Carrie Ladds was 13 when she left home at the height of the Great Depression to work as a domestic and caregiver for an elderly couple.
She would never spend another night under the same roof as her parents.
When Carrie was 18, she was recommended to Blanch Bruce, who needed help to care for his aging grandparents. It was not long before the working relationship turned to love, and they were married in 1938.
When his grandparents died in the early 1940s, Blanch inherited the general store in South Portage, a small community 40 kilometres north of Fredericton, and it was there that Carrie found her niche as an astute business woman.
While Blanch worked outside the home as a carpenter, running the store fell mainly to her, and she ran it with an iron fist. Because work in the area was mostly seasonal, just about everyone ran a "bill," which was to be paid once the customer got back to work. If they didn't settle up in a reasonable time, they would feel Carrie's wrath in a not-too-pleasant visit to their home. Her collection success rate would be the envy of today's bill collectors.
They sold the store in the mid-1970s when it became apparent that country general stores were on their way out, replaced by large supermarkets in the city.
Carrie's strong work ethic and determination to make a better life for herself would be instilled in her daughter Marie, who died in 2001, and her son James, both of whom went on to successful careers. She was very proud of her four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. In 2012, she became a great-great-grandmother.
Blanch died in 1982, and in 1986, Carrie married George Galloway, a commercial traveller who used to call on her store to take orders for groceries. They had nine happy years together and shared a love for bowling until George died in 1995.
Carrie was a devout Jehovah's Witness and practised her faith with the same energy and dedication as she did running her beloved store. During one month, when she was 91, she spent 60 hours in her door-to-door ministry. She referred to her friends at the Kingdom Hall as her "spiritual family," and because her only surviving child lived in Ontario, her friends were there to tend to her every need in later years.
In the many cards of condolence received by the family, she was described as having a huge heart and a love for everyone.
As her health declined, she never lost her sense of humour. When asked her age, she would laugh and say, "Thirty-nine years and some months."
Finally she had to accept the inevitability of death, and during my last visit with her in September she said philosophically: "This is what happens to you when you live to be this old."
She passed away peacefully a few weeks later.
Jim Bruce is Carrie's son.
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