Valley Lives - Ray Daly

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the January 23, 2013 issue. Reprinted with permission.

A life well lived - and then some

by Anita Rutledge

"I feel so sad that he's gone, we have lost an absolute gem in the Gatineau - maybe the last one; there is no one else quite like him. He was such a wealth of information." - Norma Geggie

A hundred years ago, he was born in the house just north of the MacLaren General Store in Wakefield, the first of three sons of railroader and farmer Michael Daly and his wife Catherine Donovan. Mary was his only sister; Victor and Leo, his twin brothers.

Valley Lives
Ray Daly died Dec. 19.

When Ray started school, the family moved to Burnside Avenue.

Two years later, his father died and the children had frequent stays at the Donovan grandparents' farm and scow docking point, near what is Mahon Road today.

At 11, Ray went to live with his Aunt Margaret Donovan. She worked at a hospital in Ogdensburg, N.Y., and Ray worked after school as a waiter. At 17, he returned to the Gatineau and his mother's new home at Farrellton, where he hired on with Canadian Pacific, laying steel, changing ties, and lining up rails. Later, he joined a logging camp near Maniwaki, finding the $30-a-month wage much better than that of CP.

During the depression, Ray came home and took up farming. He reasoned that hard times would be easier for those growing their own food and profiting from livestock.

At Maniwaki he had met an attractive woman, Gertrude (Gertie) McSheffrey, whom he married after his return.

They worked hard on the farm, and socialized at house and card parties and community square dances.

In 1957, Ray and Gertrude had a son, Gerard, born with Down syndrome.

They chose to keep him close to home in a loving relationship that existed right up to Ray's passing. By the 1950s, farm life was easier.

The burden of self-sufficiency was lifted when hydro and telephone lines reached rural areas, and roads improved so children could be bussed to the education centres that replaced the one-room schools.

Ray took a job at Agriculture Canada, in an artificial insemination program for improving cattle herds.

Later, as manager of the Farrellton Creamery Co-operative, he introduced the program locally.

About 100 farmers were Coop members, and their creamery thrived until margarine was introduced and they switched from dairy to cattle farming.

During the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, Ray took a course on preparedness at the Diefenbunker bomb-proof retreat near Carp, Ont. This experience benefited his community during the Gatineau river flood in the spring of 1974.

As mayor of Wakefield Township, Ray got the 3 a.m. alert from Low's Paugan Dam: human error at the Baskatong reservoir caused an overflow, threatening flood-prone areas along the river. Log jams formed at Low, and Ray hired men to monitor the bridges, and employed helicopters to dynamite log jams.Ray served on boards, church committees, historical, community and farm associations, and he was a founding member of Local Community Service Centres (CLSCs), introduced in the early 70s.

Other causes included the first Masham seniors apartments, La Peche nursing home, and La Lanterne sheltered workshop and Quail House, both serving intellectually-challenged adults.

When looking back, Ray also remembered the health-care battles, fighting to save the Wakefield hospital when it was threatened with closure by the Quebec government; public resistance when CLSCs were first introduced; the decades of effort and many committees that worked to get housing for seniors in Wakefield; the doctors' strike; building the new hospital, and converting the old one to private care for seniors.

Ray loved history. He was an honorary life member of the Gatineau Valley Historical Society, and helped create and manage the MacLaren House Museum at Wakefield in 80s and 90s.

Long ago, he researched his own history, learning that his Daly branch came here from Ireland, starting in 1826. Richard was first, applying for a deed in 1831, followed by Owen, Michael, another Owen, and another Michael (Ray's father).

Asked about his most memorable experiences, Ray listed them with clear recall: his and Gertie's invitation to meet the Queen at the Wakefield train stop in 1977; serving as Warden of the County; receiving the 1994 Merit Award from Municipal Affairs Minister Claude Ryan. And the Monette Family Tribute to Ray and Gertrude for their contributions to the Gatineau community, presented by the Gatineau Valley Horse and Cattle Association.

And, there was that special time in 2002 when Ray and Gertie renewed their marriage vows at St. Camillus Church after 60 years of marriage.

The day had added meaning as his only remaining sibling, Sister Mary Daly of the Grey Nuns, attended.

And, at age 80, another proud moment: his graduation from a computer course, followed by the joy of being able to get the news, check the markets, do banking and historical research, right from home.

Ray remembered his century, and was content.

Ed. note: Anita Rutledge is a resident of Wakefield, Quebec. Her tribute is based on interviews with Ray Daly in 2011 and 2012.

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