PrimeTime Magazine Spring 2020 - Page 13

Surviving Isolation in a Time of Pandemic How telephone chats with friends, scrapbooks, memories, and a pragmatic philosophy are helping Eddie St. Pierre get through MARGARET PATRICIA EATON In 2015, former Prime Time editor Rayanne Brennan profiled Eddie St. Pierre, describing the sportswriter, editor, and columnist, as “The Dean of Sports Journalism” and “The Saint.” The first title was the result of his 60-year newspaper career which “brought him face to face with the 20th Century’s greatest sports celebrities. In turn he brought these celebrities to life for the readers of the Times & Transcript,” she wrote. Meanwhile, the title of ‘Saint’ was earned by virtue of volunteer work for The Kidney Foundation and other charitable organizations, and compassion that leads him to visit the sick and elderly and befriend those less fortunate. As a raconteur par excellence with a larger than life personality, we wondered how Eddie was coping with isolation, so we reached him via telephone in mid-April at People’s Park Tower where he has lived since 2018. “I just have to grin and bear it,” he responded, “and hope things turn out for the best, but it’s going to take awhile. You do the best you can with what you have. Some people are a lot worse off.” He says he appreciates all the measures taken by the administration to ensure residents’ safety, including closing the dining-room and delivering meals to the apartments. Eddie, who turns 87 on August 21, says in pre-pandemic times he enjoyed breakfast in the dining-room, chatting with table mates “about whatever”, sharing newspapers, walking in Centennial Park, and visiting friends and family. He would check in on old friends no longer mobile, drop into the Moncton Press Club, bring treats to his great-granddaughters, attend Blue Eagles and Wild Cats hockey games and was looking forward to baseball season. “Then From left to right: Neil Mac Williams, Eddie, Emily,(great granddaughter) Jenna (granddaughter) and Audrey (great granddaughter). Although not in the photo, Eddie also has two more great granddaughters MacKenzie Barbara St. Pierre and Odessa Arsenault. once a week we had a group that used to go out to Shediac for lunch and talk about the old days,” he says. “Since Covid-19 we talk on the phone but it’s not the same as face-to-face.” Now instead of live hockey games, he is watching NHL highlights on TV, and looking through scrapbooks filled with articles he wrote between 1951 and 2014, which bring back memories of the people he interviewed, wrote about, and made friends with. Among them were NHL players Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe and Rocket Richard; boxers Yvon Durelle and Archie Moore, and former baseball player, manager and scout Clyde Sukeforth, who by signing Jackie Robinson, broke the colour barrier in MLB. “You never know when you are part of history,” he says reflecting on the interesting life he has led. But Eddie’s friends are not limited to sports celebrities. “Through the newspaper you meet all kinds of people, not just sports but businesspeople and politicians,” he says, referencing the late Governor General Romeo LeBlanc and his son, Dominic; and Premiers Frank McKenna, Louis Robichaud, Bernard Lord and Shawn Graham, “and I was close to people at all levels.” He recalls his friendship with ‘Fast Eddie’ Leger, a street person, who “was quite a character and pretty sharp.” When ‘Fast Eddie’ died, Eddie “arranged a proper funeral for him at St. Bernard’s, with several hundred in attendance, including judges he had stood before.” “So, I’m doing OK,” he says, coming back to the present. “I’m doing the best I can, but you have to roll with the punches. It’s a change, but that’s the way life goes.” SUMMER/ÉTÉ 2020 PrimeTime 13