HAZEL (STEARNS) GIBSON (1907-2006)
By the time Hazel Stearns graduated from high school, she knew she wanted to be a teacher. While teaching in a one-room school in the Pontiac, she met another female teacher who offered her a job at Barriere Lake, an Algonquin reserve north of Maniwaki. Hazel agreed, and the two women, Hazel still a teenager, set out on an extraordinary commute.
In early May, they took a train from Hull to Maniwaki, the end of the line. There, they were met by a teamster with his horses and wagon, and they began a three-day journey to Bark Lake Depot, a stopover on the shores of Barriere Lake. They rode in the wagon when they could, but they often had to walk because the spring terrain was too rough, with mud reaching the wheel axles. When they finally reached Barriere Lake they boarded canoes with outboard motors and were taken 50 miles up the lake to a small cottage, their home for the summer. They taught English to the Algonquin community who had pitched their summer tents near the Catholic Church and Hudson’s Bay Store. In September, with the first frost, they went home. They returned to the lake the following summer, this time, thanks to a friend’s connections with the Quebec Forest Fires Association, in a sea plane. Hazel eventually graduated from Macdonald College with a teaching degree and taught at Lascelles School and Wakefield School. She married Carl Gibson, a native of Rupert, and lived in the Gatineau Hills until the death of her husband.
Video: Hazel reminisces about there younger days as a young school teacher and the trip to reach Barrier Lake.To view video of Hazel’s life click HERE. [PHOTO:COURTESY OF WILMA CHARLEBOIS]
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EIRENE (TAYLOR) MCCLELLAND (1909-1989)
Eirene McClelland was a trailblazer. In addition to her role as farm wife and mother, she made tremendous contributions to her community through her work for the local Protestant school board, St. Andrew’s United Church, and as a writer preserving local history.
In 1941, shortly after Eirene married Trevellyn McClelland, he became secretary treasurer of the local Protestant school board. Stationed behind her Underwood typewriter, Eirene did most of the day-to-day paperwork. She was involved in some major changes to education in Cantley, such as the closing of its one-room schoolhouse, which struggled to find qualified teachers and often did not see students continuing past the seventh grade. Following a series of hurdles, including widening a side road to permit the new school bus to negotiate a tight corner, Cantley students were literally on the road to better education in Hull. Soon, other schools in the region followed suite, and the Western Quebec School Board was created.
School board work was not the only writing Eirene did on her Underwood. She was also the Cantley contributor to the Ottawa Citizen and, an authority on local history, a pillar in her church, and a dedicated church organist for over 30 years, she set out to write a history of St. Andrew’s for its centennial. The scope of the document grew with her research, and she ended up creating the first detailed history of Cantley, St. Andrew’s United Church, and the local Protestant schools.
To view video of Eirene’s life click HERE [PHOTO: COURTESY OF BOB McCLELLAND]
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JESSIE (HYDE) WATERSTON (1911-2005)
Jessie Hyde grew up on a farm nestled in the Meech Creek Valley, which she loved for its quiet, secluded atmosphere. She was an exceptionally devout woman who felt the “Call of the Lord” to a life of service. Following training at Bible colleges in Winnipeg and Regina, she served in Home Missions in Western Canada. When her mother fell ill in 1949, she returned to the Gatineau Valley, where she spearheaded the momentous task of establishing a foster home for children and, following its success, a home for seniors.
In a time before social services, Jessie saw a need and set to work addressing it. She formed a dedicated team to help her fulfill her vision of a safe haven for children in her beloved Meech Creek Valley. Jessie’s team included Lloyd Waterston, whom she married in 1954, a year after the home opened. Over the years, as Jessie ran Brookdale Farm Home, she was also at work securing funds for a new building that would allow her to increase the number of children from 12 to 45. The new home was completed in 1960, the same year she opened Morningside Homes, a residence for seniors, situated across the road from Brookdale. Both homes closed in the mid-seventies after all the farms in the Meech Creek Valley were expropriated by the Quebec government. Many of the children who were raised at Brookdale still live in the Gatineau Valley.
Video: Jessie is presenting her proposal to expand Brookdale Farm home for foster children to a group of government officials. To view video of Jessie’s life click HERE [PHOTO: GVHS 02451-052]
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NORMA WALMSLEY,O.C. (1920-2011)
Of all the contributions Norma Walmsley made in her eventful life, the Wakefield Covered Bridge is the most visually striking reminder of her tremendous impact on the Gatineau Valley. When the original 1915 covered bridge was destroyed by fire in 1984, Norma’s reaction was, “Let’s get to work.” She rallied the community and worked tirelessly for ten years until this cherished landmark on the Gatineau River was back in place.
Norma was also involved in numerous other community projects, including the Gatineau Valley Historical Society, the Church of the Good Shepherd, and the Gatineau Memorial Hospital Foundation. A Second World War veteran from service in the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division (WD), where she was Senior Officer in charge of supplies for its personnel in Canada and overseas, she was an active board member of the Wakefield branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, and she helped restore the Wakefield Cenotaph with its new war memorial gardens in the village’s Peace Park.
While Norma was a leading light in her local community, she was also serving on numerous national and international organizations relating to international development and social justice. Too numerous to mention, her accomplishments have been recognized with the Order of Canada, honorary doctorates from Carleton and Brandon Universities, and a Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case for outstanding contributions to the goal of equality for women and girls in Canada.
Video: The Woman Who Lost Her View. When arsonists destroyed the 1915 Gendron Bridge in Wakefield, Norma rallies the community to rebuild the cherished covered bridge. To view video click HERE [PHOTO: HELENE ANNE FORTIN]
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NICOLE BRUINSMA (1960-2002)
Nicole Bruinsma was a mother, a popular family physician, and a grassroots community activist. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 38, with no known risk factors, she embarked on a fact-finding mission about the environmental causes of human illness. What she discovered led her to speak out about the alarming effects of pesticide use.
Nicole founded Action Chelsea for Respect of the Environment (ACRE), a grassroots organization dedicated to promoting and protecting the ecological integrity of Chelsea. Led by ACRE, Chelsea became one of the country’s first municipalities to ban the cosmetic use of pesticides, putting the health of their citizens over the appearance of their lawns. Nicole also inspired change on a larger scale. She appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, encouraging them to recommend a ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides, which they did, and several cities across Canada followed Chelsea’s example.
While struggling with her own health, Nicole fought for the health of her village and her environment. When she died in 2002, she left a legacy of protective environmental legislation that has spread throughout communities across Canada.
Video: Precautionary Principale: The Nicole Bruinsma Story trailer. To view video click HERE
[PHOTO: COURTESY OF SCOTT FINDLAY]
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