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NICHOLAS MERCER: Remembering a volunteer

Edith Tibbitts died on June 24, 2018.
Edith Tibbitts died on June 24, 2018. - Contributed

The obituary notice for Edith Julia Hayes Tibbitts that appeared on the Country Haven website was nothing out of the ordinary.

Born a Powell on Sept. 19, 1937, Edith’s obituary listed family members, including her son and seven siblings and a host of nieces and nephews, as well as instructions on visitation times and funeral information.

Obituaries are never meant to be the life story of their subject. They’re meant as a snapshot into the person’s family background, but not much else is expected.

They give loved ones and curious inquirers the pertinent information they need about paying their respects to the deceased.

To find the truth behind a person, its best to talk to someone who knew them. In Edith’s case, her obituary on June 25 is something akin to the foreword on a novel.

It doesn’t get into her work as a primary teacher in the Corner Brook region or that she was one of eight children to Frank and Mary Powell.

Nor does it say she was honoured as the city’s 1970 citizen of the year or that she was a diehard fan of the Corner Brook Royals and their baseball cousins, the Barons.

Edith’s story is one of giving back to the community and helping others.

Her youngest brother, Joe, thought of Edith as his defacto mother. She helped with him with his homework and taught him everything he needed to know.

A diehard Boston Bruins fan, Edith bought him his first shirt for his beloved professional hockey club.

Edith was lifelong volunteer and key figure in the local scouting and girl guide movements, as well as with First United Church where she was a prominent member of the United Church Women’s group.

An avid bowler, Edith was a lifelong member of the Ladies Pioneer Bowling League and helped bring Youth Bowling Canada to Corner Brook. In 1994 she was inducted in the Newfoundland 5 Pin Bowlers Association Hall of Fame in the Builder's Category

“(Edith) had a great love for the island and love for its people,” said Joe of what drove his sister

Even in the last days of her life, Edith was thinking about others.

While in palliative care, she heard a member of her church congregation had just lost her sister.

Edith called the minister and implored him to visit the grieving woman to console her.

The act caught Joe off guard and caused him to break into tears at the thought of what his sister was doing.

Volunteering is in a peculiar place today.

It doesn’t appear to be as widespread as it used to be. Maybe it is because people expect to be compensated for the use of their time or maybe

Either way, it appears to be the same people volunteering for with every organization. This volunteer group is getting on in years and there are very few stepping in to fill the holes.

Helping out with various sports teams and organizations is something that is enjoyable for myself, but I can understand why some people fail to stick with it or don’t get involved in the first place.

The gratitude isn’t always there and you’re the constant focal point for criticism.

In that light, what Edith did should be recognized.

It isn’t as common as it should be today.

Nicholas Mercer is the online editor with The Western Star. He lives in Corner Brook and can be reached at Nicholas.mercer@thewesternstar.com.

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