New Brunswick

Keeping sisterly bonds tight during a COVID-19 Christmas

Freda Colpitts of Moncton, 86, gets a sister-filled surprise to brighten her holiday spirits.

Freda Colpitts' sisters surprise her with a mini Christmas celebration in Moncton to brighten her spirits

Freda Colpitts, 86, is the oldest of seven girls in her family. She also has two brothers. Colpitts says family means everything to her. (Kate Letterick/CBC News)

Family means everything to Freda Colpitts, 86, of Moncton.

Colpitts grew up with 7 sisters and 2 brothers. Although everyone eventually went their separate ways, the family has remained tight knit.

This Christmas is going to be especially tough for Colpitts. Because of COVID-19, she's spending the holiday alone, in her senior's apartment because her family wants to keep her safe.

"I don't like it, but it's what you have to do." Colpitts said.

So her sisters decided something had to be done to cheer up Colpitts, the oldest sister who they describe as always being there for others.

So they surprised her with a drive-thru parade of cars at her building. They honked their horns and 5 of her 6 sisters, wearing Santa hats, waved and shouted "Merry Christmas".

Freda Colpitts and her best friend Evelyn Woods watch as Colpitts' sisters hold a mini drive-thru Christmas parade. (Pierre Fournier/CBC News)

It's the first time she's seen some of them in a while.

Phyllis Stewart, the third youngest sister, lives in Toronto, but has been staying at her cottage in Cap Brulé since the summer.

"It's so hard because we haven't been able to get together and we thought, we just can't stand the thought of Freda being alone on Christmas morning without having some gifts to open." Stewart said.

Keeping sisterly bonds tight during a COVID-19 Christmas

2 years ago
Duration 2:50
Although they can't be together on Christmas Day, Freda Colpitts's sisters surprise her with a mini-celebration in Moncton.

"So we just said let's all get together and let's present her gifts and at least she'll be thinking of us on Christmas morning and maybe we can Skype of Zoom or do something.  But it meant a lot to all of us to get together and do something for our oldest sister."

The sisters, along with their partners gathered in a reception area, physically distanced, to sing a Christmas song, and present Colpitts with a number of brightly wrapped gifts.

Eva Pistone, the fifth sister in the group, read a speech mentioning those who couldn't attend, including youngest sister Brenda Buchanan, who lives in Nova Scotia.

"She's always been special to me and I'm like near crying cause it's just overwhelming to see that we could do this for her. I can't believe we could put it together and do it." Pistone said.

Six of the seven "Wilson sisters". Diane Hill, Phyllis Stewart, Melissa Young, Freda Colpitts (seated), Dona A'Court and Eva Pistone. (Kate Letterick/CBC News)

Diane Hill, the second sister, said as the years passed, and most of the family moved back home, they've counted on each other.

"We're always doing something. If anyone's ill or needs anything, one or the other's on an e-mail or the phone and we call and take up a collection and do what we have to do." said Hill.

The Wilson sisters as they were known, grew up in a fun-filled, boisterous house in Lewisville, where their mother baked bread everyday.

Dona A'Court, the sixth sister, remembers when Freda worked at the Brown-Holder Biscuits Factory at just 15 years of age.

A'Court said Colpitts would bring home boxes of broken cookies, or share some of the money she made. She said her big sister still always thinks of others, so she's glad they could do something for her.

"I don't know what I'd do if I wasn't here, if I was away and couldn't make it to be here. I don't think I could handle that." she said.

Middle sister Melissa Young said she often has Colpitts over on Christmas day.

"Absolutely, I was very disappointed that I couldn't have Freda this year and I had called her and told her.  So when this came together.  Phyllis is our organizer — an idea is only worth this much if you don't follow through — she followed through." she said.

Freda Colpitts' sisters and their partners cheer her up with a Christmas tune. (Pierre Fournier/CBC News)

For Freda Colpitts, having 6 of the 7 sisters in one room is bittersweet.

"It made me sad.  Everybody here — I can't go out.  I can't be with them and my two boys, I can't go up to see them and everything." she said. "They mean a lot to me."

Although they couldn't hug each other good-bye, the sisters are hopeful things will be different next year, and they can get back to family gatherings.

In the meantime, Freda Colpitts won't be completely alone on Christmas Day.

As she waits for phone calls from her two sons, Eldon and Tommy, she'll have her best friend in the apartment complex, and "adopted sister", Evelyn Woods to keep her company.


Kate Letterick is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick.


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