In Whiteway there were always people who stood out for a variety of reasons. The small community had a great cast of characters who all brought a piece of who they were to the quilt that was our small town. In my memory they all share a great fondness and reverence because in many ways they influenced and shaped who I am today. In the past few years, that loving community has had to say farewell to a large part of the past. I learn of this from a distance and each call I get from home relaying sad news causes a photo album to open in my mind where a flood of memories jump to the surface of my consciousness bringing laughter for the memories and tears in knowing that these albums are now complete. In the fourteen years that I have been away from NL there have been too many calls with sad news. We said goodbye to Eldred, and recently his brother Garland Drover. Farewell to Llewellyn and his brother Freddie Burgess, to Sam and his brother Robert. Will Burgess seemed ageless and we thought he might live forever. Not so. There was Wilfred Rowe, Max George, Mary Rowe, and Mildred Roberts, and who could forget Esau? I could write a book of stories from my childhood about each of these people. They were all important parts of the community that I called home.
Today I was told of the death of Clifford Drover. Clifford was another character of great importance in my own story. Clifford was our local merchant. He and his wife Mary ran Drover’s Grocerteria. They were known all over the place for their quality materials and wools that were available. People would drive from St. John’s to get material from Drover’s. It was an old time store in Clifford’s day. It was a place where we spent a lot of time as children. It was a place where stories were often shared. It was not uncommon to see people gathered there giving detail of their day, where the fish were or were not, how great the party was the night before, etc. Drover’s was not just a store – it was a destination. Mom would send us to “down to the shop” to get a pound of cheese, or a half a dozen slices of bologna, or perhaps a piece of salt beef. All this stuff to be found at the back in those days, where Clifford would cut the bologna (with a knife – no fancy slicers), weigh the cheese or salt beef and wrap in all in brown paper for you. You could proudly then take it to the counter and ask Orpha to “write that down to Mom.” After school, lunch often was a bottle of coke and a slice of bologna or a piece of watermelon – all supplied by Clifford. But that wasn’t all. Perhaps a fuse would be blown – Dad would spring into action, and upon discovering that there were no fuses, send me “down the shop” to get some. Clifford had those too. He also had groceries, nails, wool, rubber boots, frozen meats, fish, fishing tackle, souvenirs, beer and smokes, and just about anything else you needed to run the home. "Kevin, you have a slow leak in you bike tire – ‘go down the shop’ and get some patching." Clifford had it all. And Clifford was genuinely happy to sell it to you. He really enjoyed "the shop" and he enjoyed serving people. Clifford retired when I was young and gave Craig the helm. But dad was never too far from son, and he loved to be at the shop, cutting up boxes, bagging up surprise bags, and perhaps from time to time, telling Craig that he was “giving stuff away.”
When I was in Newfoundland at the New Year, I had opportunity to visit with Clifford. I was glad to have had that chance to sit and talk, but it was sad to say goodbye as he and I both knew then that this day was near. But make no mistake, we shared laughs that day as well as tears. In classic Clifford style he reminded me that day that “if you take care of the ‘coppers,’ the dollars look after themselves.” That was classic Clifford – always the merchant! I thought about that expression upon my return to Windsor and realized that it applies to so much more than just dollars and cents and I think Clifford knew that too. Indeed, if we all took care of the small details in our lives the big ones would be well looked after as well. Clifford was more than a business man. Clifford was a good father and grandfather. He is well loved by Craig and Val and Mitchell and Maria. Clifford was so proud of Maria and Mitchell and always spoke of them to me with great love in his voice. Clifford was a good churchman. My very earliest memories of church include Clifford Drover. He was always there. He was always at church and he always got involved. When we visited this past January and when we visited in August last year, it is no surprise that we had a lot of good conversation about church. Clifford gave to the world in his involvement with the Shriners. Clifford was a good person who made the world a better place. It is fair to say that in the mosaic of my memory, Clifford has painted many strokes. I looked up to him and I admired him as a leader in our community. He will be greatly missed. Clifford looked after the “coppers” in his lifetime; the “dollars” have looked after themselves. Clifford looked after loving those closest to him and loving God in his lifetime; his eternal reward will look after itself.
To Mary, Craig, Val, Mitchell and Maria – please know that you are being held in prayer and that our thoughts are with you.