Eulogy for Mother “Mady”

Frances Madeline Merrill was the only child of Boyd and Helen (McKinney) Merrill. She was born on February 18th, 1924 at Chipman Memorial Hospital.

“Mady” grew up surrounded by nature. Her father worked for many years with Grace Helen Mowat at Beech Hill Farm dying wool. “Pappy” as he was known I never met, however, I could regale you with “Pappy” stories non-stop for a day at least.

Her parents were entrepreneurs and operated Merrills Cabins from 1928 until “Mady” retired in 1989. They were the first cabins in Charlotte County to have hot showers.

Merrill’s Cabins were also the sight of the first Tourist Bureau operation in St. Andrews. As well, they operated an ice-cream shop. Helen McKinney could play a fine fiddle and would play for the pageants put on by Grace Helen Mowat at Beech Hill Farm.

“Mady’s” parents also started St. Andrews Woollens in 1944 which operated until 1984.

In May 1946 “Mady” married Lester Holmes. They enjoyed dancing, and going to Camp Digdeguash - in May to celebrate their anniversary, November 27th to celebrate his birthday and “Mady” would write her Christmas cards. The Camp was also their place to fish trout both there and at Burn’s Brook.

Lester or “Stickey as he was known with “Mady” and the boys spent from 1956 to 1961 in Darien, Connecticut during the school year working as chauffeur for Mrs. Helen Struthers.

With “Mady’s” love of nature and especially trout fishing, my entrance into the family to her, boded well for her two loves to be fulfilled by me. Why? I was born on a farm and loved nature, had a car, and liked to do things so “Mady” suggested it would be nice if we went trout fishing. I’ll take you says I but there will be no fishing for me thanks as I hate fish and I do not like worms. I’ll take a good book to read. I’m sitting in the sun, on a nice rock, quietly enjoying my book when that unmistakable sound of the wrist snapping with the pole behind you and then back to let out the line………only it was one big yelp from me as I looked down to see sunk hook, line and wiggly worm right in my shoulder. Oh, my she really felt I overreacted on this one. I’m not even sure if I ever took her fishing again.

Then there was the day that Grandma Merrill (Helen) decided that WE should have a birthday party for “Mady”. That meant - her idea, I would do the work. She suggested soup, sandwiches and cake. Great idea for a birthday in February. Now being a kind soul I decided to make a soup that Blaine would enjoy. Out came the recipes books and when I cheerfully and proudly placed it before Grandma Merrill and the others, the spoon went in the bowl, came out and the question asked: “What kind of soup is this?” Hot dog soup - after all Blaine loved hot dogs. Well, the chicken and egg salad sandwiches made up for that blunder.

Now, on to the birthday cake. Do not ask me why but cake mixes and I do not get along, however, I was prepared to make “Mady’s” favourite - Duncan Hines Princess White layer cake with lots of almond flavouring. I put a candle on for every five years and one to grow on. We cheerfully sang - Happy Birthday Dear Mady, Happy Birthday to you.

Mady: Oh, is this a cheesecake?
Ardeth: Why no, it’s your favourite cake, Duncan Hines Princess White.
Mady: Why did you only use half the mix?
Ardeth: No it’s a layer cake I used all the mix.

Now you might think that would be the end of the story. Not so, it was her 61st birthday so as she finishes blowing out the candles she discovers my little mathematical candle count meant I had put thirteen candles on the cake. I will not repeat what she said then!

Needless to say while not a perfect birthday party it was and I am sure will continue to be the most talked about one.

“Mady” grew up believing and promoting St. Andrews and Charlotte County as THE BEST place to live. “Mady” lamented the fact that she never had grandchildren to take to the Blockhouse or for weiner roasts on the Bar Road. Instead she enjoyed those forays with others - the Doon family children, the Gowan cousins from Ontario, and other kids - and some older kids too - like Nat & Rosie, Phyllis and the list goes on.

“Mady” opened her doors to many including one of those cousins from Ontario, Ron Gowan. Ron would say proudly that his Mother Colleen sent him to “Mady” for the summer to teach him to swear.

“Mady” believed in giving back to the community and was a loyal member of the Beautification Committee that became the St. Andrews Civic Trust; “Mady” had a life-time involvement with the Charlotte County Cancer Society of which her Mother was founding President; and she was a Guide Leader and even after retirement from the weekly meetings would supervise skills for young women to earn their Badges.

“Mady’s” door was always open - to this young girl who arrived all the way from Rollingdam, and others who needed shelter in a storm. Her “kids” young men and women, like me who dropped in for coffee, cheese dreams and a dose of reality. Yesterday we received an e-mail from one of those kids that read: “Your Mom’s never-ending hospitality and spirit for life has always remained with me. The coffee pot has grown cold.”

She did not like housekeeping ( a reminder to Jeff that you do marry your Mother) but loved to bake. Amen to that. Cookie sheets would come out, flour would fly, and she would be in her glory. I especially mention cookies because we referred to this as the funeral tray. It held almost a complete recipe of her shortbreads which were sent to one and all. Her shortbread cookies also journeyed to joyful occasions too. “Mady” would tell you that she really had only three specialties that she could make - and they were world famous - beef stew, shortbread cookies and last but not least fish chowder.

“Mady’s” Legacy has no monetary value but just like the ad is priceless:

♥ two sons who love their community, believe in giving back to their community, are willing to open their door to help others, and are also great story tellers
♥ she was a proud Mother and loved having them by her side
♥ she loved baking and giving it away whether on the funeral tray, for joyous occasions or Christmas trays to friends and neighbours
♥ she loved music and would approve of us making a joyful noise
♥ she played bridge, golf and loved Hallowe’en - making special bags for her neighbourhood kids
♥ the phone was her lifeline and “Mady” spoke
to Aunt Ina every day
and on a regular basis to Cousin Vern in Riverview to keep up on the family news. We are pleased that his widow Rita and their son Stephen could be with us today.
And also joining us today is our dear family friend Phyllis Green or as “Mady” would say, Blaine’s other Mother.

“Mady” taught me many things:
• how to iron linen napkins damp that are stiffer than if it had been starched
• that her blouse with the imprint of the iron complete with steam holes can be worn under a jacket to a attend a wedding (another Ardeth OOPSY moment)
• that we are who we are - just wanting to love and be loved.

“Mady” got her wish of being able to stay at home surrounded by her garden, enjoying the birds that came to the feeders, her drop-in neighbours and her family nearby. She was able to accomplish this because there were many who helped her achieve her goal.
• the Home Help girls who were a breath of fresh air and brought with them news from the outside world and did the day-to-day chores that kept her home operating smoothly.
• Extra Mural Nurses who brought medical care wrapped up in packaging that felt more like a visit from a friend just checking in to see how she was doing
• and all the rest is one big package of friends and neighbours who dropped in, delivered Couriers, made her bacon rolls, lemon bread, rum cake, friends would arrive at her door with flowers, a good joke or poem to read and it meant so much to her and to Jeff, Blaine and me.

As it states in the Bible - cast your bread, or in “Mady’s” case, shortbreads upon the water, and they will return ten fold. “Mady’s” life was indeed blessed tenfold by your many acts of kindness to her.

Wait - I can hear her now…Enough Ardeth! Go put the teapot on.