What advice does a person give towards having a successful marriage after 60 years married?
“Once day at a time,” said Phyllis Gainor, now 82 years old. “You have to primarily, first of all, take care of yourself … because without your health you have nothing.”
Phyllis married Glen Gainor in 1951 in an Anglican Church in Richmond, British Columbia. The couple had met in Vancouver, after Glen’s family had moved to the city from Saskatchewan.
Glen had gotten a job as a mechanic at her father’s service station, and he had caught young Phyllis’ eye.
“I thought: ‘that cute blonde guy,’” she said.
Phyllis was 21 and Glen was 22,
The young couple moved around a bit with their first three children, living in Metchosin, on Vancouver Island, a couple different places in Richmond, then up to Six Mile Lake in Prince George, where Glen went to work for Gordon Mitchell as a heavy duty mechanic.
They then transferred to 100 Mile House, then Forest Grove in 1954, and back up to outside of Vanderhoof for awhile.
Glen was working shifts on the Nechako Dam, but would go in to Vanderhoof to socialize.
It was someone Glen had met in Vanderhoof who tipped Glen off on Stone’s Bay, a man by the name of Sonny Hall.
When Glen told Phyllis he wanted them to move to Fort St. James, she said: “Oh my god, where is that?”
The couple moved out onto some property on Stone’s Bay, into a small wall tent with a fridge and a gas stove for the first three months, and at that time there were no other residences out on Stone’s Bay Road.
“No school buses, no nothing,” said Phyllis. “With five kids it was a handful.”
But there was already power to the property, which helped.
Then they purchased the home they live in still today,which was near where they had erected the tent and was only a seasonal cabin in those days, with wood shavings for insulation.
There were four rooms downstairs with bunks for the couples’ seven children.
Fifty-three years later, Glen raised the idea they should sell and move, but Phyllis told him she was staying, no question.
While many might want to flee the winter weather in their later years, Phyllis said that is part of why it suits her in the Fort.
“I do like the seasons, I think they’re awesome.”
While the couple live in a beautiful location, which has grown up around them, with neighbours moving in over the years, transforming the area, and many changes to the Fort, they have also weathered more than their share of tragedy.
It all started with her parents, said Phyllis, who was 36 years old when they were both killed in a car accident on their way to a bridge tournament in Oregon.
She was shocked at being an orphan, and thought it would be even worse to lose a child.
Her oldest son Kevin Gainor was also killed in a truck accident in 1972, when he was only 20.
Then her youngest son Parker also died in a vehicle crash at just 23, when he collided head-on with his brother Bug on a road near Manson Creek.
Bug survived the tragic crash, only to pass away only three years ago while falling a tree in Butte Inlet.
And while any one of these terrible events could have overwhelmed her, Phyllis has carried on, being an active member of the community. She was an elected councillor for the Fort in past years, has been a cook in a logging camp, instructed first aid courses, was a board member on the Fort Alcohol and Drug Services Societyand worked at the Canfor mill, which is now Conifex.
Phyllis worked for Canfor from 1988 until 1994, and was the safety officer for some of those years.
She also wrote and distributed a newsletter for Canfor.
Glen towed log booms on the lake, worked as a heavy duty mechanic and also placer mined near Manson Creek.
Taking care of herself was something Phyllis had to work hard to do at times, as she herself was injured a number of times, with a broken neck from a car accident, a broken back and a number of surgeries.
But the secret to her longevity has not been the waters of Stuart Lake, as after 53 years, Phyllis still doesn’t really swim.
“I can float like hell, but I cannot swim,” said the still-feisty octogenarian.
Sixteen years ago, Phyllis retired, and she and Glen marked their 60th wedding anniversary on September 21, and celebrated on the 24th with over 50 friends and family.
Cousins of Glen’s in their 80s as well came all the way from Swift Current Saskatchewan for the event.
The couple has four surviving children, 15 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.