Valley Lives - Elsie Bedard

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the November 04, 2015 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Low loses 'brave little Irish woman'

by Ben Bulmer

She threw snowballs to ward off a wolf, stood up and won a battle with Canada Post, and was still cooking for herself and her husband at 92.

Elsie Bedard is described by her eldest son, David Bedard, as a "brave little Irish woman" who was "always there for anyone who needed her."

"She stood up for herself," said David Bedard, "and she stood up for anybody who she thought needed standing up for."

Elsie Bedard
Born Elsie Maye Pearl McCagherty in Ottawa on Mar. 2 1923, Elsie Bedard spent the first nine years of her life in a logging camp outside of Lake Dumoine in Western Quebec. In Low she was active in the community, at one point taking on Canada Post and winning. Sheri Johnston photo.

Her small stature was overshadowed by her larger-than-life personality, sly sense of humour, and ability to laugh at herself, says David Bedard, adding, "she called a spade a spade."

Born Elsie Maye Pearl McCagherty in Ottawa on Mar. 2 1923, Elsie Bedard spent the first nine years of her life in a logging camp outside of Lake Dumoine in Western Quebec where her father worked as a log scaler. The remote location didn't provide for getting an education, so Elsie didn't start school until she was nine, when the family moved back to Ottawa.

The family faired better than some in the depression years, says David Bedard, in part because Elsie was an only child. She took up studies at the private Ottawa Ladies College, then transferred to Glebe Collegiate. After finishing high school she worked for MetLife Insurance in Ottawa. She often visited Témiscaming on the banks of the Outaouais River in Western Quebec to visit her aunt who ran a boarding house, and this was where she met her future husband, George Bedard. The couple married in 1952 and celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary on Oct. 3 this year. They moved to Low in 1969 and built the house where her husband still lives.

"Mother would carry the shingles up... a 45-foot ladder on to the roof," said David Bedard.

The couple had four children: David (Jacqui Haffner), Peri (Wayne Kerr), Donald (Sheri Johnston), and Paul, who died in 2003, and two grandchildren, Matthew and Adam Kerr.

Daughter-in-law Sheri Johnston remembers her mother-in-law as "always a caring and giving person," and "extremely practical." Back in the days before security guards, says Johnston, Elsie was tasked with carrying a "large" sum of money by train from the Bank of Montreal where she worked in Témiscaming to a central branch.

"They gave her a gun," said Johnston. "She didn't want to take it, but the bank manager forced her... so she stuck it her purse." Luckily, Johnston adds, she didn't have to use it.

The mother-in-law Johnston refers to simply as 'Mum' was well known for her "very sharp wit" and "sense of humour."

Long-term friend Heather Rathwell reiterated Elsie's sense of humour. After over 60 years of friendship, Rathwell received a birthday card for her 84th birthday in June this year.

"The card said Happy Birthday, which is normal," said Rathwell, "and then it went on: 'Getting old is the pits'. I think that explains a lot about her."

"Part of Mum's Irish feistiness was that she'd never give up," said Johnston, and nothing illustrates this more clearly than her battle with Canada Post. At age 86, Elsie successfully fought not to have her mailbox moved, and received a mention in the House of Commons by then Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff regarding her battle.

Her pragmatic nature and "no fear" attitude saw her once fend off a timber wolf with snowballs. David Bedard said, "If she thought she was right, then God help you."

Barry Wilson met Elsie at the Low United Church in the early 1980s and reiterates David Bedard's comments: "Elsie was a force to be reckoned with," he said.

"Elsie was an amazingly energetic and forceful person," said Wilson. "She loved her church and was very, very active in the community."

Wilson's admiration for his friend is clear when he describes Elsie as being like the hockey player, Gordie Howe: "not someone you want to go into the corners with if your elbows aren't up."

But Wilson remembers well her very kind and caring nature and the homemade bread she baked for communion service. "It was wonderful."

Elsie Bedard passed away peacefully at the Wakefield Hospital Oct. 23, 2015.

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