White (nee Pelley) left the tiny Green Bay town of Beachside before turning 18 years of age. Her family had spent about six years there. Looking back at it now, the 83-year-old says, if there wasn’t the need to pursue vocational opportunities afar, she would have remained a Newfoundlander all her life.
Instead, she had a prosperous life in different parts of Ontario. Despite a complete life, she still missed her home province, and the annual vacations there only filled a portion of the hole in her heart.
At times, she was a teacher and, among other ventures, worked in the medical and oil industries. Much like her career, she found another passion in her retirement — art. This is her connection to the Canada 150 celebrations.
Despite not painting for years, primarily due to health reasons, an artist friend approached White last year to help with a project for the anniversary celebrations. The concept was to create a large commemorative piece for the 150th celebrations.
She hesitated, took some time to think it over, but eventually thought one last adventure into the world of art she learned to love would be worth the challenge.
After some brainstorming, it was agreed the Trent Hills, Ont. artists would each paint a large panel featuring the official flowers of Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories.
Being from Newfoundland and Labrador, White took on the portrayal of the pitcher plant.
“I said I think I’ll do the pitcher plant, not knowing what I was getting into,” she said. “It’s quite a thing, because I couldn’t even remember it.”
She admitted it was challenging to find the perfect depiction of the floral emblem of Newfoundland and Labrador in Ontario, but eventually found something she could work with.
The project consumed hours and hours of her time over the past year, and eventually the four-by-five-by-six foot piece was completed. It was an emotional journey. Painting was something she thought was behind her at this stage of her life, but she found great satisfaction in creating what she referred to as one last piece.
For this project, White’s health and decreasing eyesight were forgotten.
“It didn’t stop me in doing this one, I can tell you,” she said. “I really got interested in it, and I enjoyed doing it. I am quite pleased actually.”
However, it was the reflection of a life long ago, in a home never forgotten, that was most moving.
“I had this feeling that I was really connecting with where I was born,” she said. “It was sort of like a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling to be able to think about going into the marsh and looking for all the different kinds of berries and stuff we usually did, and coming across a pitcher plant once in a while.
“It brought back some wonderful, very pleasant memories for me.”
Along with the 12 other pieces of the project, they were unveiled and displayed Canada Day at Old Mill Park in Trent Hills. They will also be showcased at the Incredible Edibles Festival this weekend.