Romance in the Roots

During the last few months, I have began tracing my family tree. In the process, I have discovered so many stories. Stories of romance, tragedy, and struggle. In this, the first of the series, I bring you the tragic love story of Ralph and Mary, and how tragedy brought them together and separated them forever. Although we do not know much about Mary Foley, I am telling the story from her prospective.

“I had it all figured out back then. Leave my boring little community and head for the city. I had just finished high school and wanted to do something other than be a housewife like my mother. I did my best to stay away from the boys and concentrate on my future. My marks were high enough that I was accepted into the St. Clare Hospital School of Nursing in St. John’s Newfoundland.

I graduated top in my class and was ready to go to work. with the war just ended, there was plenty of work, and I got hired right away. I thought I would be working at St. Clare’s hospital, but that wasn’t the case. I was sent to work at the Sanitarium.

The Sanitarium was not where I wanted to work, but back in the 1940’s a girl couldn’t be too choosy where she would work, so I went. My family were outraged that I might actually get sick while working at the hospital, I didn’t blame them for worrying, since the Sanitarium was where 90% of all Tuberculosis sufferers ended up.

My first few days at work were difficult, long hours and lots of lifting made me rethink my plans for the future. I was spending so much time working, I didn’t have much time for myself.

And then one day, a young man was carried into the hospital. I still remember his curly hair and those eyes. I fell in love with him that moment.

I followed him to his room, where he was put in a tent near a window. He was quarantined so that his disease didn’t spread to anyone else. The head nurse assigned me to his bedside. Talk about lucky!

Every day, while he was treated, I was there. I held his hands while he bravely fought against the disease. He told me stories about his home back on the west coast, and  how his father died from the disease. He told me stories about his 10 brothers and sisters, and how his mother cared for them while she worked as a house cleaner for the wealthy people in the area.

On the nice days, I would open the window so that Ralph could breathe in the fresh air. This seemed to help him. The two of us would glance out at the beautiful scenery and talk about our futures and how much we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. I spent every living moment I could with Ralph, and I couldn’t wait for him to leave the hospital. The doctor said that he was improving. That was hopeful enough for him to propose to me. Of course I said yes.

A few months later, the doctor said that Ralph was cured. He beat Tuberculosis. We went out on the town that day, along with a few friends we met at the hospital. What a great day. Ralph already wrote several letters to his family, telling them all about me. I could tell that he really loved me, almost as much as I loved him. We planned a fall wedding, back in Stephenville with all his family. I was excited to meet them, and Ralph said they were excited as well.

Everything was going so well, how could anything go wrong? Ralph picked up a job here in the city, and we were saving our money for the big day when suddenly my entire world came tumbling down.

This time there would be no treatment at the Sanitarium. Ralph had suffered an aneurism and died immediately.

I think I cried so much that I actually ran out of tears. My beloved Ralph, my handsome fiancé. My future. We had so many plans, and now it was over.

I wrote a letter to Ralph’s family explaining everything. They were devastated. With no money to bring Ralph’s body home, I took care of everything. I made sure he received a proper burial, and I paid for it all with the money we saved together.

They might say that Ralph didn’t have a long life, but I don’t agree. Despite being only 23 years old, Ralph managed to leave the simple country life of his siblings and travel across the province to the big city. He managed to beat a disease that killed so many, and he managed to fall in love…with me. I would say he led quite a full life. I just wish it could have been longer. I wish we could have had more time together.

I will never forget my handsome man, with his curly brown hair and beautiful eyes. I would especially never forget his voice, and how much I loved hearing him tell me how much he loved me. I miss you already Ralph.”

This is the story of my Great-Uncle Ralph White and the love affair he had with Mary Foley. Nobody knows what happened to Mary after Ralph passed away, all we have are the letters he wrote to his mother, how he expressed his love for Mary, and how he planned on making her his wife. We also have a few photos my family managed to dig up from old family albums.


3 thoughts on “Romance in the Roots

  1. That digging into the roots sometimes unearths some interesting stories. Well told. I did some digging a while ago, and some of the stuff shouldn’t be printed here. 🙂

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