One of Gertrude's most fulfilling but painful experiences was being
a foster mother for a lovely young girl, Jeannie Lavington. Her
father, Dude Lavington, was a single father. His wife Ruth, a schoolteacher
before their marriage, died giving birth to Jeannie. She was his
only child, and he loved her. However, his ranch was at least three
hours from Quesnel, on a narrow, difficult road. Their home was
miles from the nearest neighbor.
The winter of 1949-1950 was extremely cold. Little Jeannie had
recently had surgery following serious abdominal problems. Dude
asked Gertrude and Alex to consider keeping her with them for a
while once she was strong enough to leave the hospital. The Frasers
agreed. At that time, they lived in a house on Kinchant, near the
Royal Canadian Legion. Jeannie's doctor and her father felt that
having her stay close to the hospital would help her recovery. Dude's
ranch, many miles past Quesnel, was no place for a person who needed
to be in close proximity to medical care. It was 50 miles from Quesnel,
past Paley's place. At that time, it would have taken at least three
hours to travel to town, and sometimes four or five, depending on
the weather and road conditions.
The Frasers were glad to take care of
Jeannie. Gertrude remembers her as a sweet, smart little girl.
Dude and the Frasers all understood
that Dude planned to move her back home once she was well enough.
While Jeannie was staying with the Frasers, she and Gertrude
very close. They socialized with Gertrude and Alex's friends, relatives,
and their children. Jeannie lived the life of a town child. Gertrude
has a photo album of this happy time with her "foster" daughter.
At that time, the Frasers had no children of their own.
When Jeannie had been living with the Frasers for seven months,
Dude told Gertrude and Alex that he would like to take Jeannie home
to stay. He had hired a woman to help around the house and take
care of Jeannie. Gertrude asked him if she could have her birthday
party at the Frasers' that July, and return home with him after
that. Dude agreed. Later that year, around Thanksgiving, Jeannie
went back to live again with the Frasers. She stayed with Gertrude
and Alex until she was about five.
In July 1952, Dude married Margaret Paul, a Vancouver woman. The
couple met after Margaret answered a personal ad that he placed
in the newspaper. Gertrude remembers Dude telling her that he had
received a number of responses, and was especially taken with Margaret's.
Before moving to the Cariboo, Margaret worked for the Vancouver
The newlyweds moved back to their ranch without Jeannie, for a
time, so that Margaret could become accustomed to her very new life.
Margaret had never lived in the country, and wasn't used to being
a farm wife. During Jeannie's stay with Gertrude and Alex, her father
and new wife would often stay in town with the Frasers, and the
Frasers brought Jeannie to the Lavington ranch for outings.
Eventually, Dude felt it was time for Jeannie to move back home.
The Frasers agreed that Jeannie would live with her father. Unfortunately,
the friendship between the two couples, and the Frasers' relationship
with Jeannie, ended. Gertrude feels that Margaret was uncomfortable
with how close Jeannie and Gertrude had become. Whatever the reason,
it was one of the biggest heartbreaks in Gertrude's life.