SUBMITTED FOR SOUTHGREY.CA — It was a cold November day in 1953 when ten tractors and two teams of horses drove into the Clarke family farm lane near the hamlet of Goring to pick stones and plow fields. Irwin Clarke had spent four months in hospital with a broken back after a tree fell on him in his woodlot. The neighbours were there to help. Another neighbour helped Mrs. Clarke with housework and hospitality that day.
Lorie Smith of Grey County Agricultural Services shared this story with Robert Iantorno, Curator of the South Grey Museum, as part of a burgeoning project to record and share stories, past and present, of people helping people in Grey Highlands and environs “It’s meant to remind our community that we will get through the tough times we face today by caring about each other” said Iantorno.
Organized using the hashtag #togetherwegetthroughthis, the idea of recording stories of our local neighbourliness, cohesion and heroism during the COVID-19 pandemic came from Iantorno and was quickly embraced by the Grey Highlands Peace Committee. Said Committee Chair Lynn Silverton, “As a child I saw neighbour caring for neighbour in Scotland during World War Two. I see it in Grey Highlands today.” Silverton says she is heartened to see the South Grey Museum, the Grey Highlands Public Library, Canadian Legion Branch 333, Grey County Ag, the Chamber of Commerce and others step up to help Grey Highlanders recognize and use their strengths to support each other. Grey Highlands Councillor Danielle Valiquette has been an early and enthusiastic supporter. Said Valiquette, “The more people who know what we do for each other, the more we will help each other.”
John Butler of the Peace Committee, who is a contact point for people with stories to tell, says he has already heard tales of quiet heroism. He describes an older couple, Janet and Bob (not their real names) living in the countryside, very active in community affairs, who have isolated themselves so they can protect their daughter and her family who live nearby. The daughter, who has a compromised immune system and is about to have her second child, is at high risk if exposed to COVID-19. By isolating themselves from all but immediate family, Janet and Bob ensure they don’t catch and transmit the virus and can safely help care for their granddaughter and the mother-to-be. It’s complex because Janet’s 94 year old mother is in a Collingwood care facility. Janet and Bob can’t visit her and have limited success staying in touch by phone because she is hearing impaired. They supplement their phone calls by writing her letters and sharing printed pictures of her great grandchildren.
Butler also tells the story of a new mother in Eugenia connected to other mothers via Facebook. Amply supplied with hard-to-get baby wipes, she leaves boxes of the wipes on her front porch, to be picked up by fellow Facebook mothers who need them: no need for face-to-face thank yous.
To publicize the project, Curator Iantorno is preparing history-themed posters. The first of these features Edgeley Hazard, an older man from the village of Ceylon, who knitted socks for Canada’s soldiers during the Second World War.
“Edgeley’s quiet willingness to do a simple thing that needed to be done is a lesson for us today” said Iantorno.
Do you have a story about local civic selflessness (past or present) you’d like to share with others? Contact John Butler at email@example.com to arrange a phone chat. Iantorno is also setting up an interactive feature, as well as lots of posters and collected material, on the Museum’s web site at www.southgreymuseum.ca.
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