It took 75 years, but Jenny Stewart finally got her man. And, yes, he was a Mountie. In full red serge.
When Constable Scott MacLeod strode into the Ty Watson Hospice in Port Alberni, his visit fulfilled a dream the spritely, 84-year-old resident had had ever since she got her first glimpse of a real, live Canadian Mountie at the age of 10.
“It was in the Canada section at the British Empire Exhibition in Glasgow in 1938,” Ms. Stewart recalled, her words spilling out as excitedly as if it had happened yesterday. “There were these beautiful red apples coming down a chute, and at the top was a Mountie. He was standing there, representing Canada. My gaze fixed on him. I don’t know what it was, but I was smitten.”
She made a quiet vow to herself that one day she would come to Canada, and one day she would also meet a Mountie, dressed in his scarlet uniform.
Canada turned out to be the easy part. Ms. Stewart was a war bride. She married Canadian soldier Walter Stewart, landing in Saskatoon at the age of 18. The couple uprooted to Port Alberni in 1958.
But she never forgot her Mountie. Nor did she ever tire of telling the story, even as she entered the local hospice for her final journey. Staff at the residence were soon charmed by Ms. Stewart’s upbeat manner and her tale of the long-ago man in red.
Kitchen supervisor Gail Koehle made a few calls. Late last week, Constable MacLeod came calling. Ms. Stewart had her wish at last.
“We’ve all heard Jenny’s story. It’s so beautiful. About a little girl in Scotland and her dream,” Ms. Koehle said on Thursday. “It was our privilege to help make it come true.”
Ms. Stewart could not have been more thrilled. “Oh boy, it was great. It was really great,” she said. “His uniform was beautiful, so well turned out. And he was good-looking, yes he was. About the same as my husband Walter. For some reason, I’ve just always admired the Mounties, and I will always admire them.”
Ms. Stewart has experienced tragedy in her long life. Her only sister died at 16 from TB, and 37 years ago she was left a widow. But there was no sense of sorrow or looking back, as he laughed with delight at Constable MacLeod’s special visit.
“My husband takes first place,” she said. “He was a Canadian, he was in the Lorne Scots and he did his bit in the war, so he’s number one. But, yes, I would say this Mountie is the most exciting thing that’s happened to me in a long time.”
The object of Ms. Stewart’s ardour was appropriately modest.
“Well, for all these years, she’d wanted to meet a Mountie in full red serge. So, given her stage of life, to visit Jenny and make her day was simply a no-brainer for me,” Constable McLeod said. “It was heartwarming to see a woman who may have been in great pain, and be able to put a smile on her face, and bring her the joy she had when she first saw that Mountie when she was 10 years old.”
It was no cursory visit. The two talked for close to 90 minutes. Constable McLeod had briefed himself on Ms. Stewart’s home village of Crosshouse, close to where, he discovered, Johnnie Walker whisky was first distilled. So they talked about that, about Ms. Stewart’s love for Canada and the Mounties, and, of course, the famous moment in Glasgow that changed her life.
Reflecting on his visit, he said it reminded him of the movie, The Bucket List, where a pair of aging Americans set out to do things they had always wanted to do, before they “kick the bucket.”
“But this was not scripted,” Constable MacLeod observed. “This is real. This is real life.”
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