Klondike Korner: On Losing a Good Neighbour

I lost a good neighbour a few weeks ago. I’m writing this just a week after the death of Madeleine Gould, but it will be almost two more weeks before you read it. By then perhaps I’ll be used to looking out of my kitchen window at breakfast and seeing only one computer monitor glowing in the Gould’s study, but I doubt it.

Madeleine’s funeral was just two days ago now (March 20). St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church was packed to Standing Room Only, and the Bishop came up from Whitehorse to conduct the ceremony.

There was an interesting mix of people in the congregation, for Madeleine touched a lot of lives during her 88 years. She was Granny Gould to quite a few, Mrs. Gould to the kids whose lunches she supervised at the school for a number of years, and Madeleine to most.

If you spoke of “Madeleine” there was no question who you were talking about.

Almost 21 years ago, when she was 10 years older than I am now, she sat down with a group of people and planned the birth of the Klondike Sun newspaper, which she went on to serve as a director and first volunteer advertising manager for a number of years before moving on to other things.

Madeleine was a tireless volunteer, as evidenced by the citation on her Commissioner’s Award for Volunteer Service, given in 2000. It was presented “for her immeasurable volunteer contributions to the boards of the Dawson City Radio Society, Dawson City Library, Robert Service School and the Klondike Sun.”

It could also have mentioned the Golden Age Society, Humane Society Dawson, the IODE and many other groups. She would also have been an excellent member of the Yukon Order of Pioneers, if they had just let her join.

She gained national recognition in the press and on Front Page Challenge, when Pierre Berton arranged for three shows to be taped here in the Palace Grand Theatre, for her long legal challenge to the YOOP’s membership rules.

When she finally lost her battle at the level of the Supreme Court of Canada, neither she nor John, himself a staunch YOOP member, felt defeated. They were both disappointed, but they continued to believe in their struggle.

Madeleine’s last big cause was recycling, and the Goulds have a small but energetic recycling depot in their side yard, tucked in under their trailer home. Madeleine made the rounds daily in her scooter, pulling a trailer or two behind her, scouring alleys and garbage cans for pop cans and bottles. The money they made went to worthy causes and to kids who were collecting points for prizes.

The last major project was to have been a stair lift for St. Mary’s, since the sanctuary is on the second floor and, as the Bishop said he was told by Madeleine, “The older folk (not her or John) need some help getting to church.”

Here at home, we’re going to miss the odd loaf of bread hanging from our doorknob, the sound of the scooter going by the front lawn, the frequent exchange of baking supplies when one or the other of us would need something in a hurry, and the forwarded e-mail messages from that glowing monitor next door.

She was a unique person and she will be missed here.

After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.

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