(l-r Karen, Sharon, Harold, Aunt Madeline, Larry, Donna, Wanda)
Growing up on Midland Row we lived beside our grandparents. They were in the middle between Paddy and Madeline and us. We were all pretty close and had big families. Uncle Paddy and Aunt Madeline had six children: Donna, Larry, Karen, Wanda, Harold and Sharon. We had nine in all: Pauline, Rosalie, Elizabeth, Carolann, Thomas, Andrew, Theresa, Helen and Albert. We played together and spent a lot of time visiting each other’s homes. Aunt Madeline was always generous and she was one of the best cooks around so we loved to get some of her cookies and cakes. She also cut our hair and with all she had to do, she took time to talk to us and make us feel welcome.
I remember being a little scared of my Uncle Paddy before he got sick, and for a while I thought he was going to die. I believe that to a small child he was such a big man and very serious looking, and I was not used to males back then. Dad was away a good bit of the time, so we were mostly a group of girls. As a child Uncle Paddy seemed to get nicer and chatted more with us after he recovered from the first lot of cancer. Perhaps he didn’t have time before then, with raising a large family and working all the time. I think it was all in a child’s imagination for as I got older Uncle Paddy was such a generous man, giving me his wonderful trout and telling me stories when I visited my father in the summer months.
To say we always admired Aunt Madeline was an understatement. She had an abundance of energy and she seemed to be always in motion. Her house was spic and span and she was dressed to the nines and with her black hair shining. Her sweet smile always attracted us to her. My mother was always sick and could not walk very far. She was a great cook but we had several maids over the years, especially when Dad was gone away to work. Some that I remember are Faye, Bernadette and Pearl. Maids would get only fifty dollars a month back then, along with room and board.
Mom got so sick in the 60s that she had to go away to the Toronto General Hospital for open heart surgery. We were scared that we would all have to go in an orphanage in St.John’s if she didn’t come back. That was a hard thing for us to face. Someone wanted to take Helen to become a part of their family but the rest of us would have to be bundled off to Mt. Cashel. These were big worries for us. Dad had a big worry of his own. How was he going to look after all of us on his own? Mom’s sister Kathleen, who was married to Bill Byrne, brought Albert to Irishtown and took care of him while Mom was away. He was so young at the time that he didn’t recognize Dad when he went down to get him after Mom’s return home.
This is the part in my story where you know my Aunt Madeline came to the rescue. She was our saviour. She told Mom and Dad that she would do whatever she could to help out. She made all the bread for us. Dad bought cases of beans and spaghetti, and we didn’t go hungry. I know Aunt Madeline cooked up great feeds for us, peeled a lot of potatoes and never batted an eye to help out in any way she could. I’m sure she wiped away many tears while our mother was away.
Each summer I visit my Aunt Madeline because she has always been kind to all of us. We take a little holiday together up to Gros Morne. One summer we went to St.Anthony with my Aunt Carmel and Aunt Lean. We have great laughs together and it’s like we have grown to be friends, rather than just relatives. She is still one of the best cooks I know and her generosity knows no bounds. You never leave her house hungry! I can’t write a piece about Aunt Madeline without mentioning her love for Bingo. She will go to Bingo any day of the week and she has been lucky on more than one occasion. Last summer when I visited she won $500. I took her picture with the bills in her hands and a big smile on her face. She is also well known around Pasadena for her large family gatherings where she feeds up to 35 or more people. The more the merrier, is her motto.
To complete my story, I have to say that my mother had two other open heart surgeries prior to her death at the age of 48, one operation where she had a pig’s valve put in and the last where she had it repaired but died after the operation. Uncle Paddy also succumbed to his 30 year battle with cancer. Two good people who were the backbone of their families died too soon.
To end on a postive note, Aunt Madeline showed a lot of resilience when she had to go on without her partner and the love of her life, but she stayed true to her family and friends. I’m sure she had sad times when she watched her husband get sicker and there was little she could do to make him well. But she bounced back and went on with her life. She continues to join in with all the happenings in the Town of Pasadena and will always be remembered for her enthusiasm for life and her generosity of spirit.
Photograph provided by Larry Whiffin. Permission given for use by same.