|Nan at her 90th Birthday Party|
I am both very sad and proud to be talking to you today about a great woman my grandmother, Tryphena Rogers. Most of us cannot even begin to imagine the experiences and changes that she must have seen in almost 91 years. I hope that I can at least touch the surface today as I share some stories about Nan as we reflect upon her life's experiences and accomplishments.
Nan was born on January 4, 1921, to Samuel and Rachael Ann Matthews of Silver Fox Island. She was born in a generation that meant hard work and perseverance to survive. Education was not valued to the same degree as today so Nan spent much of her childhood and young adulthood assisting with household chores and helping her mother with younger siblings.
On October 28, 1940 Nan married, Samuel Rogers, and became a dedicated wife and mother. She was not shy of hard work — most women today would be shocked to see what she did on a daily basis. And although it must have been a challenge for her at times, she always had a sparkle in her eyes when she talked about her life on the island and the things she did.
Without modern conveniences, food and even clothing was often dependent on the land and sea. Keep in mind that Nan had four children while living on the island and her duties did not change because she was pregnant. Nan worked at the fish flakes drying fish, a full time job ensuring that the fish were out in the morning, taken back in when threatened by rain or if the sun threatened to burn it. She grew her own vegetables and carried buckets of capelin to the gardens for fertilizer. She sheared the sheep and used the wool that she made herself to knit socks and sweaters for the family.
Even getting water wasn't as simple as turning on a tap. Nan carried water from the well in 2 1/4 gallon galvanized buckets using a hoop. If that sounds like hard work, imagine the winter, when water was scarce and ice had to be knocked off the cliffs and carried to the house to be melted for water.
Nan was also an entrepreneur, a woman before her time. She ran her own smoke house, smoking
salmon and sometimes capelin and herring. She was known for her quality smoked fish on the
island. She probably only got 25 cents for a salmon, but that was a lot for the time. Having to work so hard probably explains why Nan was so conservative. She didn't want to waste anything, taking only the food she wanted on her plate.
In 1956 the family relocated to Hare Bay. Nan had another daughter and over time grandchildren and great grandchildren. Times were changing as well- bringing with it running water, flushing toilets, electricity, The Price is Right, Jeopardy, telephones and the list goes on. How much easier was it to put clothing in the automatic washer vs the old fashion scrubbing board? Yes, she also had a clothes dryer, but that was only used when it was impossible to hang clothing on the clothes line. I can remember that even in her 80s she was putting the clothes out, until someone threatened to cut the line if she didn't stop.
When thinking back to my childhood, it seems that Nan was always busy doing something- whether it was cleaning her house, putting in wood for the stove, berry picking, or cooking meals- she didn't stop. I can remember speaking to her on the phone when she was still living in her house and she said she was feeling tired. I asked her what she had been doing to make her tired. She responded- not much-1 cleaned the floors and then moved the furniture in the bedrooms to vacuum under them. My response was, I would be tired too Nan if I did that. She was over 80 at the time.
Nan seemed like she was always a pillar of strength and determination. When she was 70 years old, she decided that she wanted to learn to read so she took advantage of a literacy program and someone came to her house and she learned how to read. Quite an accomplishment if you ask me.
Those who knew Nan would also know that she had a strong personality and she would certainly express her opinion whether it was appreciated or not. If she didn't like an outfit you had on or felt you had gained weight she said so. Even if someone got upset with her, the next time she would give an opinion. It was never her intent to hurt or offend; she called it as she saw it.
In recent years, when she lost her husband of 60 plus years as well as close family and friends, she was once again showed perseverance and strength to move forward and keep a positive outlook on life. Even when she ill and required a potentially fatal surgery, Nan fought the odds and proved to everyone that she was a fighter- Not only did she survive; she returned to her room in Gambo and lived a good quality life for almost another 5 years. When Nan was taken to hospital last week and we learned the seriousness of her illness, I began to think a lot about her and what was important to her and what made her the person she was. I came to the conclusion that it was the result of her life's experiences, including her faith, family, and friends.
1. Nan had strong faith in God. I can remember seeing Nan and Granda on Sundays with their suits on walking out the lane going to church. After moving to Gambo, She loved watching the recorded church services that were broadcasted on the local cable show and looked forward to the visits of church groups to the home. She didn't care what the denomination was—she never did. A firm believer that there was only one God, she could go to other churches after the Anglican service was over.
Her daily ritual also included reading from the Bible and saying her daily and nightly prayers. How many times did I hear to say " I pray that the blessed Lord" whether it was to let her be well enough to go somewhere or to protect someone until they returned home.
Nan was also such a forgiving person- never holding a grudge for anything. I can remember chatting with her in recent months and mentioning something that had happened a few years ago that I was not pleased with. Her response was Kim my love, you can't hold on to things like that. You have got to let it go and forgive and forget.
2. Family- Nan had a strong love and commitment to her family- anyone who visited her at the home in Gambo, would have noticed that her walls were covered in pictures of family. Her house was also the same.
Nan always seemed to be doing something for others. She provided a home and cared for Granda's elderly parents and her own mother for as long as she was able to. She also helped with her grand children and great grandchildren when she was still able to. We all loved going to Nan's especially when there was something to celebrate. I am sure all those Christmas dinners at Nan's will be remembered forever. She tried to treat us all equally, but at times she would slip a few dollars and say "Now keep that under your hat", meaning don't tell. Even Great Grandson, Ben remarked that she threw the best parties—her 90th birthday party when all the mummers dropped in.
She also loved visiting family- even getting to visit Ottawa several times- the most recent being when she was 87 years old. When she was 89, she even came to St. John's for Christmas.
Although it often proved impossible, she wanted to know where everyone was at all times. If she expected a phone call from someone or if she phoned and didn't get an answer, she was worried to death- often attempting to track the person down.
3. Friends- Nan also loved her friends. She loved having people in her house to play cards or just to sit around and chat. In recent years, her friends were even more important since she was alone at the home. Getting together for the game of Bingo or cards gave her the companionship that she needed. In recent months she was even hemming pants for the other residents at the home— she still got satisfaction helping others.
At her 90th Birthday party last year, I remember her sitting with her friends getting pictures taken. It was easy to see the bond that had grown between them. She looked so happy and proud to be surrounded by all the people she loved.
Over the past couple of days we have been talking a lot about Nan- we all have our own memories that we have been sharing over the past few days. These memories will stay within our hearts forever and Nan will have a special place in our hearts as well. God Bless you Nan.