ELLIOTT: Lives worth celebrating

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Some 10,700 people died in Nova Scotia last year. Cape Breton, in particular, is losing its elderly at a great rate. According to Statistics Canada, the birth rate provided the province with roughly 8,800 replacement citizens. We are losing veterans, war brides and the first wave of Dutch immigrants.

Kentville lost a former mayor. Art Pope was a people person, which is probably why he went into politics. I remember him as the first curator of the Old Kings Courthouse Museum. Kentville isn’t devoted to its built heritage, but Art saw the intrinsic value in maintaining that old courthouse. Today, I wish there was an Art Pope who’d go to bat for the old KCA.

Opal Parker of White Rock, who died at 98, held the distinction of being the first female municipal councillor for the County of Kings. She won her seat by acclamation and proudly served three consecutive terms during the 1960s, all while managing to lead choirs and play church organs.

The man many people referred to as the mayor of Grand Pré, Ed Murphy, died at his home near Evangeline Beach on 12/12/12. An old soldier, Ed had stoically endured both a debilitating stroke and cancer.

After moving to North Grand Pré, Ed took part in Legion affairs, in the North Grand Pré Community Association, three local historical societies, Rotary and he chaired the Eastern Kings Memorial Hospital board during its last days.

We lost a queen last year as well. I was awfully glad I got to sit down with Georgie Phinney before she passed on at 88. Just prior to the Apple Blossom Festival, she told me about being Queen Annapolisa XIV. Her stories of being too poor to dress the part and having her community rally to support her were heart warming.

Another Kentville resident who didn’t flaunt her achievements was nurse Phyllis Sweet. An award-winning public health pioneer, she had terrific energy and used it to set up a pilot program offering youth confidential advice on sexual health over the phone. That experience led her to set up The Red Door in Kentville in 1990.

One of the people I never managed to interview and wished I had was Charlotte Nafthal, who died last May. I used to see her around Kentville with her broad smile and a blonde braid wrapped around her head. Only when I read her obituary did I find out a portion of her story.

A native of Lithuania, she escaped to Denmark and applied to come to Canada with her Jewish husband. They arrived in Canada weeks before the Second World War broke out with just enough money to buy a farm in Annapolis County. Lottie and Felix prospered and eventually retired to Kentville.

One of the first people I interviewed in Berwick was Betty Calkin and her obituary acknowledged her ample cooking skills. We met because she’d won an apple pie baking contest and was willing to share her tips. Another fine cook, Evelyn Lightfoot, passed away just two days short of her 108th birthday.

Mrs. Lightfoot worked as a cook for the very first hospital in Wolfville. Generous with her full freezer, she baked 100 apple pies each fall into her 100th year.

The Good Lord took home a handful of saintly Kings County citizens. Dr. Millard Cherry was a pastor at the age of 20, he picked up three degrees, left Kentucky and settled into the rich theological soil of Nova Scotia. His influence was felt deeply at the Acadia Divinity School and at Pereau Baptist Church.

Thelma Langley was 101 when the trumpet blew. A preacher’s wife, she raised four children, taught Sunday School, wrote and directed church plays, and travelled with her husband through five continents on Baptist business. Her last big trip was at the age of 90, when she took in the famed Passion play in Oberammergau, Germany.

A beautiful woman inside and out, she loved writing and penned five books, the last in her 95th year was titled Big Fish for Small Fry.

On my street alone, we lost two residents, Maxine Hill and Fred Herbin, who fought the good fight against a brain tumor. Frank Harvie and George Reid, who churned out many an Advertiser and Register, passed on too.

Harold Stewart, known to many as “Goof”, passed on when he was still an active member and a 47-year veteran of the Wolfville Volunteer Fire Department. He was the kind of guy who’d do anything to help

his family and his community.

Many losses and many lives worth celebrating at the dawn of a New Year.


Organizations: Statistics Canada, Old Kings Courthouse Museum, North Grand Pré Community Association Eastern Kings Memorial Hospital Acadia Divinity School Pereau Baptist Church Wolfville Volunteer Fire Department

Geographic location: Kentville, Nova Scotia, Kings Cape Breton White Rock Evangeline Beach Canada Lithuania Denmark Annapolis County Berwick Wolfville Kentucky Oberammergau Germany

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