Posted May 07, 2013 in MH Combermere ON:
Our Good Neighbours

by Lorna Tonack.

My memories of St. Joe’s stretch back to the spring of 1980, when my husband Carl and I moved to Combermere from Edmonton, Alberta, with our two young daughters. We were a young family hoping to buy land and pursue our homesteading dream, as well as find a community to grow in.

St. Joe’s supported that dream in many ways in those early years, providing not only the clothing and household furnishings to help us get established, but true neighborly support and friendship as well.

The following stories capture that neighborly spirit for which St. Joe’s is so well known.

In the winter of 1981-82, I was expecting our third child. We had found our property that past summer and had moved to our 100-acre bush lot that fall, settling into what would later become our workshop.

We were located a mile off the main road, on a rough road that was only passable from late spring through fall. We did a lot of walking or tried to stay put.

I must have been lamenting to Beverly Maciag or one of our other friends at the R.A., about not having a mattress. (We were trying to live by our ideals of voluntary poverty and being self-sustaining, so I had made a straw mattress, but it wasn’t very comfortable, especially for my pregnant body.)

Imagine our surprise one day when we looked out the window and saw Patrick McConville, the R.A. man, wheeling a double mattress on our snowy track on one of Madonna House’s famous homemade carts. He’d wheeled it the full mile from the highway!

It was such a characteristically generous gesture, and we appreciated it so much.

Later that year, in June 1982, I was scheduled for a C-section in Ottawa to deliver that baby. In order for Carl to be with me, we needed someone to come and stay at our place to look after our daughters and milk the goats.

Once again, St. Joe’s came to the rescue. Several of the ladies took turns staying over those 4-5 days. Kate O’Donnell, Jude Prashaw and Irene Toupin were hugely popular with our girls, and their generous support was so helpful to us as a family.

It is the down-to-earth, practical, generous response that lingers in my memory. St. Joe’s has touched many lives over the past fifty years. Thanks for your continued presence in our community. You are a blessing.


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