Donald Legge feeling at home in Cavendish
Despite spending a lifetime in Toronto, 75year-old Donald Legge remains at home in his native community of Cavendish. The sprightly man with the thick beard shared his story with
It’s a mild October afternoon in Cavendish and Donald Legge is deftly standing on a sawhorse, holding a strip of aluminum fascia in place as his son, Randy, secures it to the eve of a storage shed.
Legge doesn’t look out of place in this scenic, Trinity Bay community. He’s wearing a baseball cap, glasses, a well-worn leather jacket and much of his face is hidden beneath a thick, silver beard. He’s of average height and looks very strong for a man who has lived 75 years.
It’s when he speaks that a passerby notices something out of the ordinary. Mainland accent. Central Canada, most likely.
Sure enough. Legge is from Toronto, but he’s very much a Newfoundlander.
His story is a familiar one, but with an unusual twist that we’ll get to in a moment.
“I was dead for about two minutes. The paramedics
saved my life.”
— Donald Legge
Donald remembers very vividly holding his mother’s hand as they boarded the ill-fated S. S. Caribou passenger ferry in August 1942, along with six other siblings. The ship was sent to the bottom of the Cabot Strait later that fall by a German submarine.
He was seven years-of-age, and the family was heading to Toronto to join their father, Llewelwyn Legge, who had earlier left Heart’s Delight in order to find work on the mainland. His mother, Carrie Jackman of Cavendish, could not read or write, and had never been off the island of Newfoundland.
It was pre-Confederation, and Donald can still recall the “outhouse” on the wharf in Sydney, N.S., that served as a customs office.
“A man came out of the building and asked my mother where we were going. She told him she was going to join her husband. That was it. Off we went,” he said.
That was the beginning of a fresh start for the Legge family. Donald went to work at age 15, soon met his future wife, Margaret Jackman of Cavendish, and the couple had three children. They have been married for 53 years.
Donald worked a long career as a motorcoach driver for a company once owned by former prime minister Paul Martin, retiring at age 59. Not one to sit idle for long, he soon took a job delivery roofing shingles in Toronto, and did that for another nine years.
It took a near-death experience to slow him down. About five years ago, while waiting at the Toronto airport for his wife to return from a trip to Newfoundland, he experienced congestive heart failure.
“ I was dead for about two minutes. The paramedics saved my life,” he said.
He now has a defibrillator planted in his chest that will shock his heart back into rhythm in case of another attack.
Throughout the years, meanwhile, Donald and his family returned to the Trinity South shore on vacation nearly every summer. He now spends every summer in Cavendish, and hasn’t ruled out the idea of making Newfoundland his home once again.
But what’s unusual is that two of their three offspring — sons Randy and Robert — moved permanently to Cavendish in recent years, despite being born and raised in Scarborough. Randy works seasonally with the Department of Transportation and Works, while Robert is unable to work because of an industrial accident.
Asked why he decided to move to Newfoundland, Randy shrugs and utters the following: “ Sure, how good have you got it here?”
After living 39 years in the same house in Scarborough, Donald said Ontario is home. However, he said, “ Toronto has changed; and it’s not for the better. We’ve lost our communities.”
“ But Newfoundland is still very much a part of who I am,” he added.
Seventy-five-year-old Donald Legge flashes a broad smile while helping his son, Randy, install fascia on a shed in Cavendish earlier this month. Legge left the community at age seven, but returns every summer to his childhood home. In fact, two of his three children have moved to the community.