Where’s Jean Gable when you need her?
It’s funny how a person’s life work gets carried on.
Jean Gable, famous in Barrie as a horticulturalist, died two years ago this spring. While she had her very, very busy hand in lots of things, she is likely known mostly for her large brimmed hat, and tiny stooped body, and her incredible energy around the flower beds at the old Royal Victoria Hospital. Jean died before the doors of the new RVH opened, but for years, she instructed the boys from Camp Hillsdale and dug in compost and fertilized flower beds on Ross, Toronto, Wellington Streets in a lifelong campaign to beautify the hospital.
And now the old building has been sitting idle for nearly a year, the victim of various levels of government and bureaucracy as ownership gets passed from one body to another.
Meanwhile, Jean’s life work goes to weed.
Most of us drive by, tsk-tsking about how the lawns and flowerbeds are in terrible shape, the grass burned from lack of water. Most of us drive by.
But these words this week must honour those who stopped their cars and did something. John and Janice Laking took the lead, tossing rakes, shovels and lawnmower into John’s truck and heading down to do something about the grass and the beds. And then Pearl Copeland of Little Avenue called to see if she could plant some petunias in the concrete beds around around the hospital. She lugged plants (some donated by the city greenhouses) and buckets for watering and fertilizer for the depleted soil.
The young security guard roaming the empty halls volunteered to help out, too.
But grass grows. John Laking found himself there a second week, pushing his mower around obstacles, picking up glass from the little-used bus shelter in front of the building. It takes a full day to mow the hospital grass, once you include the Wellington Street side of things.
And Pearl’s petunias gave the place a look that somebody still cared.
What’s especially neat is that nobody did this with an eye over their shoulders looking for recognition. It just happened that the eagle eye of a passing motorist (me) took note of kind activity.
I should have pulled over and got out.