N.W.T. couple welcomes 'showers of blessings' on 77th anniversary

Peter and Mary Kay, aged 100 and 96, were married on a rainy day in 1939 in a ceremony with two other couples.

Peter and Mary Kay, aged 100 and 96, were married on a rainy day in 1939

Peter and Mary Kay of Fort McPherson, N.W.T., celebrated their 77th wedding anniversary on July 10. (Lindsay Jill Eirikson)

A couple from Fort McPherson, N.W.T., celebrated 77 years together this past weekend.

Peter and Mary Kay were married on July 10, 1939, in a ceremony with two other couples.

"It was actually his sister who told him he should marry my mom, because he would be taken care of for the rest of his life," says their daughter Dianne Baxter.

"My dad says when he saw her he was like, 'Yeah, OK.'"

Mary and Peter Kay were married in a triple wedding July 10, 1939. From left: Mary Alexie and Charlie Wilson, Mary Vittrekwa and Peter Kay, and Emily Thompson and Richard Blake. (submitted by Diane Baxter)

He went to his father, who talked to Mary's father. 

"When she was first told, she didn't want to get married, but it was an arranged marriage. She said 'I didn't love him at first but I learned to love him over the years.'"

'Whatever you had, you shared'

Peter is 100 and Mary is 96. They still live in their own home and their children take turns caring for them. Mary still cooks for neighbouring elders when she can.

"They work very well together and they both have the same mannerisms," says Baxter.

"They had rules in the household and we respected the rules. They always told us you have to try to help people in the community because that's the way my dad was raised and the way my mom was raised, is that whatever you had, you shared."

The rules included sharing of harvested food with elders, the sick and other families, in that order. Baxter says when her father delivered food to elders they would wish him a long and happy life, and so he believes he owes his health and longevity to the community values he was taught.

Traditions passed on

Baxter says the family continues the tradition.

"Whenever we go out berry-picking, we always use our berries to help other families in times of need, whether it's single mothers who can't get out, or when someone passes away in the Gwich'in settlement area, we make contributions toward the feast with the traditional foods that we harvest off of the land."

High waters closed the ferry last weekend, keeping some family members from attending the anniversary potluck. But rain on the morning of the anniversary celebration was appropriate, says Baxter, as her mother recalls it rained the morning of her wedding day but cleared up in the evening.

"She always said 'Rain is a good thing; it's showers of blessings.'"

with files from Wanda McLeod