A knot tied by a deck of cards

Fred and Eliz­a­beth lived thou­sands of miles apart, but a card game in New­found­land brought their lives to­gether

The Beacon (Gander) - - Front page - BY CLARENCE NGOH

Soon af­ter grad­u­at­ing nurs­ing school in Saskatchewan, a young and ad­ven­tur­ous Eliz­a­beth Chaf­fey had the choice to prac­tice in var­i­ous hos­pi­tals in Canada. But none of the places ap­pealed to her – not un­til she heard the name “Twill­ingate.” “It sounded dif­fer­ent from the rest, and I sup­posed I could go for a year,” said Eliz­a­beth. “What is one year of your life? “That was in 1959 and here I am to­day.” Her jour­ney to New­found­land would be the start of more than her nurs­ing ca­reer. It was here she met Fred, her hus­band of 57 years. Travel from the prairies took al­most seven days by train, ac­cord­ing to Eliz­a­beth. “We needed to go across Canada, across the Gulf, then to Notre Dame Junc­tion.” Hav­ing trained in a large teach­ing hospi­tal in Regina, her ar­rival at the Notre Dame Bay Hospi­tal took her by sur­prise. “It was an eye-opener – there was no money in the smaller hos­pi­tals,” Eliz­a­beth said. Lack of ser­vices did not dampen the spir­its of the other doc­tors and nurses in the area who worked to pro­vide the best care for pa­tients. And she was not the only who found Twill­ingate ap­peal­ing. “There were doc­tors there from all the over the world, from Scot­land, Eng­land, the Philip­pines and Aus­tralia” said Eliz­a­beth. The hospi­tal was busy in the warmer months. The pri­mary mode of trans­porta­tion to the hospi­tal was by boat, but “when (the wa­ter) froze, you could not go back and forth.” To pro­vide med­i­cal care to out­port com­mu­ni­ties, nurses lived in th­ese lo­ca­tions dur­ing the win­ter. The head nurse of­fered her a choice be­tween Her­ring Neck and Change Is­lands. She was in­trigued by the sound of Change Is­lands and set her mind on it. She was the first nurse to ar­rive at Change Is­lands and worked with two mid­wives, one serv­ing the north part of the is­land, the other the south. The first ferry cap­tain in Change Is­lands. When Fred Chaf­fey was 18, lo­cal Change Is­lands busi­ness­man WH Earle asked him to drive his pas­sen­ger boat and take him and his guests to Fogo Is­land to see the Gover­nor Gen­eral. Ex­cited for the op­por­tu­nity, Fred went back home to tell his fa­ther who said, “I sure hope you won’t dis­ap­point him.” Earle wasn’t dis­ap­pointed – he was im­pressed with Fred’s nav­i­ga­tion skills and that led to more op­por­tu­ni­ties, kick­start­ing his ca­reer to ul­ti­mately be­come a ferry cap­tain. Fred had a nat­u­ral in­stinct for nav­i­gat­ing boats and was taught at a young age by his fa­ther. There were no nav­i­ga­tional charts in the early days, but Fred al­ways found his way.

“From about 14, Dad had a small boat to go to the steam to get freight be­cause Dad had a store,” said Fred. “I had a pretty good idea. I lis­tened to the old fel­las telling you stuff, which was not al­ways right.” Fred fer­ried peo­ple on his route be­tween Change Is­lands, Fogo Is­land and Lewisporte. As he was the only trans­port be­tween the is­lands and the hospi­tal, he was called at all hours to ferry preg­nant women to the near­est hospi­tal for de­liv­ery. The ferry ride to the hospi­tal was al­ways tense for Fred. Not equipped with med­i­cal re­sources or trained to de­liver a baby, he was al­ways more than re­lieved when the preg­nant pas­sen­ger ar­rived safely. “When we got there and there was some­one to meet them? I am some glad, ‘by. When she got off the boat, there was no hap­pier per­son in the world than I was then.” Al­though Fred re­called fer­ry­ing many preg­nant women, none of them de­liv­ered on the boat. “They were close, but never had one. I was sure we were go­ing to get caught some­day, but no. We did some laugh­ing at that, I tell you.” Ty­ing the knot over a deck of cards To keep en­ter­tained on the is­land, peo­ple ei­ther “play cards or go for din­ner,” said Eliz­a­beth. She came to know Fred by play­ing cards with his fam­ily. “His mother was a great card player – loved cards,” said Eliz­a­beth, and she would reg­u­larly be the fourth mem­ber at the card ta­ble, tak­ing Fred’s place when he was away for work dur­ing win­ter. “But I did meet him (Fred) just be­fore I left that spring,” said Eliz­a­beth. Af­ter that, they spent as much time to­gether as their sched­ules al­lowed. Eliz­a­beth re­called watch­ing tele­vi­sion on the boat when Fred spent overnight at Change Is­lands. They got to know each other well and made the de­ci­sion to get mar­ried af­ter a year of court­ing. As they cel­e­brate their 57th wed­ding an­niver­sary, Eliz­a­beth beamed and said, “we’ve had a won­der­ful mar­riage.” Asked about some of the things they do to­gether ev­ery day to make a mar­riage last, Eliz­a­beth bursts out laugh­ing. “The dishes,” she said. “I said, I’ll cook, and you’ll do the dishes. “And I al­ways said we have two tele­vi­sions and thanks God be­cause he is a hockey man and I am not.” And how would she de­scribe Fred us­ing the anal­ogy of a deck of cards? “Well, I’d bet­ter say he would be the king, wouldn’t I?” she laughed. clarence.ngoh@gan­der­bea­con.ca


Fred and Eliz­a­beth, mar­ried for 57 years, met in Change Is­lands when Eliz­a­beth worked as a nurse and Fred was a ferry cap­tain. Lit­tle did they know a card game would trans­form their lives for­ever.

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