Sisters Mary Newman, 89, left, and Clara Pogson, 87, who’d had no contact for six years, had a surprise reunion when Pogson moved into Eden Gardens in late February. (Photo submited)

Vancouver Island sisters surprised to find themselves reunited at seniors care home after years apart

Eden Gardens Nanaimo staff member noticed new care home resident’s resemblance to another resident

A stroke that led to a communication breakdown separated two sisters, but they had a surprise reunion last month when they discovered they were both residents of the same care home in Nanaimo.

According to a press release from Eden Gardens, Clara Pogson, 87, proclaimed that “trouble has arrived” when she first walked through the front doors of the dementia care home in February.

She was greeted by the nurse in charge and staff, and residents were enjoying their “exuberant new neighbour.” Before long, one of the nurses thought she saw a strong resemblance to another resident, Mary Newman, who’d been living there since soon after the facility opened in 2017. Staff made sure that Clara made Mary’s acquaintance.

“The first thing Clara did was pinch Mary, 89, really hard,” said Sandy Parise, Eden Gardens’ executive assistant, in the release. “Mary yelped and Clara responded with, ‘I thought you were dead.’”

The sisters, who had lost contact with one another six years earlier, couldn’t believe who they were seeing, Parise said, and spent the next several hours that day, and many more since, laughing together and talking a mile a minute while reminiscing.

READ ALSO: Compassion and enthusiasm are at the centre of Eden Gardens’ approach to dementia care

Bill Newman, the sisters’ younger brother who lives on the Sunshine Coast, said the sisters lost touch after Clara had suffered a stroke and developed difficulties with comprehension. She lived in the Duncan area before requiring greater care, and Bill arranged for her to move into Eden Gardens.

“She didn’t really know quite what was going on. I’ll put it that way,” Bill said, in a phone interview with the News Bulletin. “She didn’t quite understand what people were saying and she thought Mary didn’t want her to phone her again or see her again and that’s why they didn’t see one another, but it was just a total misunderstanding between the two of them.”

Bill said Clara has mostly recovered from the effects of the stroke.

He said his sisters have been reminiscing about growing up in Sansum Narrows, south of Maple Bay. They come from a large family of six sisters and five brothers and lived on a houseboat – named the ‘El Rose’ after their mother – until about 1948.

“My grandfather used to sell mine props to the mines at Nanaimo and Mom and her sisters and brothers, they logged them, with horses … and they had to walk to Genoa Bay. Seven miles to work and then seven miles back and then they logged the poles during the day.”

Some of the memories recalled at the sisters’ first meeting had the women laughing so hard they both had tears running down their cheeks.

“Clara told us that Mary was always Daddy’s favourite,” Parise said. “It was so amusing to see Mary having so much fun. She is usually so reserved. At that moment, no one existed but the two of them as they shared some ice cream and chatted the afternoon away, while the staff shared tears of happiness enjoying the excitement.”

READ ALSO: Eden Gardens’ calendar sure to be a chart-topper



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