Nova Scotia

Halifax woman who entertained troops during Second World War dies

Charlotte Guy Jeffries, a Halifax pianist who peformed for troops in Canada and overseas during Second World War, has died. She was 98. In 2017, she was one of the thousands of women honoured with a monument for volunteering during the war.

'She didn't mind playing for other people at all'

Halifax's Charlotte Guy Jeffries entertained for servicemen during the Second World War. She died on July 3. She was 98. (Bruce Bottomley)

An accomplished Halifax pianist and piano accordion player who entertained tens of thousands of servicemen during the Second World War has died.

Charlotte Guy Jeffries passed away on July 3. She was 98.

Jeffries's niece Norma Guy described her aunt, who still lived in her own home alone until her death, as one of "the most social people" she had ever met.

"She played piano beautifully and she would come to our house in Halifax … and play the piano and everybody would sing, and my father loved singing," Guy said.

Guy said she will remember Jeffries most for her resilience.

"She had some significant physical issues throughout her life," she said. "In spite of having many surgeries and needing to be in and out of hospital many times, she was a generous person. So maybe there's something in that kind of resilience that comes from, I don't know, adversity, overcoming adversity.

The Halifax Women's History Society officially unveils a bronze monument, The Volunteers, to pay tribute to women volunteers during the Second World War on Nov. 16, 2017. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Those who knew Jeffries also remember her for being fiercely independent in spite of her age.

"No one else in our family lived through what she lived through and remembers all those details about her side of the family and what it was like growing up and through the war," Guy said.

In 2017, the Halifax Women's History Society paid tribute to Jeffries and thousands of other women who volunteered during the war by unveiling a bronze monument on the Halifax waterfront.

The monument includes three figures: a young girl pulling a wagon full of salvage metal materials, a black woman working one of the many canteens that fed servicemen around the city, and an older woman with a Mi'kmaw basket sitting in chair knitting.

Jeffries "was delighted" to be one of the three wartime volunteers who unveiled the monument.

Bringing joy to the troops

At the time, she told CBC that these women simply did what was needed to be done by entertaining servicemen in Halifax, and serving them sandwiches and cakes to try to make things a little bit happier.

When the servicemen were waiting to go home at the end of the war, Jeffries went to the United Kingdom, France and Germany with other performers to perform for the Canadian and international troops.

"So she had a very distinguished career," said Janet Guildford, the past chair of the Halifax Women's History Society.

"And she was also was very instrumental in helping other musicians perform for troops, for Canadian personnel, military personnel and for visiting personnel." 

Jeffries loved gardening. (Nick Webb)

As a young woman, Jeffries worked at Mills Brothers clothing store and was known by many as the Christmas window designer at the shop.

Most recently, she could still be found sharing her musical talents at various seniors homes.

A celebration of life will be held for Jeffries on Saturday.