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Freda Gillis will celebrate 108 years with Mary Brown’s chicken

Freda Gillis of St. Fintan’s will be turning 108 years of age on Wednesday.
Freda Gillis of St. Fintan’s will be turning 108 years of age on Wednesday. - Contributed

Freda Gillis of St. Fintan’s is celebrating more than 100 years of memories on Wednesday as she turns 108.

Some of those memories include local veterans returning from action in the First World War, the Tsunami of 1927, the Great Depression and significant events of the Second World War.

These are things she related to family members over the years.

Born Dec. 5, 1910, she was the sixth child in a family of seven children of Richard and Florence Cook.

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She often recalls her childhood in Cartyville, where she spent many hours with her father in his workshop. Although this practice earned her the reputation of being his pet, she feels the dubious distinction probably spared her many well-deserved consequences for mischievous adventures schemed by her brother Arthur and herself.

For more than 20 years, Freda and husband Tommy lived in the Highlands where they worked hard to raise their five children. Fishing and farming supplied most of their food and Freda spun wool from their sheep to knit sweaters, socks and mittens.

She also wove material from the yarn for some of the winter clothing she sewed for the children. Her father had made the loom she used and he had given her the spinning wheel which had been in the family for several generations.

The early 1950’s marked a new phase when T.J. (Tommy) became a pulpwood contractor for Bowaters. For nearly 30 cherished years Freda assisted him, keeping meticulous records of essential information and completing many other tasks relating to the business.

She enjoyed the many road trips to Corner Brook and attributes her lifelong fondness for Mary Brown’s chicken to those occasions.

Last year Freda commented she felt sad because her many beautiful cards had no further use after her birthday was over. The thought occurred to her that the church could have put the money to good use had it been possible.

This year, because age-related vision loss will greatly affect her ability to enjoy her cards, she though well-wishers might like to consider the option of a small contribution to her parish, St. Columcille. Anyone interested may call (709) 645-2758.

Close to her 105th birthday, Freda was asked what she had done to be rewarded with such a long life. She quickly responded, “It’s easier for me to tell you what I didn’t do, rather than what I did.”

That statement stands today.

A small family gathering has been tentatively planned for the day of her birthday at her daughter’s residence in Stephenville.

On this occasion, Freda will be able to enjoy her favorite meal of Mary Brown’s chicken, courtesy of the local franchise.

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