Family honours heroic efforts, 100 years later

Steve Bartlett
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A wreath was laid at the grave of Emily Day Wednesday. Day died on July 18, 1912 following the Tilt Cove avalanche but saved the life of a child during the event. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

A heroine who died 100 years ago was remembered Wednesday evening when a wreath was laid on her St. John’s grave.

Judy Powell of Calgary paid for the circle of flowers, and she arranged for someone to lay it against Emily Day’s headstone in the Anglican cemetery off Forest Road.

“I just wanted to make a gesture to show that she is not forgotten,” Powell said from Alberta Wednesday.

“I’ve just never been able to get her out of my mind.”

It’s easy to understand why Day’s actions would stay fresh with someone, even if the story of her bravery and perseverance has been passed down by family members for a century.

On March 11, 1912, a deadly avalanche ripped through two homes in Tilt Cove on the Baie Verte Peninsula.

Four people died in Francis Williams’ home, including Williams, his son and two servants.

However, none of William Cunningham’s family died in the house next door — thanks to the bravery of the family servant, Day.

Selfless action

The rushing snow pinned her against the woodstove, where she’d stayed for two hours clutching little Edward Cunningham in her arms.

The three-year-old was slightly burned and survived.

His guardian angel, however, was seriously burned and eventually transported to St. John’s General Hospital.

Day succumbed to her injuries on July 18, 1912. The boy she saved was Powell’s great-uncle.

Powell’s grandfather, Cecil Cunningham — Edward’s older brother — was 15 when the avalanche destroyed the family homestead.

She never knew her great-uncle, but has an idea how her grandfather would view the wreath-laying.

“I think he would think it’s quite lovely, and my mother is still alive ... and she’s just really tickled and thrilled with the idea.”

Besides honouring someone whose heroics shaped her family history, Powell hopes the wreath-laying brings forth more information about Day.

“Because all I really have is her name and I have her age from the gravestone. We don’t know where she came from, or if she had any family or any remaining descendents, and we would just love to hear from them. … And we’d like them to know she hasn’t been forgotten either.”

Recently found out about headstone

Powell wasn’t aware of Day’s headstone until the 100th anniversary of the avalanche in March.

After seeing a photo of it, she pledged to try and remember Day on the anniversary of her death.

According to, Day’s heroism “garnered her some public attention in the last few months of her life.”

In fact, the history blog continues, The Girls Friendly Society was so impressed it helped commission the headstone for Day’s grave.

“Erected by the Girls Friendly Society and others to the memory of Emily Day, aged 29 years who died July 18, 1912 from injuries received while saving the life of a child in the Tilt Cove Avalanche. Greater Love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends.”

The main purpose of the Girls Friendly Society was to help arrange recreational activities for the young domestic servants of St. John’s big houses on their days off.

Twitter: @SteveBartlett_

Organizations: The Girls Friendly Society, General Hospital

Geographic location: Calgary, Forest Road, Alberta Tilt Cove

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Recent comments

  • joan scott
    July 19, 2012 - 08:29

    Yeah, to everyone involved from Emily Day, down to Steve Bartlett.