Ask them and they’ll tell you they’re the type of people who strive to support each other and everyone else through the values instilled in them growing up.
It all starts with the patriarch and matriarch of the Lowe family: Martin Sr. and Madeline. The couple were the first Lowes in Port Saunders; they settled in the town in 1939.
They’ve left their mark there to this very day with their 13 children: Mark, Tom, Dennis, Gerald, Bill, John, Martin Jr., Colleen, Donna, Mary, Gertrude, Hilda, and Janet.
Nine of them still live in Port Saunders.
At 79, Bill is the oldest, and Colleen is the youngest at 55.
All are now retired but they’re always willing to help people out.
“You ask them anything and they’ll do it for you,” said family friend, Hazel Lavers.
Growing up and education
Hilda, 64, recalls that growing up together, there were just four bedrooms in their home. And their grandmother stayed with them as well.
This meant there was just one bedroom for all the boys and one for all the girls.
Some of the older siblings, by her time, had grown up and moved away. But it was still pretty crowded for such a large family.
In that environment, they always had company, always had playmates, and they learned to share.
“It was instilled in us at an early age to share,” said Hilda. “Whatever we had, we shared with people that had less than us.”
This included sharing their home with their 13-year-old cousin, Wayne Findley, who their parents adopted after his mother died.
According to Martin Jr., 77, their family was somewhat unique because both parents worked full-time when they were growing up. Their mother was a teacher, and father was a mechanic. A maid looked after the family while their parents worked.
Both parents instilled the importance of education in their children at an early age. They all had to finish school, says Martin Jr. Some went on to university and others to trade school.
As adults, some of the siblings became teachers and nurses. Hilda and Colleen worked together at the hospital in Port Saunders for 33 years, Tom was an RCMP officer for 35 years, and Bill served in the armed forces. Martin Jr. was active in rural development for most of his life, including becoming the first president of the Northern Regional Development Association, which covered from Red Bay to Trout River, in 1967.
In their own ways, they’ve all used their education to do their part to improve the community, not just locally, but also regionally and even provincially.
While some have taken different career paths, the family has remained a tight unit.
To this day, the siblings who live in Port Saunders still get together for Sunday dinner at Hilda’s home. Not necessarily all nine of them will be there every week, but there will always be a few around for that Sunday meal of baked beans.
It’s a tradition that started with their parents, and one that Hilda continued after they passed away. Hilda says her son has continued the tradition in Alberta with family members living there.
They have an extended family gathering on Christmas Eve and Easter Saturday at Hilda’s home as well.
“I really enjoy being able to provide a place and to provide an opportunity for everybody to get together,” said Hilda.
According to Martin Jr. they’ve always gotten along and have had lots of fun and laughs over the years.
“We’ve been each other’s best friends,” he said. “There’s never been any real conflict like you might see in some families. We’ve never really had that.”
“We didn’t have any squabbles, no animosity, no fights or anything,” she said.
Martin Jr. says if there was ever a situation where a family member needed assistance, they were always there for each other.
Hilda saves Bill’s life
One of the most important times a family member needed help from one of the others came on April 14, 2012.
That was the day Bill suffered a heart attack and his sister Hilda, with the help of her common-law spouse, Clarence Cornick, was called upon to administer CPR.
A week later, Bill awoke in a St. John’s hospital bed after his heart had stopped three different times.
He credited Hilda and Clarence with saving his life.
“If they hadn’t have been there, I wouldn’t be here today,” Bill told the Northern Pen for a June 2013 article.
For their heroics, Hilda and Clarence were presented with the St. John Ambulance Life Saving Award on June 6, 2013 in St. John’s.
A family friend
Hazel Lavers is one Port Saunders resident well familiar with the Lowe family. She first got to know them when she babysat some of the younger siblings in her youth.
She’s been a friend of theirs ever since.
Lavers describes the family as good, down-to-earth people who have always played an active role in the community of Port Saunders.
She recalls that everyone was invited into the home of Martin Sr. and Madeline Lowe. When Martin Sr. was working at the hospital, he always invited anyone left over at the waiting room over for dinner.
“Nobody ever left hungry,” said Lavers. “Dinnertime, suppertime or whatever, the table was always set for them. Sometimes it’d be set up twice. That’s the kind of people they were.”
And if visitors from out of town had to stay over night, the door was always open for them to stay with the Lowe family.
Lavers believes this spirit of generosity was something the siblings learned from their parents.
Speaking from her own experience, Lavers says they always made her feel like she was a part of the family.
“You only take with you what you give away, and they gave a lot.”