Valley Lives - Marilyn Brown Dunn

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the March 01, 2017 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Quiet Wakefielder had a generous spirit

By Anita Rutledge

Developed before the Second World War and lasting into the 1980s, there existed at the south end of Wakefield village a close-knit community, whose residents lived in small houses along the narrow strip of land between the river and the road.

Marilyn Brown Dunn
Marilyn and Stanley Dunn with daughter Debbie on Christmas Day 2016. Marilyn Dunn was a lifelong resident of Wakefield, growing up in the village and moving to Burnside in 1968. She passed away at her home, Jan. 9. Photo courtesy Anita Rudledge.

This is where Marilyn Dunn grew up. She described the houses here as mostly two rooms - a kitchen and a front room, with a summer kitchen at the back, and an outdoor privy behind. The houses had no indoor plumbing or permanent foundations: a box filled with wood shavings and lime was built around the base, helping to insulate the home and repel mice and rats, or other invaders.

The dozen-or-so families in this modest community looked out for each other in good times and bad. About half were bachelor men; the rest were young couples with children. There were also some interesting characters, a bootlegger named Omer Faubert, and next to him the Anchor Inn, owned by Pierre Labelle, where square dances were held on Saturday nights. Also remembered with affection was disabled logger Harold McKittrick, a kindly big man who sharpened saws, knives, and axes, making a living from his home.

Marilyn's parents were Harold and Bessie Brown, and she had two brothers, Roger and Woodrow. In 1962, the family's home burned down, and their next door neighbours, Katie Taggart and her son Donald, invited the family to live with them while Harold found a another structure and modified it as the family's new dwelling.

Marilyn's father died in 1972, but the family stayed on, her mother working at the Wakefield school and Ski Vorlage. Later, Bessie signed a business contract with the municipality for garbage collection in the village, working with her two sons. Marilyn was proud of her mother for finding ways to support her family and keep them together in the days when little public assistance was available for widows.

The stories told by Marilyn about growing up on this narrow piece of land along the river are heart-warming. There was the daily train rumbling by with its shrill whistle and puffs of steam, virtually on their doorstep, with much waving to and from conductors and passengers.

At their back doors there was always action on the river - the big logs and tugboats, and more greetings exchanged with the Gatineau boom workers, watching them as they hooked and moved the logs along with their pike poles.

On Friday evenings there was more excitement as the kids waited to flag down the chip wagon on its way to Kazabazua for the weekend, lining up with their saved pennies and bowls to be filled with fresh fries.

Marilyn and her friends from this time cherished the memories of their carefree days, driving by from time to time to see the changes that have occurred along their old strip of land. None of the small dwellings from their time remain; new structures now stand in their footprints.

Marilyn retained the quiet kindness and generosity she learned in her days here, as she went on to marry Stanley Dunn and have a family of her own. Daughter Debbie and husband Brad St. Jean, and their three children, Samantha, Madison, and Austin, were her pride and joy and she kept them close throughout her days.

On Jan. 9, Marilyn died suddenly at her home in Wakefield village, at age 69. A lifetime resident of the village, her smiling face and gentle goodness will not soon be forgotten by her family, many friends, and her neighbours on Burnside Road, where the family resided since 1968.

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