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Lark Harbour man recognized for his bravery and quick thinking in saving life of another man

It was a special moment for all when Ralph Joyce (second from left) of Lark Harbour was presented with a Newfoundland and Labrador Bravery Award. Also pictured are his wife, Linda Robinson (left), Humber-Bay of Islands MHA Eddie Joyce, John Parsons, the man he rescued, and Sharon Parsons.
It was a special moment for all when Ralph Joyce (second from left) of Lark Harbour was presented with a Newfoundland and Labrador Bravery Award. Also pictured are his wife, Linda Robinson (left), Humber-Bay of Islands MHA Eddie Joyce, John Parsons, the man he rescued, and Sharon Parsons. - Contributed

Saltwire Network

diane.crocker@thewesternstar.com

@western_star

LARK HARBOUR — Ralph Joyce walks every morning and evening, and sometimes on those walks the Lark Harbour man will meet up with John Parsons.

So, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary that the two crossed paths on Feb. 7, 2019, but what happened after has had an impact on their lives like no other.

That’s the day Joyce saved Parsons’ life, a heroic act that he was recently honoured for when he was presented with a Newfoundland and Labrador Award for Bravery.

Parsons was looking out the window of his Bottle Cove kitchen in Lark Harbour that winter morning when he saw a seal on a pan of ice.

He does a lot of hiking in the area out on the boardwalk and along the Bottle Cove Trail, and decided to go up on the head of the trail to get a picture. He met Joyce, who decided to join him, in the parking area.

Just a week before, the area had seen a lot rain and there wasn’t a lot of snow on the trail to the head.

“But when I walked out to the end of the point, where the grass leaves the point and when you’re down on the sand and rock and gravel, it was nothing but a sheet of ice.”

In an instant, Parsons’ feet went out from under him and he started to slide down over the cliff on the ice. He said he moved in slow motion and was doing snow angels with his feet and legs to try to stop.

“But I can’t, I’m just sliding over the bank.”

A foot of two before  he would have gone over the cliff — in what would have been a 100-foot drop into the ocean — his left foot brought up on a small rock sticking out of the ice.

“I said, ‘Ralph, my God don’t let me go, don’t let me go.'”  - John Parsons

Joyce was just four or five feet behind Parsons when he fell. He said he didn’t feel too good seeing it happen.

“I didn’t know what was going to be the ending of it.”

With Parsons unable to move for fear of sliding over the edge, Joyce went off with the intention to go get help.

“But I realized it was too far to go to get help,” said Joyce.

There was some rope along the walkway and he was going to try to get it, but was worried it would take too long, so he started to look for a tree that he could use to pull Parsons up. It took some work, but he was able to free a stick about 12-15 feet long from the frozen ground and rushed back to Parsons.

“I peeped down to make sure that he was still there,” said Joyce, and recalls feeling relief that he was.

He got the stick down to Parsons.

“I said, ‘Ralph, my God don’t let me go, don’t let me go,'” said Parsons.

Joyce replied with, "I got ya buddy, I got ya."

“I give it to her then,” said Joyce, adding that he thought he might have a heart attack.

But he got some leverage by putting his foot on a rock and pulled Parsons up.

“When my foot left that rock I was left open to the elements again, so I didn’t know if the tree was going to break or if Ralph had the strength to get me back,” said Parsons.

Shaken by what had happened, Parsons went home and told his wife of his near-death experience and then made a sign to warn others of the danger.

“I didn’t know what was going to be the ending of it.” - Ralph Joyce

When Joyce came by later to check on Parsons, Sharon Parsons said, “I think I lifted Ralph over the doorstep.

“I think I bawled for two days. It’s just one of those things you’re not expecting. It took a long time for both of us to process it. That it actually happened.”

The couple felt Joyce deserved recognition and submitted an application for the bravery award.

Parsons was “over the moon” when found out his rescuer would be recognized.

“He’s so deserving. His bravery, and his strength and his quick thinking on that day saved my life.”

Ralph Joyce (left) of Lark Harbour was recently recognized with a Newfoundland and Labrador Award for Bravery for saving the life of John Parsons in February 2019. Humber-Bay of Islands MHA Eddie Joyce presented the award. - Contributed
Ralph Joyce (left) of Lark Harbour was recently recognized with a Newfoundland and Labrador Award for Bravery for saving the life of John Parsons in February 2019. Humber-Bay of Islands MHA Eddie Joyce presented the award. - Contributed

Parsons still hikes in the area, but says he feels a little leery when he goes out on the head.

“You always have that feeling that I could have lost my life that day.”

Joyce doesn’t go back to the head part of the trail very much now.

“Brings too much memories, it’s too much to take,” he said. “I could have went on just as well as him. I didn’t think about that at the time.”

Receiving the award was a proud day for Joyce, but knowing he was able to save Parsons is what matters most to him.

“The main thing was I got him out of it.”

The view from out on the head of the Bottle Cove Trail in Lark Harbour is spectacular. - Diane Crocker
The view from out on the head of the Bottle Cove Trail in Lark Harbour is spectacular. - Diane Crocker

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