By Jeff White
On a farm near Lake Charles, Marshall and Murilla Porter lived a normal life with love, and appreciation for the land. In February 1920 the first of two children was born. Bill Porter was their first born son. He helped greatly around the farm until he moved away in his late teens. On May third 1923, Murilla gave birth to a baby girl and gave her the name Berniece. Something was wrong with this infant, Berniee as mentally challenged and would never live a normal life. Time passed, the children grew and the farm prospered. When haying season arrived the whole family helped to get the hay in. Berniece would drive the horses while Bill and Marshall would load and unload the hay from the field to the barn. Marshall never had much for equipment and called on a neighbour for help. Albert Barfoot who lived down the road would bale their hay every year until Marshall bought one of his own. Ab Barfoot became good friends with the Porters and he and his wife Mary would visit frequently.
Marshall, Murilla, Bill and Berniece went out west one summer to see the great Calgary Stampede. This was great because Berniece never got away from home much and needed to see more than just her surrounding area. Bill and Berniece went to school at Lake Charles. Agnes Greig was the teacher there and since Berniece was challenged spent lots of time and effort on helping her with her schooling and was very supportive of her.
Berniece finished public school but never went on to high school. Instead she stayed home and helped her mother out around the farm. In 1963 the Porter family sold their farm to Don Johnson, and packed up their belongings and moved to Scott Street in Wiarton. Berniece was unsure when Bill moved away from home but he got married to Given Belrose and had three lovely children Laurene, Donna and Faye. The first tragedy was of the family occurred on January 12, 1977 when Marshall—better known as Marsh to his friends and family—died unexpectedly. Berniece and her mother continued to live at their home in Wiarton. Bill later developed cancer and traveled to Toronto for treatments but in 1980 Bill died of his cancer which was another blow to the family considering he was only sixty. In 1982 Murilla and Berniece packed up their belongings and moved to Owen Sound. Although they had family in Owen Sound, they never had visitors, so when Murilla gave a choice to Berniece of moving back to Wiarton to Gateway Haven or staying in Owen Sound, Berniece replied, “Let’s go to Wiarton because it’s not like we get any company over here and at least we know people in Wiarton.” In 1985 they moved back to Wiarton, to an old age home—Gateway Haven.
Gateway Haven was their home now and when Murilla dies at least Berniece would be taken care of. The last tragedy of the family was to come when in 1988 Murilla died and Berniece was now the last of her immediate family. Berniece has enjoyed her life at Gateway Haven. Every so often entertainment is brought in for the residents. Every spring the Legion rents a bus and takes some of the residents on a field trip as a sort of getaway, which Berniece participates in and looks forward to. Berniece continued to live at Gateway Haven until her death.
From An Anthology of Stories the EWR4A and Gateway Haven Friend-to-Friend Programme