Monday, February 27, 2012

Gwen's Best Friend

I don’t exactly know how they met and why they were such good friends – but Richard Tannahill and Gwen Shearer were the best of friends and business partners.  Both were ambitious men and hard workers and loved hunting.  Perhaps they met when Gwen Shearer started his lumber mill up on McCormick Ridge and Richard’s father lived close by.  Perhaps they knew each other when Richard’s girlfriend and later wife was the school teacher at the Snow School which was also close by.  Whatever the case – they were best friends.  When Richard was killed in a hunting accident in 1947 – I’m sure Gwen mourned him as deeply as a family member.

My grandmother was heartbroken after her husband’s death.  She wrote in her diary on the day he died “Oh my darling Richard!”  and then wrote in the next few days about picking out the coffin and the details of the funeral service and then nothing for a few months.  When she started writing in her diary again, you could tell it was an effort for her.  In the springtime, she wrote about the delivery of the new car that Richard had ordered a few days before his death.  A bittersweet moment all its own.  It must have been harder for a widow back in the 1940’s, especially one with her own business.  Grandma ran a lumber yard with lumber from Gwen Shearer’s mill that had been hauled down by her husband, Richard off the mountain.  It was reassuring to some to see the husband in the background, but to be on her own had to be a challenge.  That isn’t to say that my grandmother couldn’t have handled herself or her business on her own.  She was a strong willed and capable woman who was raised to rely on herself and her own capabilities.  Grandma Cappy and Gwen Shearer married about a year later after Richard’s death. 

My mother was still a young child when Gwen Shearer became a permanent fixture in her life.  Gwen had never been around children and I don’t think the adjustment was easy for him.  Somehow he and my mother developed a close bond and Mom looked at him as her “Daddy!”  She always remembered her father…but Gwen was the one who was there.  Mom remembered several occasions when she would ask Gwen questions about her father and he would always take the time to tell her anything she wanted to know.  Mom said that there was never any jealousy on Gwen’s part when it came to Richard.  She got to know things about her natural father that she never would have learned except for Gwen. 

After I was eight years old, Grandpa Gwen was the only grandfather that I knew.  He was never easy to be around or easy to please.  Regardless, I adored him.  He was patient and loving towards me which I think were foreign character traits.  Mom always thought that he was someone who never really learned to love.  He had a father who was abusive and his mother did what she could to protect him and his brothers.  Grandpa Gwen was someone who expected the best out of himself and anyone else around him.  This probably made him an excellent businessman but a difficult husband and father.  For most of their married life, Grandpa Gwen and Grandma Cappy had a contentious relationship.  You had two strong willed people where neither one was ever willing to take the easy path.  They cared for each other deeply….but it wasn’t easy.  Only in their last few years did it become easier.  Both were in poor health and it seemed that they took a lot of pleasure in taking care of the other.  When Grandma died – Grandpa Gwen for the first time in his life didn’t seem so confident and sure of himself.  He was lost without her and seemed fragile and unsure what was to come.  Mom made an album of all of the sympathy cards so he could spend time looking at and reading the condolences of people.  I suppose he wanted to remember how well loved that my grandmother was.  One of the last pictures of her was always nearby for him to look at.  In his last days, he talked to her - calling “Little mama…come in!”
Gwen working at his lumber mill!

When his best friend died, I think Grandpa Gwen was determined to do the best he could as a husband and father to Richard’s wife and daughters.  There was always the thought of what could have been if Richard had lived.  However, I know that my mother loved the man that she called “Daddy” and my grandmother loved him – even it was difficult to for him to show the love he felt for his family.