On the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day a very special local woman turned 90 years old.
Evalie Murdock’ birthday was on Tuesday, March 8, and was celebrated by around 100 people from all over the province on the previous Saturday at Nak’albun Elementary School.
There was a dinner cooked by family and friends, aided by her daughter Jenny who graduated from the local CNC Professional Cooking Program, and live music by some, including singing by Juno award-nominated Farah Palmer who lives in Binche.
Evalie Murdock was originally from Binche, but spent much of her youth at the Lejac Residential School near Fraser Lake.
It was a tough time for the young Evalie, who speaks of the time away from her parents for 10 months of the year plainly but without bitterness.
“They hauled us away like cattle in the back of a truck,” she said, mentioning the coating of dust the children arrived at the school with each year.
After attending the school for many years, Evalie had obtained a grade 6 education, and spent the next years with her parents, before she married her husband Thomas Murdock when she was 18 years old.
The Indian Agent at the time had suggested she be sent to school in Sardis to become a nurse’s aid, she said, but her mom wouldn’t let her make the journey away to further schooling.
So she was married to Thomas, and the couple moved to an area on the outskirts of Fort St. James in 1942.
“It was a small village,” said Evalie, recalling how different the town was when they first arrived.
“Now it’s gettingto be a big town,” she said.
The couple lived in a small log cabin without running water and electricity for many years, hauling water from the lake by horse or from a nearby creek by hand. But they eventually moved the cabin in 1953 to where Evalie still lives, at the corner of Ash Street and Second Avenue.
Once the log cabin was moved, Thomas added on a kitchen and spare room with rough lumber from the local mill.
The couple, their own nine children and two foster children lived in the home comfortably enough, and Evalie grew a vegetable garden out back.
“It was really good, even though it wasn’t fancy like this one,” said Evalie, referring to the house now standing on the lot, which was built in 1981. “It was really comfortable.”
Daughter Genevieve Pierre, Evalie’s fourth eldest child remembers the day they moved the house, and remembers the entire family sitting at the dinner table in the tiny home for an hour and a half or longer dinners every night.
Evalie’s husband Thomas Murdock worked as a carpenter, boat builder and a hunter.
He had a reputation as the best tracker in the area, and Cam McCormick recalls that if they called Murdock right away when people went missing, he would find them alive. If they waited to call him, he would find them dead, but he always found who he was looking for.
As a carpenter, over the years, Thomas was involved in building the town, helping to construct the Legion and the first shopping centre as well as many homes in the area.
As a boat builder, he had a reputation for making great river boats, and Evalie recalled when a couple of “white men came and asked him for blueprints” of the boats he would build. But Thomas could only respond that the only plans were in his head.
Evalie stayed home, and was kept busy with raising children. While she raised nine of her own, she also raised two foster children, who were her sister-in law’s who passed away.
“She was always busy,” remembers daughter Genevieve Pierre, saying Evalie has worn holes in two thimbles over the years through her ceaseless sewing and crafting work.
She also said her mom earned money from the fine beading and crafting she did and tanned her own moose hides for the craftwork.
The Indian Agent who suggested Evalie study nursing must have seen the nurturing nature in the young Evalie, and her daughter said, “she always seemed like she was looking after people.”
She took care of her husband’s mother, her own mother and her husband’s father at different times in the house.
“I can’t believe the patience she has,” said Pierre.
Evalie’s husband Thomas passed away June 22, 2006.
She lost three of her sons over the years, and now has 14 grandchildren, 20 great grandchildren and now three great-great grandchildren.
Evalie, who still walked to church everyday for Mass until about six years ago when she broke her hip, attributes her long life to diligence and God.
“I’ve worked hard raising the kids,” said Evalie.
“I turned my life to the Lord, tried to live a good life.”
The tiny woman, while hard of hearing, is still a bright woman, who seemed to enjoy speaking of her family the most and still knits, beads and sews gifts for the family.
Her beadwork is beautiful, the craftsmanship impeccable, but as was pointed out, she’s had a lot of years of practice.