Loving life at Saint Luke’s

Residents and staff form close bonds at St. John’s nursing home

Bonnie Belec bbelec@thetelegram.com
Published on June 16, 2014

At 101 years old, the only complaint Annie Crewe has is that she can’t help her fellow seniors as much as she used to.

I was always on the go,” she said reflecting on her past 20 years as a resident of Saint Luke’s Homes in St. John’s.

“Especially Saturdays. I’d come over and help feed people who couldn’t do it on their own, and just do whatever I could.”

Crewe was born in Hermitage, a small fishing community nestled among hills and valleys on the province’s south coast, in 1912.

She moved to St. John’s a lifetime ago, she says, to live with her sister after her husband Ches died in 1977. She’s been here ever since.

Several years later, the sisters moved to Saint Luke’s Cottages. After her sister died, 12 years ago, Crewe moved into the nursing home.

“I was active then, too,” she recalls.

“If I was only well enough to get around I’d be more busy and be able to help more. If I had a new pair of lungs,” she said, tapping herself on the chest.

Crewe said 80 years ago her ambition was to be a nurse, but having to rely on a coastal boat back then for transportation was bit of a gamble.

Plus, she said, she was told she probably wouldn’t have made it anyway.

“One of my legs is shorter than the other,” Crewe said revealing her right leg tucked underneath her wheelchair. On her foot is a wedged black shoe.

“It’s higher than the other one,” she said holding both feet together.

“But they wouldn’t say that nowadays,” Crewe said.

Sheila Williams, Saint Luke’s musical therapist, said Crewe is being modest about her involvement at the home.

She said Crewe has been a member of the tone chime choir since its formation in 2007, she plays cards, plays the organ and has been an avid knitter of baby hats for newborns at the Janeway for years.

Williams tells her she’s a pleasure to be around. Crewe gently rubs her hand and calls her “a good old friend.”

The ladies are joined in the home’s heritage room by a recreation staff member, and another resident, Myrtle King. They begin chatting about the choir and the excitement building around Saint Luke’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

“I remember the first time we performed on stage I thought I was going to faint right on the floor,” said King, who is also a member of the tone chime choir.

“Yes, I was nervous.”

King, 82, was born and raised on Bell Island. She and her husband Lloyd, who taught at the college, stayed on the island until eight years ago when they had no choice but to move.

“My husband fell off a roof 22 years ago and was in hospital on Bell Island for a long time,” she said sadly.

“I took care of him, and eight years ago they said he could come here but he wouldn’t leave without me. So I came with him,” said King, adding it wasn’t long after that he died and she brought him back to Bell Island.

As hard as that was, she said around the same time she lost a son in a snowmobiling accident and didn’t think she was going to find the strength to keep going.

“I was always a churchgoer, but you never know what God got in store for you,” she said gesturing upwards.

“I asked God to get me through it and the chapel bought me back after I lost the two of them,” said King, paying tribute to her family and the staff at Saint Luke’s for helping her through a difficult time.

“I’m lonesome since my husband died, and nothing can replace him.” 

Williams is in the chapel with another choir practising for the home’s 50th year of service.

She said starting on Tuesday Saint Luke’s will host an event every month for the next year leading up to the 50th anniversary on June 17, 2015.

The opening celebrations begin with a visit Tuesday from the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Rev. Fredrick James Hiltz.  

Hiltz and Bishop Geoff Peddle, who represents Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, will  participate in a sod-turning ceremony for the home’s new, 24-apartment supportive living facility being built on Old Topsail Road.  

Then, at 7 p.m., a service recognizing those who have contributed to Saint Luke’s will be held at the Church of St. Mary’s the Virgin on Craigmillar Avenue.

Bob Barnes, chairman of the board of directors of Anglican Homes Inc., said the organization is committed to providing a high standard of care to seniors.

“We are a not-for-profit organization. We try to make seniors’ living as affordable as possible…,” he said.

“We want to provide an opportunity for people to age in place with dignity and respect. It is very important to us as a community that aging is part of living, not part of dying, and we try our best to provide programs and services to people to make their life fulfilled and a real a place of joy to live.”

As for the golden girls, Crewe and King, they’re looking forward to the festivities over the next few months — garden parties, special visitors and a trip to Government House.



Saint Luke’s fast facts

• Saint Luke’s opened on June 17, 1965

• The nursing home has 117 beds.

• Family housing cottages have 48 one-bedroom units for 55 tenants

• Bishop Meaden Manor has 22 two-bedroom townhouses and 54 apartments

• Construction will begin soon on a 24-unit apartment building.