Family and faith central in the life of Veronica Milligan

Turns 102 Friday

Eric McCarthy
Published on March 20, 2014
Veronica Milligan has lots of reading material to keep herself occupied. She turns 102 on Friday and the congratulatory cards have already started flowing into her room at the Stewart Memorial Home in Tyne Valley.

TYNE VALLEY -- Having never worked outside of the home, Veronica Milligan recalls getting her first ever cheque in the mail in 1945, when the family allowance was first paid.

“It came in the mother’s name and I had to get it cashed,” she recalled. Putting the cheque in the mother’s name, she recently instructed a grandchild, was one of the smartest things government did, because mothers always spent the money on what was needed.

She was determined it would help provide for your family’s needs. “Right to the store,” she said, for baking goods, clothing and footwear. All of that and more were available just out the road at Sharbell’s General Store in Portage.

The introduction of the family allowance rates right up there with the many other milestones Veronica Milligan witnessed in a lifetime that, as of today, spans 102 years.

She was born in Woodbrook on March 21, 1912, the youngest of 10 children of William and Johanna Smith. She would move just a short distance to Foxley River after marrying Douglas Milligan. It was there that they raised their family of 10 children, including one who died in infancy. Her husband dies in 1984.

Electricity, which came through Foxley River around 1960, is another of Veronica Milligan’s milestone events. She was able to do away with the washboard and washtub and buy a washing machine.

Family and a strong faith have been central in the life of this spry 102 year-old. “I never saw my mother sad. She was always so positive,” remarks her daughter, Anita Murray of Summerside. St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church in Foxley River was very important to both of her parents, she said.

The annual church picnic was a highlight of the year as Mother would bake up a storm for the event and supply a cake for the cake auction. It was a cherished event because it was a draw for family members and neighbours who had moved away.

Mom was also active in her church’s Catholic Women’s League, joining when she was 20 and serving in most office positions. The long-time life member attended meetings regularly until she was 98.

Veronica looked forward to the summer visits from brothers and sisters who had moved to Boston, and the whole family looked forward to the boxes that arrived from Boston every summer and Christmas, packed with clothing, toys and other goods.

Veronica left school in Grade 8 to help out with the chores at home after her mother broke her hip. Once married, she kept busy maintaining the house, working in her garden, preparing meals and baking countless loaves of bread and sweets. During the harvest time she would also prepare meals for the hired help. “There was no such thing as taking your lunch then,” she said; “they went in the house.”

Past-time included weekly card parties at houses in the neighbourhood. She was also an accomplished step-dancer and was often called upon to give a step at house parties. She is an avid reader, especially of books written by local historians, and she still reads her Journal Pioneer daily. Free time, when it was available, was often taken up knitting mitts and socks. She also put up countless batches of pickles and preserves, always relying on a wood stove to do the cooking.

As for turning 102, Veronica is reluctant to refer to it as a milestone. “It’s just another day,” she reflects. It is special, though, because many of her children, grandchildren and great and great-great grandchildren will be stopping by her room at Stewart Memorial Home for a visit. Family is planning a bigger celebration from May or June when even more relatives will be able to attend.

It’s a big list. Living offspring alone number 99. That’s made up of nine children, 33, 52 great grandchildren and five great-great grandchildren. Her children are daughters Joan Doran of Tyne Valley, Anita Murray of Summerside, and Jeanette Duffy of Dartmouth, NS. Her sons are Floyd and Eugene of Foxley River, Gerald of Albeton, Fenton of Lower Sackville, NS, Marven of Tantallon, NS and Donald of Ellerslie. She’s accustomed to having daily visits from sons and daughters and at least weekly visits from grandchildren, nieces and nephews.