It is with great pleasure that MARTA once again gets to honour one of its members on a wonderful, milestone birthday. Mary Fletcher turns 100 years young on August 17th!
Mary was born in 1923, the first/eldest child of Irene (Driscoll) and James Kenna, of Little Bartibog, NB. Over the years the family grew to include 11 siblings. Life on a family farm was very busy, but luckily Mary had lots of brothers to help with the heavy work, so she became good at milking the cows! Today Mary’s son, Michael, lives on the family homestead.
Mary’s dad was a great provider for his large family, and her mom was a great cook, so even though they lived through the Great Depression and World War II, which involved years sugar rationing, Mary felt they lived a wonderful life. A favorite memory of hers is when lots of visitors would come to their home to play Auction 45’s, and her mom would make a lunch for her guests. Sometimes, there would be music and dancing in the kitchen, too, which provided lots of fun! To this day, Mary loves to play cards, especially Bridge!
Mary attended the Little Bartibog School for grades 1 to 8. She loved school and reading, so after grade 8 she continued to study with her teacher, so she could write her high school entrance papers at the Chatham Grammar School. One year she attended summer school and had to go to Saint John to write a math paper, on which she received a mark of 100! Then, Mary went on to write provincial papers to attend Normal School, in Fredericton, to become a teacher. She chose teaching, because at the time there were only 3 jobs at which a woman could work: teacher, nurse or as a secretary. Throughout the years, Mary earned 2 university degrees: her Bachelor of Teaching and her Bachelor of Arts, both from St. Thomas University.
Mary started her teaching career in 1941, at the Russellville school, when she was only 18 years old! She taught grades 1 to 9 and earned a salary of $40.00 a month, $10.00 more than the regular wage because of the local mill. While teaching, Mary had to board with a family in the community where she taught. In Lower Newcastle she boarded with the Gordon’s, where she met a young girl Rosamond, who was also in Mary’s grade 1 class. They would become great friends! Rossie says Mary hasn’t changed a bit. She is such a kind and gentle lady who never forgets anything! Mary is always interested in everyone she meets, and she has great stories to tell. Rossie continues to visit Mary quite often, and they have a wonderful time reminiscing about the past, especially about life in Bartibog.
Mary loved teaching, but one thing she didn’t like was a storm day, because she would have to teach on Saturday to make up for the lost day! Certainly not like storm days today!
Mary taught for 8 years in many local, community schools after her 2 years in Russellville. She taught in Whitney, Lower Newcastle, Burnt Church and at a private school too. She also did lots of supply teaching in Newcastle and Chatham Head for grades 1 to 10. Her last school was at the Nelson Rural School where she stayed until she retired in 1986.
In 1948 Mary married Bennie Fletcher, who was from Nelson. They moved to Coady Street, in the community, where they built a home and raised a family of 5 children: Michael, Ann, John, Bertrand and Beth. Today, Mary is a proud grandmother to 12 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren, who live all across Canada, from one coast to the other! She especially enjoys it when the grandchildren ask her about the old days and she replies that they had no phones. They can’t believe how life was back then!
For 18 years, Mary was busy at home raising her family, but in 1966 Nelson needed a grade 2 teacher, so she went back to teaching full time, fell in love with her job, and stayed for the next 20 years. Teaching there was very different from when she taught in one-room schools, in smaller communities. So many changes had taken place!
Mary enjoyed all the grades that she taught, but says grade 2 was probably her favourite, and English was her favorite subject to teach. Teaching is a wonderful profession that is very important in the life of a child’s development.
It has been 37 years since Mary retired. During her retirement, she has done some travelling, having ventured as far away as Japan to see her granddaughter, Kate, while she was teaching there.
Mary now lives in a beautiful apartment at Parkland, in Miramichi, where she enjoys meeting friends and still doing lots of wonderful things! Her advice to people about living to be 100 is, “Don’t dwell on your age; just live your life and have a positive attitude.” Mary has certainly done a great job of doing that!
On behalf of the Miramichi Area Retired Teachers Association, we would like to congratulate Mary on this very special milestone birthday and wish her all the best!
From all of our MARTA members,
Happy 100th Birthday, Mary!
Special Feature Article – composed and submitted by MARTA Wellness Chair, Lois Gilliss