The Unstoppable Marian Fawcett

One of the many family reunions held during Yorkshire 2000 was that of the Fawcett family.

Genealogists believe that this surname originated with a community known as Forcett located not far from the Yorkshire/County Durham border. The original spelling has been translated as: place by a waterfall.

The Tantramar branch of the Fawcett family may be traced to three brothers, John, William and Robert who emigrated from Hovingham, Yorkshire to Sackville Township in 1774.

The third brother Robert, did not remain and soon moved to the United States where he followed the sea and was eventually lost.

Marian Pearl Fawcett was born in Upper Sackville on June 2, 1908, the daughter of C. Fred Fawcett (1886–1918) and Myrtle Wheaton Fawcett (1885–1975).

At 92, Marian earned the distinction of being the eldest of some 180 family members registered at the recent Fawcett family reunion. She is also a direct descendant of William Fawcett I.

I first met Marian on one of her regular summer visits to Sackville. At the time, I was interviewing people who had attended early twentieth century schools.

Her keen memory and recall of detail were most helpful, as she reminisced about her elementary school years in Upper Sackville. Yorkshire 2000 was then in its early planning stages and we made a pact to meet again in August 2000. During the second interview her energy, enthusiasm and joie de vivre, which had so impressed me earlier, were still in evidence. However, this time our conversation took a different direction.

I wanted to explore a life that spanned more than eight decades, two world wars and a depression. What was the secret, not merely of a long life, but one that had its full share of both triumph and tragedy? Early in the interview it became clear that Marians positive outlook began with a happy Upper Sackville childhood. A biographical poem written in 1997 provided further confirmation.

Unfortunately, one event did cast a shadow over these early years.

Her fathers illness and premature death on June 16, 1918, aged 32, was very traumatic.

Only ten at the time, she remembered how her mother, Myrtle Wheaton, coped with four children to rear. As Marian expressed it: It was her courage that never failed her.

And in the end, despite trials and tribulations with disappointments besides; the young family was taught to always hold high the Fawcett family name.

In her late teens Marian enrolled in the Commercial Program at Mount Allison Academy. Here she excelled and was selected by the Principal Vr. J. M. Palmer to work in his office during summer holidays. This secretarial training and related experience was to later stand her in good stead.

On more than one occasion, she was able to find employment in a wide variety of business enterprises. Yet another life sustaining quality became clear during our conversation. When times became tough, and for whatever the reason, she was never afraid to try new things. This meant a number of moves from Murray Corner, N.B. to Tignish PEI, from Amos, Quebec to Midland, Ontario where she worked during the latter part of the Second World War. By then Marian was employed in the office of the Midland Shipyard. Her personal popularity was evident when she was selected to christen a new tugboat built by the firm.

With the invocation of the well known words: I christen this ship, the Rockland. May God bless and guide her, and all who sail on her; followed by the crack of a bottle of champagne, the boat was well and truly launchedI considered this a real honor, she remembered.

Following the end of the war Marian moved to the United States, where she was first employed in the South Boston office of Winchester-Simmons, a well known gun and ammunitions manufacturer. A transfer to Florida meant another change in employment. This time she became office manager in a large medical clinic. Meanwhile, on the personal level, she took out American citizenship, was divorced and remarried. Some 20 years later saw her return northward to Massachusetts, where she has since resided. Marian now lives in a retirement community in Weymouth, Mass. Her two children, a daughter, Joan Bowen and son Brian Dunfield, are nearby, in Weymouth and Braintree respectively. She admitted that they keep an eye on me, but mostly Im able to manage on my own.

One of Marians special pleasures is her extended family consisting of seven grandchildren and four great-grand children. There is little doubt that the strong support provided by her son and daughter and their families has been a contributing factor to her health and happiness.

Her cousin, Shelagh Ward, with whom she stays when visiting Sackville, agrees.

Shelagh stressed that Marians family support has been one key to her long life. A serious setback occured in 1995, when a car accident left her hospitalized for several months. This was followed by a long round of physical therapy before she was mobile once more. At the age of 87 many seniors in a similar situation might have given up; but not Marian. She simply told herself Youre going to make it kid.

She did, and one more obstacle was overcome! As a young girl Marian Fawcett Locke was taught by her mother to knit and crochet-a skill she was never to lose. Over time these crafts were to become another mainstay in a long and productive life.

Each autumn, in preparation for the Christmas season, Marian kicks up a storm with her crafts that range all the way from seasonal candles to jingle bell tambourines to beautifully crocheted doilies mounted on clear glass plates. Another specialty is personalized Christmas cards, one of which I have before me, as I write this column.

When questioned about the role of these hobbies in her life, Marian was explicit. I love my craft work, it gives me reason for living The rocking chair is not for me. Hands busy, I just move from one project to another.

An overview of Marians remarkable 92 years leaves one important conclusion. She had excellent role models in her parents. Although her mother, Myrtle Wheaton Fawcett, was widowed at an early age, the latter instilled in her children qualities of determination, endurance and courage. Its this positive heritage that helps account for her daughters ability to overcome obstacles and to continue enjoying her productive and memorable life.

In addition to Marian Fawcett Locke, a number of people helped me write this column. Thanks are extended to Donna Beal, Mount Allison Archives; Brian Dunfield, Kathy Fawcett Lewis and Shelagh Ward.