Trip down memory lane
© Elizabeth MacDonald photo
Ninety-five year old William (Bill) Connors of Rhode Island (centre), originally from Freshwater, has been visiting his hometown with his children Bob, Lynn and Dennis. They are staying with relatives, the Kelly’s of Freshwater. Shown are (l-r) Jennifer Budden, Peggy Kelly, Bob Connors, Bill Connors, Lynn McShane, Dennis Connors and Marie Kelly.
To hear 95-year old William (Bill) Connors talk about where he used to go, which house was where and who lived there, you’d think it was only yesterday he lived here.
But Mr. Connors was speaking about a time around 70 years ago, when he was a young boy growing into a man here in Freshwater.
Mr. Connors came back to his hometown recently with his three children, Bob, Dennis and Lynn.
The family has been making the best of their time here, and are visiting all the sites around the Placentia area, staying with relatives in Freshwater, and chatting to just about anyone who strikes up a conversation.
Bill Connors grew up here but left when he was a young man in 1940 for the United States, where there were more options to work and explore the world. Shortly after a relative sponsored him into the country, he met his wife, and they married and moved to Rhode Island, where he stayed to raise a family.
Mr. Connors worked in the steel industry as an ironworker.
Mr. Connors’ mother was a Sparrow from Argentia. His father, Mike Connors, died when he was just a baby.
The trip to Newfoundland came about as a result of a number of factors that just came together.
“Our mom passed away in February,” explained Lynn McShane, Mr. Connors’ daughter. “Dad would always talk about coming back but we never would because our mother wasn’t a traveller and her health wasn’t good and so Dad never wanted to leave her. When she passed away in February, we asked him if he’d like to come back here in the summer.”
McShane explained there was a little bit of ironing out the wrinkles for this trip since her father had misplaced his passport, and so a Senator had to intervene to make this trip possible, but when things cleared up, they pushed through with the trip for this summer.
“We traveled through North Sydney, where Dad was born, and still has a cousin,” she said. “Then we went to Corner Brook and met another cousin, and now here we are in Freshwater to finish the trip off. This is where he grew up.”
The family’s two-week trip to this province has been busy.
“It’s been a million-dollar trip,” said Mr. Connors, who visited Newfoundland for a short while back in the 1990’s.
“He thought that might have been his last trip, but we were very happy to do this one with him now,” explained son Dennis. “When Mom passed away, we realized it was an opportunity to go with him now, so we said, ‘Let’s go’ and it all just came together.”
The siblings say they are so happy to do this trip with their father.
“It’s amazing. Everywhere we go there is a picture or a person that gets him talking. He’s having a wonderful trip. Everywhere we go he’s making connections or renewing old connections,” said Dennis.
Lynn said her father used to speak of his time in Newfoundland to his children, but there were just stories to them.
“We really had no frame of reference,” said Lynn. “Bobby and I came up in the 1970’s for a very short visit but now we are actually seeing all these things that he’s talked about.”
Bob said this trip is a good way for the siblings to get to better know their own roots, to know where they come from.
“When we were younger he was always busy with work and things, and it has only been in the past few years that we’ve heard some of his stories, but now to actually connect it with these people, it is just amazing. It’s like opening up a part of your life and seeing who you are,” said Bob.
“The connections we’ve made now will be friends forever,” said Dennis.
“It’s brought a lot of great memories for our Dad on this trip. Things have changed a lot here, but it is still recognizable to him, and he can still tell us what house used to be on that corner and who lived there,” said Lynn. “It’s been fabulous.”