© Rosalie MacEachern photo
Lola Patterson has just retired as president of the New Glasgow 55 Plus Club but she has no intention of giving up her interest in providing services and opportunities for seniors. Rosalie MacEachern photo
From fisherman’s daughter to social activist, it has been a long and twisting journey for Lola Patterson but she has enjoyed it.
Patterson has just finished a two-year term as president of the New Glasgow 55 Plus club and led the group through a challenging period.
“I grew up in Central Caribou, the youngest of a family of seven, two boys and five girls. Like most fishing families we didn’t have too many extras,” said Patterson who graduated from Pictou Academy and went to work in an office.
She met her husband Gerald at a school dance but he soon joined the Air Force and she jokes her marriage has been a cross-country tour.
“When I went to school in Pictou I read about so many parts of Canada I’d never seen but our three children saw the whole country. They became real Canadians with an appreciation of how big and different this country is. ”
She began married life in Halifax almost 59 years ago but later moved to Quebec, Northern Ontario, Sydney, Clinton and Kingston in Ontario, Kamloops B.C. and Jackson, Mississippi. She still remembers a meeting at an early posting where she was obliged to stand up and introduce herself.
“I was so scared I couldn’t even remember my name.”
While she gradually overcame her shyness she credits working at a newspaper in Kamloops as making her more outgoing and independent. Her youngest was 13 and she had just re-entered the paid workforce on a part-time basis.
“I’d been in the accounts department for a while when we had a labour dispute and everybody had to take on more responsibility. Some of the reporters had to go to the composing room and into production. Somebody gave me a dictionary and told me I was the new proofreader.”
When Patterson’s husband retired from the military in 1977 they moved back to Pictou County where he got a job with Michelin and she went to work in a lawyer’s office.
“My mother was still living and we both had family here so we were glad to come home. We’ve moved a few times since we got here but we were used to moving.”
She volunteered reading to seniors, working with Laubach Literacy and was a guide at the Museum of Industry for many years. She first joined the 55 Plus Club because she had a friend teaching yoga there and was interested in the health benefits.
“Eventually Gerald joined the executive so I took a greater interest and then I became secretary for two terms, then president and vice-president. I wouldn’t have taken on those roles if I wasn’t convinced what the club offers is really important.”
When the club was forced to leave a town-owned building on Forbes Street it began a search for a new facility that is not yet over.
“We’ve been to the stadium twice, to Ward One Recreation Centre, to Plymouth and we’re now at the New Glasgow Fire Station but it hasn’t been easy. Our membership has dropped from a high of 250 to 140 and I think the moves and uncertainty have been a factor.”
Patterson feels the Town of New Glasgow did not have a good appreciation of the club when the troubles began.
“I was told the members were not all from New Glasgow so that limited the town’s responsibility so we should look elsewhere for a space. They didn’t get that the members all shopped in New Glasgow and used the hospital and other services here.”
The group actively protested the town’s position and Patterson said relations have improved.
“The fire station is an interim location. We expect to get a place in one of the schools that will be closing when New Glasgow Academy opens. We really need a place of our own where there is adequate parking very close by and we can do as we like with the facility rather than have to get permission for all our events. It is challenging because many of our members have low incomes and we can’t raise a lot of money.”
Patterson questions why a space for seniors was not included in the Pictou County Wellness Centre and if it sounds as if she is not yet done with Club 55 Plus, that’s very true.
“I’m not the president anymore but I’m happy to serve as past president and look after communications and probably do any joe-jobs needed. The average age in the club is about 75 and a lot of these people have lost spouses and their families are not around so they really enjoy the socialization and support of a group. You have to be there to see the difference it makes. ”
Patterson considers herself lucky to have two sons, grandchildren, step-grandchildren and a great grandchild in the Halifax area. Her daughter and two more grandchildren are in Alberta and she is expecting a visit soon.
“I’m still involved with a committee trying to bring about improvements for seniors and the Nova Scotia Seniors Games will be here in 2015 so that’s a big, big project for us.”
Rosalie MacEachern is a Stellarton resident and freelance writer who seeks out people who work behind the scenes on hobbies or jobs that they love the most. If you have someone you think should she should profile in an upcoming article, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org