Mary John was born in Lheidli on June 16, 1913, the daughter of Anzel Quaw. She grew up here in Saik'uz, with her mother and stepfather Johnny Paul and siblings: Mark, Bella, Melanie, and Alec.
Mary's childhood was marked by hard times. Most memorable to her was surviving the 1918 Spanish flu when she was five. Mary recalls both her parents being ill - her mother was nine months pregnant; Mary had to boil water for her parents and she could barely reach the top of the stove. Mary attended the Residential School in Fort St. James until Lejac Residential School opened in 1922.
Mary left Residential School at age fourteen and at sixteen married Lazare John. Together they had twelve children: Winnie, Ray, Helen, Florence, Johnny, Charles, Bernice, Ernie, Gordie, Doris, Arthur & Shirley. In the native tradition, Chester, Bernie and Rosa were also raised and loved as their own.
Even though motherhood kept her very busy, Mary still took jobs outside the home. She and Lazare worked at Binche Mines cutting wood, and they also pulled stumps for farmers around Vanderhoof, the riverside campsite, and the Vanderhoof airport.
Mary worked for many years at the St. John's Hospital in Vanderhoof. Her son Ernie remembers he often used to accompany her on the long walk into town. One winter the road was very icy so they tied binder twine on their feet for traction and left at 3 am to get to work by 6 am.
Ernie fondly remembers his mom as a cattle rancher. She always wore an old coat they called her "Cow Coat." One Easter Sunday they got all dressed up for Church and Mary said "Just a minute, I'll just check on the cows." The cows all scattered in terror because they didn't recognize her "all dolled up" in her Easter finery!
Mary's strength and consideration of all others shone through on many occasions. She was a midwife and delivered many children. When she went into labour with her daughter Bernice, she didn't want to bother anyone because they were in Church and so she...