Wednesday, October 01, 2014

All Smiles For Harriet

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 by Sara Jewell Mattinson.

Often a “celebration of life” column will begin with Pugwash has lost a well-known resident... but in this case, the celebration is of the life of a well-known woman who is very much alive and well. 
Harriet Barbour is about to begin a new chapter in her interesting life. 

Harriet sits in one of her favourite spots, Cyrus Eaton Park next to the Pugwash harbour.
Harriet is a Pugwash resident well-known for her friendliness and hard work both at Sunset Industries and for the village. I can’t remember when Harriet went from a familiar face to a bona fide friend but I imagine it happened after we started sitting together at the kitchen party Friday nights at the cafe. 
Harriet is originally from Labrador and was placed in foster care when she was 10. When Harriet was 26, her foster mother moved from Goose Bay to Antigonish, bringing Harriet with her but encouraging the young woman to live at the Sunset Residential Home. For the past six years, Harriet has lived in her own apartment above the hardware store. 
She was a pioneer in a program called Independent Living Support. Back then, she says she was happy to move into her own apartment, not scared at all. 
“I was ready,” she told me in an interview in 2013. 
But now she says living on her own is lonely. 
That’s why she’s moving. At the end of this month, Harriet, who turns 40 next year, is moving back to Antigonish because she wants to be closer to her foster mother. Even though she’s lived here for 13 years, to her, family is in Antigonish. 
“I have quite a lot of friends there because of Special Olympics,” she told me last week. “And I’m looking forward to meeting new people.”
This time, for this move, Harriet admits she is both excited and scared. Although the move is about being in the same town as her family, she’s not moving in with her foster mother; she’s staying in the ILS program and will have her own apartment. 
One of the things Harriet says she’ll miss about Pugwash is working for the village so I contacted Lisa Betts, the village clerk, and asked what it was like to have Harriet around.  
“Harriet has been working for the village one or two days a week for several years,” Lisa said. “She mows with the push mower, paints, cleans, helps with the banners and other decorations, shreds paper and any number of little jobs that need doing around the village hall or other properties.”
According to Lisa, Harriet loves to mow and had certain places she pay special attention to.  
“She made the cenotaph and the train station her special projects and helped to keep them well trimmed.”
Lisa wishes Harriet the very best. 
 “I will miss her happy smile, her eager help in anything she was asked to do.”
She won’t be the only one who misses those things. 
Although these didn’t happen nearly enough, there were several road trips to Oxford after Harriet, who can’t drive, called me up to say, “Can we go for coffee and a donut this week?”
What will I remember best about Harriet? She is a Canadiens fan, she doesn’t like spicy food and she loves rock ‘n’ roll. We would sing along to the radio as we drove along together. 
But most of all, I  too will remember her smile. 
Best wishes on your latest adventure, Harriet. Antigonish is lucky to get you.

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