SPRING BAY RR—The voice of Spring Bay Rural Route was silenced over the weekend with the passing of long-time Expositor columnist Erma McAllister, age 97, who had penned the social column for this newspaper for 40 years.
“It was about 40 years ago that I remember receiving a call from Erma McAllister who introduced herself and said the rural area, especially the Grimesthorpe area where she lived, was not being covered in the rural Spring Bay news at that time and she offered to fill in this gap in a column that would be called from then on ‘Spring Bay Rural Route’,” recalled Expositor publisher Rick McCutcheon. “Erma was reliable and always had her news in on time, and if something didn’t make it in the paper on time, it was always our fault.”
“I was glad to count her as a friend and was always pleased to see her,” Mr. McCutcheon continued. “It was certainly an honour that she deserved when she was named Central Manitoulin Senior of the Year a few years ago.”
“We will miss her very much in the paper, as the community will miss her,” he added. “Her commentary on the ordinary things her neighbours did (who visited whom, who was well, who was not, upcoming community events and reports on curling) are certainly a link with the past and the days when The Expositor would be filled with several pages of rural correspondents’ writings.”
“She really enjoyed it,” daughter Rosemarie Eagleson said of her mother’s column, “I think because everyone told her how much they enjoyed reading it.”
Ms. Eagleson said her mother contemplated giving up the column on a couple of occasions, but her fans urged her to keep going, and so she did. Ms. Eagleson noted how important it was to have everything right in her column, and if anything was translated incorrectly by an Expositor typesetter, it was duly noted in the following week’s news.
Over the past year, after numerous late columns due to tardy mail service and with failing eyesight, Erma began to call in her news on Monday, dictating it over the phone and spelling out each and every name.
The Campbell Horticulture Society, seniors’ club, church and Spring Bay Rural Route were the most important activities in the nonagenarian’s life in later years, Ms. Eagleson said.
Erma thoroughly enjoyed writing and, at age 90, wrote a book on the local history of Campbell Township, the area her ancestors pioneered.
“She enjoyed doing it (writing social news) and that’s what kept her sharp,” Erma’s son David McAllister told this newspaper. “She was a remarkable lady.”