Salute to life ‘well lived’
A treasured link to another time was severed for me this week with the passing of Roberta Way-Clark/Jefferson.
Roberta was born in Sydney Mines in 1921 to Robert Way and Agnes Livingstone and she would tell me stories of how her father Robert (who was a brother to my grandfather Forman Way) left school at age 11 to work in the mines.
Robert was caught in a rock fall and had his leg amputated. He returned to school to become a payroll accountant for the same coal company and one of his duties was to hand deliver pay envelopes to coal miners throughout the district by horse and wagon.
Both Robert and Forman experienced firsthand the hardships in the coal mines and steel plant, child labour, constant injury and death, deplorable working conditions, low wages and long hours.
This caused both men to become politically active. Robert ran twice in federal campaigns for the CCF party and Forman was elected as an MLA in a group that became the first elected Labor MLAs in Nova Scotia history.
Roberta also talked about her mother who was married twice and she laughs when she says her mother was the first woman in Boularderie to get a divorce. She says the newspaper even printed a headline: ‘Boularderie Woman Gets Divorce!’
But Roberta became an inspiration in her own right. After her husband (Roland Clark) died she entered university at age 60, got her Bachelor’s degree and then her Masters from Mount St. Vincent in Halifax where she taught for many years.
She started programs that led to the founding of the Family Caregivers Association of Nova Scotia, hosted a weekly Cablevision show called Seniors In Action and sat on two national boards – National Crime Prevention Council and National Forum on Health Care.
Roberta received an honorary Doctor of Human Letters from MSVU in 1994. She maintained her intelligence throughout her senior years and her remarkable memory.
Another big event, which showed how she never stopped enjoying life and accomplished so much later in life, occurred when she got married again at age 88 in her seniors complex. She enjoyed that relationship to the end at age 94.
As valedictorian from Sydney Mines High School she said: “May it be said that our lives have been invested in a grand and daring venture for freedom and truth, and that with unafraid hearts we have met and overcome the problems of life.”
To Roberta, a live well lived.
Colin Waye Sydney