Farewell to a Brigus Bruin

Shannon Duff
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He spent most of his life working, living and loving in Brigus, Conception Bay, but he also had a fondness for Labrador, his birthplace.
David Churchill Jerrett was born in Traviston, Labrador to Ernest and Ruth Jerrett in 1927

“He lived in Brigus most of his life,” says George, Dave’s younger brother.

At 84, George still has many keen memories of his older brother and the full life he led.

“Dad used to go look after his father’s fishing business in Indian Harbour and Dave would stay down and trap in the winter with Dad.”

Well into his teens Dave would travel to the Big Land with his father and he always kept a soft spot in his heart for the most northern part of the province.

George says his and Dave’s childhood was typical of the 1930s and ’40s and they got along like most brothers do.

“He was a good brother, and he was a fun guy. He was a really nice person.”

But there was hardship at a young age. In 1937, their mother died. Dave was just 10 years old. Then, in 1958, their father died, leaving Dave and George and their other brothers and sisters to run the family-owned business, E.B Jerrett & Sons in Brigus, where the town hall now stands.

“My grandfather started it up in 1867,” says George.

They sold everything from feed to nails, to groceries, to coal. All the Jerrett children helped out.

“I worked there and Dave worked there,” George says.

He said his brother was well known for his generosity.

“When people would come to the store he always had a bag of candy for the children.”

Like another Newfoundlander who famously lied about his age to join the war effort, Dave was only a teen when he signed up.

“He joined when he was 16,” says George. “He said he was 17 but that was the only way he could get in. He signed up and was a gunner for the military.”

George says he doesn’t know much about his brother’s experiences during the war because Dave didn’t like to talk about it.

“I know they did their training over in England but I don’t know if he was involved in any fighting.”

Back in the mid-’60s, Dave became a driving force behind the very first Brigus town council. He served on council for many years, as did George, who served as mayor for a term, but the brothers never did sit at the decision table at the same time.

“He was on before I was,” says George who claims he wasn’t persuaded into running for municipal politics by his slightly older brother. “No, not really,” he says with a laugh.

The current mayor of Brigus, Byron Rodway, remembers Dave as a kind and gentle man.

“I served a term on council with Dave Jerrett from 1990-93. It was my first stint in politics. I enjoyed being on council with him, he was a real gentleman,” he says.

“Dave was an interesting fella. He was the kind of guy that didn’t make a lot of noise. He sat back and he’d think and then he’d speak. He wasn’t the type to be shouting and roaring and bawling. I found him to be really, really good on council. I learned from him, of course. You’d learn at the meetings and then later you’d sit around and chat. You’d pick up so much then, too — you pick up little tips, little things that you needed to know.”

On a personal level, Rodway, who grew up just down the street from the Jerretts, found the entire family easy to get along with.

“I’ve known the family for years and years and years. I’ve known Dave Jerrett a long time.The Jerretts were a crowd that got along.”

Dave’s leadership shone through again a year after he led the move to form a community council when he helped start up a local fire department. George later became a member of the fire department, but again he didn’t get to work with his brother.

“He retired from it before I started.”

Dave wore another hat as secretary of the Fisheries Loan Board. In that position as well, his kind heart prevailed.

“When he was on the loan board, fishermen (from across the province) would come and see him about getting a loan to get a boat or maybe build their boats. He travelled a lot talking to fishermen. A lot of fishermen said how good he was to help them and get a loan.”

While they never worked together, George and Dave did play together for the same hockey team. Back in the ’40s and ’50s, the Brigus Bruins of the Conception Bay North Senior Hockey League were the envy of the local hockey world, known for their skilful and veteran players.

Three of the Jerrett boys played on that team.

“We won the Conception Bay North Hockey Championship seven years straight. And we did the official opening of the Harbour Grace Stadium. We played against Harbour Grace when they opened their stadium down there, February 1958.”

First goal

George remembers it as if it were yesterday.

“He scored the first goal in that stadium. I was very proud.”

Always with young hearts, the Jerrett brothers held fast to their love of life even in their later years. Every year during the Brigus Blueberry Festival they took part in a “Missed Blueberry Pageant.”

“I was the MC for that for 23 years,” says George. “And I only retired from that this year. We had seven men dressed as women. We called it the Missed Blueberry because some missed the plane, some missed the train and some missed their calling and some were fired at and missed.”

In only his second year as a contestant in the pageant, Dave took home some hardware.

“He became the Queen,” George chuckles as he remembers.

He said part of the fun was giving the contestants nicknames.

“He was the on the town council at that time and I said he was representing the town council and I called him ‘Miss Municipal Dump.’”

George says he and his brother had “a roaring time” at that.

Rodway says Dave was a very easy-going guy.

“Every year during the Brigus Blueberry Festival, Dave’s driveway would often be blocked and all he would ever say is, ‘That’s fine.’ Their house is not 50 feet from the Saturday night bandstand, and he was 86 this past summer, and he never complained — never a word.”

Dave was an avid baker who was well known for his homemade bread.

“He was a good breadmaker. He’d make beautiful bread,” says George. “He’d make 17 or 18 loaves of bread at one time.”

Dave spent a lot of time berrypicking, as well, and even though he had his driver’s licence, he still preferred to ride his bicycle whenever the weather permitted.

“He was always riding his bike. Especially when he got older. He bought his last bike when he was 79.”

Dave’s health took a turn in recent years. He underwent surgery for bowel cancer twice.

“In all that time, he never did complain,” says George.

 He was at home on Dec. 7 when his life came to an end, peacefully, after 86 years.

George misses his brother very much.

“When he was sick ... every day I went to see him.”

Dave had many loves in his life, but his most treasured possession was his family, says George.

“He loved his family and his grandchildren. He spent a lot of time with them.”

A funeral service was held at Broughton’s Memorial Chapel on  Dec. 13, with inurnment at St. George’s Anglican Cemetery, Brigus.

telegram@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Brigus town council, Fisheries Loan Board, Conception Bay North Senior Hockey League

Geographic location: Brigus, Indian Harbour, England Harbour Grace Stadium

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  • wendy(baldwin) woodman
    December 21, 2013 - 18:23

    This is an amazing story, so glad this was published. I have missed seeing him ride his bike and always smiling. He was an amazing man and will surely be missed in the community. Rest in Peace Mr.Jerret