When Mary Heroux lost her husband in 2019, she also lost her best friend. For 46 years, the couple lived and worked together and, as Mary says, “We always had lots to laugh about.”
Romuald (Romeo) George Lucien Heroux was born in Quebec, one of 10 children, on January 19, 1926 and Mary was born in Saskatchewan in 1924. Before the girl from the prairies and the man from Quebec met, the two had former spouses and children.
Now, in her book, ‘My Romeo & Me’, Mary tells the stories of not only their life together, but stories of their former lives and their large blended family. “My daughter and daughter-in-law urged me to write the stories that I had heard from Romeo and those that we lived together.”
As she recounted those stories found in her book, it was hard to remember that she is 97 and that this is her first published writing.
Although Mary and Romeo finally settled in Port Elgin in 2001, the couple travelled far and wide over the years with several churches to help with building in places such as Haiti, Ecuador, Brazil, Dominica and Kauai. “Romeo could build anything,” said Mary, “from beautiful china cabinets, to children’s furniture or an entire kitchen. He built three cedar strip canoes once, bedroom suites, dining room suites and we built our home in Jackson’s Cove at Lions Head below the escarpment. Anything he turned his hand to, he could do.”
“I remember one working trip Romeo was asked to go on and the man in charge said no women were allowed. Romeo said, if my wife doesn’t go then I don’t go … so, we went. I liked to work alongside Romeo but on that trip they had me in the kitchen until the man who was working with Romeo got sick. Then I got out of the kitchen and worked with him,” laughs Mary, “and between the two of us we put a tin roof on the building.”
“Romeo worked for hydro,” says Mary, “and became a Superintendent at Darlington Nuclear Station,” and after retirement, the couple travelled extensively on their own. From cruises that included Antarctica and the Caribbean, trips to Portugal, a 35 day bus tour through Europe, a trek through the Holy Lands, Greece and Turkey, Mary and Romeo travelled the world.
Listening to her, you soon realize that Mary is a natural storyteller as she recounts the people they met during her and Romeo’s travels, her own story of working for Goodyear during the war years and how she worked on Peter Ennis’ tobacco farm, stories of their blended family and stories of the countries they saw. They all come to life through her remarkable memory.
Her editor, Brian Crum Ewing, writes that “A deeply personal book that reads like a fireside chat with a friend – delivered with a dollop of wit — ‘My Romeo & Me’ serves as an informal memoir, a brief account of Mary’s life before and especially after meeting Romeo … it is an intimate record of a man who loved and served his extended family and community at large. Mary has captured the essence of his life and by extension hers as well in this vibrant, entertaining narrative. This book is her tribute to Romeo but more than that, it will keep this loving couple in the hearts and minds of the generations to come.”
“During the process of writing my book I was asked – What is your most precious memory of Romeo?. I have so many good memories of my time with him that it would be hard to choose the most treasured one. I can’t easily tell you what I most remember, but I can tell you what I miss the most about my Romeo – his sincerity. Romeo seldom gave a compliment, unlike those people who are ‘full of them’. When Romeo complimented me, I knew it came straight from his heart and I loved it when he gave me a compliment. I hope he likes this book, because i wrote it as a compliment to him” … Mary.
Romuald (Romeo) Heroux died on April 28, 2019 at the Southampton Care Centre.