ST. LUNAIRE-GRIQUET, N.L. — Stepping foot back on the soil of the Great Northern Peninsula (GNP) was extra special for Tony Bussey.
The St. Lunaire-Griquet native, 43, currently living in Fort McMurray, Alberta had last returned home in October. But now his 17-year-old daughter Emma Cooper had come along with him — to see her father’s home and meet her father’s family, for the very first time.
The exciting occasion was made possible entirely because of her father’s weight loss.
As the Northern Pen reported in April, Bussey once weighed 567 lbs. But he became motivated to lose weight after his experiences during the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire.
Since then, with great strength and commitment, he has lost 335 lbs.
Bussey’s weight, before, had always made flying inconvenient for him. For one thing, he would have to purchase two seats on the plane. Secondly, when he landed, he never knew if he could get a rental car that could fit him, nor could he fit in his parent’s car.
So, he always drove across the country himself to visit his family back home in Newfoundland.
Therefore, his visits were infrequent and he could not take Emma, saying she was too little at the time to complete a drive across the country with him.
But on Wednesday, June 27, they arrived together on GNP soil at long last.
Emma had visited her mother’s family in Newfoundland before, but this was her first time on the GNP.
She had never met any of her father’s family, including his parents in St. Lunaire-Griquet.
The experience was very special for them all.
“Mom and Dad were pretty happy, they’ve wanted to see her for years and years,” said Bussey. “It was just as much a dream of theirs as it was mine.”
When Tony and Emma spoke to The Northern Pen on Thursday, June 28 they had lots of plans for their brief stay.
A boat tour was booked on Saturday to see an iceberg; that’s something Emma had never seen before this visit.
Bussey was also hoping to climb, with Emma, the 543 stairs to the very top of Fishing Point in St. Anthony — something he was able to do once when he was 500 lbs.
That was a big accomplishment for him; Tony dreamt about doing the climb for a long time.
Now, he wanted to share that experience with Emma too.
Also on their agenda was to hike more trails, visit the L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, visit more of Bussey’s friends and family and he wanted to show Emma all the places he’s told her about over the years.
“I can show her where I played as a kid down on the beach, show her the streets I had walked and drove on,” he said.
And Bussey hoped she would try more seafood. Alas, Emma remained reluctant.
“When we were driving across, I stopped in King’s Point and I had a meal of cod tongues. I offered her $20 to try to have a cod tongue, she would not have one cod tongue,” he recalled, laughing.
For Emma, who grew up on the prairies, it was special just to be near the ocean.
“I just like being by the ocean, taking pictures,” she said. “If that’s all I did, I’d be fine.”
It was a short trip for the two, as they had to head back to Alberta on Sunday, July 1.
But Bussey says Emma will be back with him to visit again.
As for him, his next visit comes in September, when he’ll be arriving to celebrate his mother’s birthday.
Frequent trips like this are now possible, with 300 pounds gone and a newfound freedom gained.