Gertrude and Alex weren't able to have
children of their own. For a time, they hoped to find a baby to
adopt. One cold winter day
in 1957, a physician friend called and said that "their"
baby was waiting for them in another community. Gertrude remembers
this phone call as one of the happiest moments of her life. At the
time, she had been caring for some children who lived on the block,
and had to find alternate care for them so that she and Alex could
pick up their new daughter. Bonnie Joy Fraser brought an immense
amount of joy into their lives. Gertrude says that they called her
"Bonnie Joy" because Bonnie meant "beautiful" and
Joy signaled the happiness that she brought them.
Gertrude remembers a night shortly after Bonnie Joy was brought
home, when she had to go out to a meeting. She left Bonnie Joy with
her husband after explaining carefully what to do if she needed
a diaper change, was hungry, or cried. Gertrude realized later that
Alex must have been nervous about taking care of the baby himself,
because when she came home, she found that he had invited Dr. Maher,
who lived next door, over for coffee.
Bonnie Joy remembers that her mother
would make up wonderful bedtime stories that were very creative.
The stories involved a different
chapter every night. Gertrude's niece Marjorie Watt reminisces
about spending time with her aunt in her kitchen; she "just loved"
being there with her, playing hide and seek. Bonnie Joy remembers
that her mother took care of everything around the house, because
her Dad "couldn't pound a nail. We never asked Dad to do anything
Other aspects of her mother that Bonnie
remembers with pride are her "scrimping and saving for her family, keeping the house
always open to people, and how everything she did, she always seemed
to look on the bright side. My parents had so much fun, they had
no money, they made their own entertainment, and had many friends." Bonnie
says that her mother never wanted to keep up with the Joneses,
but rather, that Gertrude's measure of a person was based not on
how much you had, but who you were and what you did for others.
|Third birthday party for Gertrude's
grandson, March 1996. L to R: Alex and Bonnie Joy Gavin, Megan,
Blake, Heather, and Dick Collins.
Louise Cameron joined the family in
1959. She was about 14, and had been living with her sister.
About to have their first child,
her sister's family had no room for Louise in their small trailer.
Louise kept running away from her sister's family and made it
to Lillooet, where she had grown up. Gertrude found out that the
teenager needed a home in this way: "Her Quesnel social worker
used to live in the nurses' residence down the street from our house,
and she'd stop by once in a while when I was outside. One day, she
said, "Would you know anyone who would take a 14-year-old
"That night, I asked Alex, 'Do you think we could take her?
It would be a help." Bonnie Joy was only two years old. I said,
'Maybe we could try it and see what happens.' After Louise started
living with them, Gertrude had a fall and broke her leg. She had
a cast on her knee, up to her hip. While Gertrude was recuperating,
the Frasers needed Louise to come home every day after school to
help around the house and make supper. Gertrude says, "Louise
didn't like making dinner very much, but she did it. I think that's
how she learned to cook. She was very good with Bonnie Joy, and
Bonnie Joy liked her. She called her 'Douise.'"
After a few years, Louise left Quesnel to attend secretarial school.
After she finished, she came back to live with the Frasers. Eventually,
Louise married Don Larson, and had a daughter, Dallas.
Donelda Martindale remembers her aunt
as the type of person who made sure that family ties were maintained,
and who "loved,
loved, loved kids. Making time for over 14 nieces and nephews was
a duty that she didn't resent. I remember staying with her as a
very young girl. My mother was indisposed. Auntie Gertrude treated
us so well, it was like Disneyland at her house, because we were
used to being some of six children." Today, Donelda says, "I
just admire her thoroughly. She's just a treasure. Every time I'm
with her, I learn so much."
Her niece Heather Collins relates, "It's
almost like people look up to her. People will come up to us
when we're together and
say very nice things. They ask Gertrude if she remembers their
parents. One day, we met a friend of hers from the Auxiliary,
who said, 'I
miss working with you because people used to stop by and visit
when you were there.'"