AVERILL JUNE PIERS BAKER
Our mother, Averill Baker, insisted she did not want an obituary, funeral service, or any of the “fuss” that typically follows death. In her usual and slightly unconventional approach, she saw all that sort of attention to her as unnecessary. Since she was an incredibly patient, forgiving mother, our disobedience in writing this obituary was to be expected.
Mom died exactly in the manner she suggested was the best way to go – at home, suddenly, while doing something useful (making dinner). This sudden departure was in keeping with Mom’s key traits. She was energetic, selfless, practical, eschewed ceremony, was happiest when doing things for others, and although she gained the most satisfaction from personal interactions, she was also a homebody who valued time alone.
Mom felt so lucky to live in Gander, mainly because of the world-famous warmth of our people, but also because of the beauty of the lake, the boardwalk, and forest trails. In recent years, she led a quiet life, perfecting piano works, practising French, walking every day, and appreciating life’s many small gifts. In the 2000’s she traveled to compete in piano competitions in Dallas Fort Worth Texas, Washington DC, Paris, and Moscow. Around the same decade, she hosted her only grandchild for fun-filled summers, and together with young neighbouring children, formed a musical performance group called the Vatcher Place Girls. She organized concerts to raise money for charities, and while she enjoyed performing, she delighted more in inviting the considerable local talent to join the stage.
When Mom faced chemotherapy and radiation treatments in 1997 she chose to focus on gratitude for our health care system – telling us about the wonderful hospital cleaners, orderlies, nurses, technicians, and doctors she met. Mom was the embodiment of a positive attitude. She liked her “No Hair Day” baseball cap because it was humour in the face of adversity. Dr. Carmel Casey, and nurse Lillian, provided wonderful primary care in Gander.
During the 1980’s Mom loved teaching her music students – she valued their accomplishments big and small. In the 1970’s she organized a choir that produced a record that was probably for most of us the only record we would ever be part of! Throughout all of Mom’s musical ventures, she was a loving mother to four, encouraging us in our activities and often participating in school plays and musical events, preparing healthy meals, and keeping a house that was, albeit not fancy, clean and above all, a place to live and laugh. Mom made the most of the long winters by making exceptional backyard skating rinks. She got up at all hours to spray water and shovel snow off the rinks, strung lights along the clothesline and arranged music to play outside. Fitness was important to Mom – from her childhood activities including qualifying as a lifeguard, tennis, figure skating, speed skating, and ballet, to aerobics and yoga in mid-life, winding down more recently to daily walks.
Mom had another “job” she loved – supporting her husband George’s role as the federally elected voice in Ottawa for residents of the constituencies of Gander Twillingate and later
Gander Grand Fall’s. Mom diligently blasted the Open Line show while doing laundry, she read the local paper, took phone messages, listened to people in the supermarket and “around town”, and often at our front door. Mom wasn’t a gossip and had an empathetic understanding of how life’s difficulties can arise. She strove to provide a compassionate ear, with a genuine promise that she would relay the details of the problem to George. Mom had complete confidence that if Dad could do something, he would, and she made herself available to proofread, review legislation, administrative proceeding cases, and generally support his work. She derived as much satisfaction out of Dad’s career as he did. Mom knew that helping others brings the deepest level of joy and satisfaction to life. She made a habit of pointing out to us the many people in our community doing things that contributed to others’ happiness, and her admiration for their acts of kindness.
Over the 1980s and 1990s Mom particularly enjoyed in depth studies of the French language. She hosted concerts in Ottawa and Quebec for charity and invited people she had met through her studies to participate. She found that the culture in Quebec had parallels with her beloved Newfoundland culture.
Before moving to Gander in the 1970’s, Mom and Dad lived in St. John’s. While there Mom hosted a television show, wrote a weekly newspaper article reviewing musical performances, and taught music at an elementary school. St. John’s posed a cultural change for Mom as she had spent her childhood from age 12 at a boarding school in Toronto and studying piano performance at the Toronto Conservatory of Music and University of Toronto. However, having started her early life in Halifax, with family in NS and PEI, she had experience with Atlantic hospitality and culture, and she took to the Island of Newfoundland’s unique blend of practicality, humour, and integrity. Her mother and father-in-law Violet and Eli Baker embraced and loved her as a daughter, which made her new home on the Island of Newfoundland complete.
Having been sent to boarding school at 12, Mom didn’t spend as much time with some of her favourite family members in Nova Scotia as she would have liked. However, she felt fortunate to have always had a warm bond with her older brother Bill Piers, his wife Carmen, and her nephew and niece Geoff and Stephanie.
Writing a fitting obituary is an impossible task. There are so many people who were important to our mother. She was never a name dropper. So - let us end by saying we could not possibly mention everyone, and that she would tell you not to mourn, but rather to give thanks for the many blessings in your life.
The Baker family