GORE BAY – It has been a good 100 years, wrote Heather Patterson of the life lived by her mother, Margaret Montgomery. Below is an article written by Ms. Patterson on her mother’s life, for the Recorder.
Margaret Montgomery was born April 14, 1921.
Margaret’s parents were Alexander and Catherine (Kate) McColeman. Margaret, sister Marie and their parents lived in Meldrum Bay. Their mother was the local midwife and their father was a fisherman and timber worker and later worked on the Great Lakes ships.
Margaret married Mervyn Montgomery and they lived in Gore Bay with their children Wayne and Heather. She transferred her membership from St. Andrews in Meldrum Bay to Lyons Memorial United Church in Gore Bay, where she became a lifelong active member.
Margaret was a Sunday school teacher, member of the choir and UCW member in the Friendship Circle, working together with the ladies of the church on the many projects adopted by this busy group.
In about 1959, Margaret began work at the post office as a seasonal worker over Christmas. Those were the days when lots of parcels arrived from Sears and Eaton’s. Like today, the Christmas season generated a heavy volume of mail, requiring extra help. This led to a position as a casual worker (part-time) and later to full-time employment.
Mrs. Jaffray was the postmaster at that time. After her retirement, Mrs. Marj Dalgarno became postmaster and in 1981 Margaret filled this position, until 1985, when she retired and Jo Woods became postmaster. Margaret enjoyed her years at the post office, serving the community, seeing the people from town each day and working with the staff at the post office and the rural mail carriers. She always spoke so well of them all.
Being active in the community was important. When the newly established volunteer ambulance service began in Gore Bay, Margaret signed up to take the training and be part of the team when she wasn’t at work—sometimes as the driver and sometimes in the back with their patient.
In 1969, husband Mervyn retired from his work at what was then known as the Department of Highways and took up farming. They bought the Bob Wright farm just out of town in Ice Lake. Farming was a life-long dream for Merv.
Heather says that she is not sure that it was Mom’s dream but if Dad was happy, she was too and she cheerfully made the move. They both loved the life they shared there. She insisted on having a couple of milk cows and went about milking and separating twice a day for years. She made butter, and there was cream and whipped cream on everything.
They enjoyed this life together until Merv’s death in 1991.
Many remember Margaret as the lady attacked by a bear in 2003. It was a pretty frightening experience and she was never again able to take the walks in the bush with her dog that she had enjoyed up until that time; however, the farm was home and she remained there until 2015.
She enjoyed working in the vegetable garden, caring for her flower beds and time spent in her sunroom reading, knitting or crafting where the sun poured in on a winter’s day.
She enjoyed the birds at the feeder and the deer who came by daily for a treat as well. The wood fire in the kitchen burned quite merrily at all times during cool weather and she found great pleasure in being in her home with her pets and staying in touch with her many friends.
Margaret was a member of the Ice Lake Women’s Institute and enjoyed being part of the Island Community Choir and the Billings craft group of ladies.
Tini Pel started a group exercise program in Gore Bay. There was a wonderful large group of ladies who met to exercise weekly. This grew into a morning exercise, bring your own lunch and afternoon square and round dancing group that met on Thursdays at the United Church. Then Tai-Chi was introduced by Tini and all the ladies were learning this Chinese artform. Margaret was an apt student and learned all 105 movements, became an assistant Tai Chi instructor, and took over when Tini was away.
She also took on exercise instruction and was part of the local exercise classes, both participating and teaching until the age of 94 when she suffered a back injury at home.
Margaret was part of an era of ladies who seemed to do it all. They worked really hard for their families and communities and seemed to enjoy every minute of it. Mom knit and sewed everything, and beautifully. She was a wonderful cook and baker. It was the days of picking all varieties of fruits to preserve and canning anything that you could fit in a jar, hanging clothes on the line that were frozen before they even got pinned on, making costumes for kids and nursing animals and people alike. She always had time to make up a couple of sandwiches and have an impromptu “picnic’ in the back yard sitting on a rock with the kids, just for fun.
There was an old truck that sat in the backyard while Dad was at work. She learned to drive and got her licence and it became the means of conveyance to the berry picking patches: grandmas in the front and kids in the back for a day together. She landscaped the front yard by cutting sod with a butcher knife on the side of a back road and laying it on the earth in town.
I am sure Dad was amazed many times to return at the end of the day to see what she had turned her hand to while he was at work. They had chickens in the backyard chicken coop, vegetable gardens on three sides of the house in town and parents next door and across the road to help care for in their later years. This generation is an inspiration and worthy of our remembrance and appreciation. They lived through challenging times—the Depression, war and many difficult times, but they always pressed forward.
Margaret is back to living in Gore Bay with her daughter Heather. She always looks forward to time spent with grandson Greg when he can make it to the Island for a visit with his very special grandmother. It has been a good 100 years.
Thanks to Maxine McVey and Johanna Allison for organizing a special 100th birthday drive-by celebration for Margaret. Anyone who would to join us is asked to marshal at the Harbour Centre on April 14 for 2:30 pm. Heather will have Margaret all bundled up on the porch swing ready to enjoy the celebration.