Their story is about finding love and support in your life in the most unexpected places.
Warrick, 71, of St. Lewis and Elaine, 65, of Corner Brook, first entered each other’s orbit in the mid-1970s.
Back then, Warrick was employed to look after a CBC transmitter tower that was put up on the hill near St. Lewis. If anything ever went wrong with the tower, it was his duty to call the office to advise them of the issue.
But first he would have to give a credit card number to an operator in Corner Brook who would redirect the call.
Occasionally, the operator who picked up was a woman with a very distinctive voice.
“She had a very nice voice, different from all the other operators,” Warrick recalls. “Every time she’d speak I’d know her.”
This woman, of course, was Elaine.
Over the next 25 years, the two routinely made chitchat with each other during these calls – small talk you would have with any acquaintance: how they were doing, or what the weather was like.
Suddenly, in the year 2000, there was a change.
Warrick continued to make calls for his work, but Elaine was never on the other end. He didn’t know if she was laid off or transferred somewhere else, but he never heard the woman with the nice voice.
Little did Warrick know, Elaine was going through a personal tragedy. Then, for the first time in about a year, she picked up his call once again.
He learned her husband had passed away. Elaine had taken time off from work when he had first taken ill. It was a difficult time for her and when she returned to work, she was still grieving.
She says she lost the love of her life.
A missed opportunity
About a year later, Elaine agreed to go on a trip with her brother and his wife to Mary’s Harbour, near St. Lewis, to go salmon fishing.
Elaine advised Warrick of the visit during one of their calls. They agreed it would be a nice opportunity to meet.
Mother Nature had other things in mind.
“It was some of the worst weather we’d had for years and years and years,” Warrick says. “It was raining, and black as fog, blowing half a storm wind, cold enough to freeze you with northeast wind.”
Due to the weather, Elaine and her family were unable to go salmon fishing. They were gone again in a day or so.
Warrick didn’t get a chance to meet them.
Becoming friends and meeting each other
The phone calls continued.
Later that year, they decided to meet in Rocky Harbour with her brother and his wife accompanying her.
Warrick first headed to Mary’s Harbour on speedboat, since St. Lewis wasn’t connected to the highway yet. Then, the contractor working on the Trans-Labrador Highway managed to squeeze Warrick onto their bus for a ride to Rocky Harbour.
When he got off, he met Elaine’s brother. They drove down to the beach where she was, near the river, and the two met each other face-to-face for the first time.
“We had a little chat there and decided I’d go to Corner Brook with them,” recalls Warrick.
He stayed there overnight at a hotel before flying back the next day.
The conversations over the phone continued and they decided to meet once again, this time in the St. Anthony area.
They found a cabin in St. Lunaire-Griquet and spent two or three nights there.
By now their relationship was building.
The chats continued.
Warrick started sending things like bakeapples through the mail. Elaine invited him to spend that Christmas with her in Corner Brook.
He stayed for a while and that following spring, he returned.
When he went back to St. Lewis in July 2002 – driving home on the Trans-Labrador Highway for the first time in fact – Elaine, now retired, came with him.
Moving in, fixing the home, and making a garden together
St. Lewis was something of a shock for Elaine.
She recalls stepping foot into Warrick’s house for the first time.
“Warrick had his house all tore apart and it was just a shell,” she says. “And I said, ‘oh my God.’”
“One month, the kitchen would be in the living room; the next month, it might be out in the porch.”
Furthermore, she had kept up a flower garden her entire life but Warrick didn’t have one.
“I can’t stay here,” she thought. “I’m used to having a garden.”
After all, the Labrador soil isn’t the most fertile for plant life. Warrick claims he had never seen a flower garden in his life up to then.
But they set to work. Elaine had flowers sent up from Corner Brook. They worked together and, after some initial difficulties, the garden started to grow the following summer.
Fifteen years later, they have a comfortable home together with little room to spare for the nine beautiful, colourful flower gardens surrounding it.
A cancer diagnosis and getting married
The sudden move seemed out of the ordinary to Elaine’s family back in 2002. But Elaine stuck it through because she knew the quality of Warrick’s character.
“I knew this man had a good heart, I knew he was a wonderful man,” she says.
For five years, they remained dear friends.
But then Elaine took ill and was diagnosed with bowel cancer in June 2007.
It was around that time they decided to take a leap and spend the rest of their lives together.
“The doctor called and told me I needed surgery right away,” recalls Elaine. “But I told him ‘I can’t come this week because we’re getting married.’”
The big day came on June 30, 2007: they were pronounced Mr. and Mrs. Warrick Chubbs. A few days later, on July 4, Elaine went into the operating room in St. Anthony.
She’s been in remission ever since.
Their life together
Adapting to the Labrador way of life is still an ongoing process for Elaine.
She says she gave up a lot to come to Labrador: particularly, her heavy involvement in music.
“There are days I am very sad because I love music and I just feel that I should be where I can take advantage of that,” she says.
However, she has learned how to rug hook, crochet, make jewellery, and cook the traditional Labrador food that Warrick loves so much.
“They don’t want to eat cakes from the island, they want Labrador cakes,” Elaine says – for instance, what Warrick calls “blackberry slim.”
And one thing she loves is looking out the window in the morning and just seeing how peaceful it is out in the harbour.
“It’s heart-warming,” she says.
Elaine doesn’t believe their story is a fairy tale.
The first couple years they knew each other were very difficult as Elaine grieved the death of her first husband.
Through the hardships of life, she credits Warrick for being her “rock”.
“Life can be very lonely and it’s wonderful to have somebody to sit and talk with and share a cup of tea, especially if you’re going through a difficult time,” she says. “It’s wonderful to have support. I went through a very difficult time and I thank God every day that Warrick was there to help me.”
And he still is.