Here we recognize and celebrate the lives of some of the earliest adventurers and personalities on Clearwater Beach. These are the stories of our forebearers who helped build The Beach and community we know and love.
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"Passing Of A Pioneer"
By: Trudy Bergere
On June 3, 2019, Clearwater Beach lost another pioneer. Marion Bergere (1924 to 2019) passed away peacefully at Hillcrest Village Care Centre in Midland, surrounded by a circle of love and kindness. Marion’s first trip to the cottage at #1749 of Clearwater Beach was in 1948. She and her husband, John Arthur (Art) Bergere (1919 to 1992) and their 5-year old daughter Wendy, drove up to this glorious piece of heaven from their home in Toronto.
Like many of the pioneers of that era, they left their car at a place known simply as “The Car Park”. Then they made their way by foot, carrying their belongings and supplies through the bush and along the beach to their property at 1749. It was quite a hike, but they made it day or night, good weather or bad, to get to the cottage. WW2 had ended just a couple of years previously and for Marion and Art, and many others, finding money to own and keep a cottage was not easy. They built a cabin from the trees on the property and later a summer cottage. Together they carved a place for their family out of the woods, rocks, and sand of Clearwater Beach. Eventually, another daughter came along, Trudy. Marion, Art, and their two girls spent their summer holidays swimming, boating, fishing, and playing cards with family who had built their own cottages at Clearwater. Every year, without fail, the family attended The Picnic at Harry Hooke’s cottage. Now the annual event is called Fun Day held at Marygrove. Along with all the fun and recreation, there was always a long To Do List of repairs to keep up the cottage. It was hard work but they were young and strong.
In 1980, Marion and Art finally realized their dream of retiring at the cottage. Like many full-time residents on Clearwater, they had earned the freedom to enjoy the cottage in the good weather and join other snowbirds in Florida for the winter. Over time, the work stayed hard but Marion and Art aged. The challenges of keeping up the cottage became harder and harder. In 1992, Art passed away at the age of 73. Marion was determined to stay at the cottage in the summers and spend winters in Florida. For 16 years, she lived at the cottage, on her own, with her devoted companion, Kristy, a yellow Labrador Retriever. During these years, Marion earned her nickname “Marion-of-the-Wilderness” because of her strong sense of independence and reliance. Every autumn, Marion and Kristy packed up the mini-van and headed to Saddlebag Lake in Lake Wales Florida. Every spring they would return as soon as the weather was warm enough to rev up the water pump once again, to draw water from the Bay.
During her summertime residence, Marion was very active in her church community, the Anglican Parish of Penetang. She joined the ACW (Anglican Church Women) to host a long series of spaghetti suppers, rummage sales, chili lunches, and fund raisers. Along with many other accomplishments, the ACW raised funds for the roof of All Saints Church and volunteered their time selling raffle tickets at Foodland and visiting residents at Georgian Manor in Penetang. Her time and energy were given freely, without any expectations for praise or recognition. In time, Marion found it a struggle to live on her own at the cottage. Her physical mobility began to decay. There was not a patch of even ground on the property so using a cane and eventually a walker became a real problem and she had several falls out in the wilderness, sometimes with nobody around to hear her calls for help.
In 2008, at the age of 85, Marion made the decision to move from the cottage to Whispering Pines, an Assisted Living residence in Barrie. Her daughter, Trudy agreed to keep up the cottage with her partner Paul Baxter. Marion was able to enjoy many visits to the cottage, sitting on the deck looking at the classic Brebeuf Lighthouse, watching the freighters by with their characteristic engine noise of chug-chug-chug, or laughing at the Merganser ducks bobbing like corks and suddenly diving down to catch fish living in the shallows of the shoreline. Her appreciation and love for Clearwater beach continued to grow. At every visit, there was at least one mention of how blessed we are as a family to be in this place.
Eventually, Marion’s health declined and she wanted to move to be closer to ‘home’ in Penetang. After a short stay at Bayfield House, she moved to Georgian Village when it opened in 2013. Her years at Georgian village with her cat Minoux were happy but it was clear that her condition was deteriorating. She was still able to come to the cottage for visits, but staying overnight was difficult. She would wake up in the night, very upset because she did not know where she was. Visiting the cottage was becoming harder for Marion. It soon became clear that Marion was suffering from age-related dementia.
The time came when the state of Marion’s health required her to move to Hillcrest Care Centre, a long-term care facility in Midland. Any mention of the cottage and Clearwater Beach was something that Mom recognized right to the end of her time with us. Stories about family, pictures of the Beach, and memories of times past were an important connection to her reality. Her days as a pioneer on Clearwater Beach and her time living here with Art and her family was something that was imprinted forever on her memory. Right until the end of Marion’s extraordinarily long life, her love of the cottage sustained her through the fog and darkness that came with her illness.
Marion’s experiences living at Clearwater Beach can be described as part of a life well-lived! Some of us believe that Marion’s spirit lives on… in the water, in the rocks, and in the forest that we all continue to enjoy today.
God Bless Her Soul.
Marion’s life will be celebrated on July 3rd, 2019 at 2pm, starting with a service at All Saints Anglican Church in Penetang, followed by burial in the cemetery at St. James-On-The-Lines Anglican Church in Penetang, and a reception at the Church Hall across the street. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Alzheimer’s Society or the animal charity of your choice would be appreciated.