Conversations with Mary – Mary East

Mary East is sitting in a straight back chair, hands on lap looking out her living room window.

Mary East is sitting in a straight back chair, hands on lap looking out her living room window.

I give her a hug and ask how she is. She replies that she is well, saying, “I enjoy life, what’s left of it. I have good home care round the clock and my boys are in good health, what more can I ask?”

It is difficult to believe this lovely woman is celebrating a 95th birthday on June 9. Although her eyes aren’t as good as they used to be Mary still is pretty sharp. We talk about when she moved to Fernie.

“This house was built in 1910, it’s still mostly in its original state. I have lived here since 1950, raised my four boys here, they still consider this their home.

“We lived on Fifth Avenue, Ganter’s house first then at the North End, Bill Corrigan’s house.” Her companion, Frances Breland says that, “Bill was Dr. East’s first patient. Bill was chopping wood and cut off his finger. Dr. East sewed it back, the next day they found bags of vegetables at their door.” Mary chuckles and recalls how in the early days she and others used to canvass door to door for vegetables for the old hospital to provide meals for patients. The conversation turns back to Dr. East.

“He worked very hard, when we first came he had two pairs of pants, one had a patch on it, we made many good friends.” Those were the days when doctors made house calls, Frances adds. I mention  hearing Dr. East say that he had delivered over 2,000 babies. “All of mine,” Frances says, and mine as well I add. We comment that the past four years since Dr. East passed on have gone by swiftly. Mary talks about being raised on the family farm south of Mooseman, Saskatchewan. “Lots of people worked there, I recall harnessing an old horse to a rake and doing that work. I didn’t do a lot of work on the farm.” But she did help her mother with the cooking and feeding of the farmhands. “I have seven grandkids and seven great –grandchildren,” Mary says proudly. “I hope to meet the latest one in person soon.”

Frances brings out a photo of a beautiful child, just months old. Mary East is someone I have known all my life, her son Craig is a school mate. I remind Mary of all the years of volunteering she has done. At least 38 years with the library on the board holding most executive positions, and then as a volunteer. “My, that was a lovely place to work,” she says. Frances mentions the many years with the Knox United Church group. It was only this past February that Mary and Doug Quail left the building committee, “each time we tried to leave something came up,” Mary says, “we just couldn’t get off that committee.”

Mary was also a 31 year member of the Legion Auxiliary. “My whole life has been exciting,” she says. “You know we were married in Sparling’s church by the same minister that married his parents.  Dorothy Hogan, the Matron of the old hospital knew about this house and asked a lawyer to ask Sparling if he wanted to bid on it.I have had a good life here.” Mary glances out of the window and says, “My, my grass is green.”

Frances says Mary still goes to church each Sunday, still looks after the church financially. Growing up in Fernie the East name was one known to the whole community. Mary and Sparling supported many causes, organizations and individuals. Both  contributed greatly to the fabric of this town and will be remembered for doing so. Frances says to make sure that I mention that an open house will be hosted on June 9, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the East home to surprise Mary on her 95th birthday. “She doesn’t know we are planning this for her, so for anyone who wants to come and say happy birthday please do come.”

Happy birthday Mary. Best wishes for a most wonderful day.

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