 34.

                                        Tending the Sprouts

When her youngest child was six years old, Anna began a career of her own. She worked in the brussels sprout fields in Rogersville. Once a thriving industry that employed over 100 local labourers, it exists no more. Anna remembers the back-breaking work of planting in the spring, weeding in summer, and picking the crop in the fall. “There were acres and acres of brussels sprouts. Some rows were one mile long,” she said. Her daughter laughed as she told of going to work in the fields with her mother. “I couldn’t do it. I don’t know how she did it for 12 years.”

Both daughters said their father Ernest had to learn to cook and look after the house while his wife worked.

When Anna turned 65, the couple left the family homestead and moved to the nearby seniors’ apartment in the Residence Assomption. When asked why they moved both said, “We wanted to be alone.” For the first time in their 48 years of marriage, the two had no one to look after except each other. Or so they thought. To fill their days Anna and Ernest began visiting relatives and friends at the neighbouring nursing home every Sunday.

                                    Volunteer Visitors

“We noticed the seniors appreciated our visits so we kept on doing it,” they said. And doing it they did. Between the pair they have accumulated 6,400 hours of volunteer time at the home. They help with activities such as bingo, bowling, OKO (bingo with cards) and fund raising.

But all their volunteering is not just to help keep the residents active and occupied. There is a sad part also. The couple often sit with people in the early morning hours who are ill and dying. “The time between 5:30 and 8 a.m. is often busy for the staff at the nursing home. We go during that time so they can get the other residents up and ready for breakfast.” The couple love what they are doing. “It helps us,” Anna said with a shrug. It shows. Both Ernest and Anna enjoy good health and look years younger than their actual ages of 90 and 76 respectively.

Both daughters said neither one are taking any medication or have been seriously ill. The couple believe staying active and involved is the key. “Our medicine is helping other people.”

The Richards have other interests. They are an energetic couple who go dancing weekly at the Club Age D’Or in Rogersville. They are members of the local senior’s group where they play whist and shuffleboard. Anna line dances every Monday morning and constantly knits dishcloths and slippers as she sits and rocks. Her daughter said everyone has been getting a pair of slippers every Christmas for as long as she can remember. A long-time avid hunter, Ernest bagged a cow during the 1999 fall moose season. The couple are planning a bus trip to Quebec this summer.

One connection they do keep to the 100-year-old family homestead is planting a huge family garden each spring. Everyone laughed when their daughter said they planted enough potatoes to supply four families all winter.

This amazing couple both say they never have a spare minute. And if they did it would be filled with paying or receiving visits from one of their children, 33 grandchildren or 10 great-grandchildren. Not all live in the immediate area but the majority were on hand, including all 13 children, for the large party held to celebrate their diamond anniversary. This is only the fifth time the whole family has been together since the youngest child was born.

Her daughter said all the children made a memory book for their parents. “Each of us told a story of our childhood that Mom and Dad would remember,” she said. This follows a large family photo album that was made for the couple’s golden wedding anniversary in 1990.

The family is now planning a huge reunion of the descendants of Ernests’ grandparents, Jean and Marie Richard. Over 300 people are expected to take part in activities for three days from July 07 to 09.

And Ernest and Anna will be there.

Source: Miramichi Leader – June 06, 2000

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