Stella was a small, delicate girl with hair almost white and light blue eyes.
She first saw George LaPointe when she was ten and he was eighteen. She thought he was a terrible pest of a man who teased her and called her pet names.
He was tall, dark, good looking and had curly hair and hazel eyes. He was born in Montreal and raised in the States, and he just seemed so different from the other men from New Mills.
The first time it was mentioned that there was a family relationship between the two, it was said in an offhand way, as though they were related only vaguely, like tenth cousins. But as the years passed, Stella spoke more freely, and gave the impression that perhaps they were more like immediate cousins. “Everybody said that our kids would be little piggies”, she said to me once when I was trying to get her to tell me everything. Then she looked me in the eye and added, with a little smile, “No offence”. Then she laughed.
She was born Stella Marie Mercier, on December 30, in the year 1899, just two days before the arrival of a new century.
Her father was Jacques Mercier (known as James) and her mother was Mary Louise Normandeau.
She was born in the little house that is the first on the left on the byroad that is just east of the little bridge in New Mills. There is still a house there, renovated and modernized, but with the original buried under the clapboard or siding somewhere.
When she was sixteen, she moved to Montreal, where she worked as a maid for a young doctor and his wife. They were kind people, and she thought of them as friends. She also assisted the doctor in his office, and he taught her some nursing, which undoubtedly came in handy later when she had to raise eleven children and minister to all of their ailments in their isolated habitat.
Stella had two sisters that I met and knew. I believe that there were six more, but I never met them. I don’t even know all of their names, I think one was named Madelaine, another Lizzie, and I know that their was a Mary. She was the mother of Eva Wood, the religious sister who kept in touch with her Aunt Stella until the day Stella died. She is at a convent in St. John, N.B. She never forgot Stella on birthdays, Christmas, and Easter, always sending small handmade gifts or, as she got older and could no longer knit and crochet, cards that dedicated Masses to her Aunt Stella. I spoke with her on the telephone the day that Stella died. She said she always loved Stella so because she looked so much like her own mother, Mary.
Stella’s sister, Eva, lived near us when we lived in Campbellton. She didn’t seem to like me or anyone very, very much, but what I remember most about her was that she had the most beautiful long white hair which she kept braided and wrapped around her head in the daytime. But a few times I was at her home when she was getting ready for bed, and I watched her sit and brush her hair. It went down past her waist, and it was pure silver. At the age of nine, I swore I would let my hair turn white and grow that long. A promise which, thanks to Miss Clairol, I’ve only half tried to keep.
Her other sister, Lydia, was a lively, wonderful woman who enjoyed a good time and had a heart of gold. Lydia had had a bad marriage when she was young, and after that dissolved, she never married again. She spent most of her adult life working in a school and home for blind children where she was the model of kindness and very proper. When vacation time came along, she usually came to visit at our home, and then she would relax and let her hair down, in contrast to her dedication and hard work at the school. She died some years back, after having to have her legs amputated, I think because of gangrene due to diabetes. I had always wished to see her again. I loved her visits dearly and would have liked to have gotten to know her when I was an adult.
Stella’s brothers, unlike the women of the family, who were tiny, were over six feet tall. They lived into their nineties. Joe, who’d had his thumb and index finger cut off in a work-related accident, was still working in the woods at the age of ninety. Frank lived in New Mills all of his life, and now his sons still live there. One of his sons, Jimmie, would come to visit when I was a child. He was my godfather. He was so tall that Mother would put a chair at the end of his cot, with a pillow on it, so that his feet would not hang over while he slept. Jimmie was tragically killed in a car accident in New Mills while he was still a very young man.
The street that the family still occupies has been named Mercier Street. One of Frank’s sons, Delphis, has a woodworking shop and store there. He makes beautiful furniture and other items.
Stella and George began to write to each other while he was in France during World War I. Stella always kept the cards that he would send her from wherever he was. Some would only bear her address and no message. Those that had a message would usually start with “Hello, Kid”.
I can’t really say how their love affair flourished, but by the time the war was ended, they had decided to marry.
In September of 1918, the Canadian forces began to slowly make their way back to North America. George did not arrive until August of 1919. Stella left Montreal and travelled to Duluth, Minnesota where she was to meet him on his arrival. They were married there on September 3, 1919.
This is half of their wedding picture.
Stella was seated next to George, but didn’t like how she looked so she only kept half the photo.
(what a loss for us)
So began the adventure that would last until the day George died and leave Stella with memories of a life that was filled with good times and bad, hard times and easy, heartache and happiness and always the sense of belonging and rightness.