Sisters, known as the “two chicks by the sea,” faced a dangerous and isolated time during the recent snow storms, before they were assisted by three of North Saanich’s finest.
Juanita Harris, 78, has limited mobility and uses an electric mobility scooter to move around the house. She and her sister, 75-year-old Carol Harris, are fiercely independent despite both suffering from some serious health ailments.
Along with Carol’s service dog, a French poodle named Pierre, the sisters found themselves snowed-in, with big snow drifts blocking their driveway and road, so that their caregivers couldn’t visit them.
When the power went out, plunging them into darkness, the two sisters put on headlamps and prepared to cope as best they could.
“In situations like this, when you don’t have your full body capabilities, but you have your marbles, you can think of ways to survive,” said Juanita.
The two seniors have lived together in Carolwood Manor for the past 21 years and on the same street for the last 50. They say they are proud to live alone and don’t like to complain or inconvenience others. They were also wary to call for help in case district authorities saw them as too vulnerable to live alone, or to have “lost their marbles,” as Juanita put it.
However, their caregiver, Patricia Hirsch, recognized the severity of their predicament and called the North Saanich Fire Department for assistance.
Despite being busy with call-outs and medical checks, the department – consisting mostly of volunteers – was able to send Lt. Spencer Barkley, firefighter Jordan Kelly and recruit Rob Howland to assist.
“There was a knock at the door and three handsome gentlemen in uniform were there,” Juanita said. With a laugh, she continued, “the first thing I said was ‘but we don’t have a fire.’”
The firefighters explained they were there to help. They put the kettle on for the ladies, opened some canned food, checked the fridge was well-stocked and cleared the driveway for them.
“They were very respectful and also funny. We laughed and had a joke, and it brought sunshine to Carolwood Manor,” said Juanita.
“It was so nice. We saw these young men and said to each other ‘that’s the type of people we need in our community.’ I think they have the right spirit to be in community service.”
Carol added, “we’d like to say a nice thank you.”
The sisters have always liked helping others and have been active in the community in the past, hosting fundraisers and working with international students. Juanita even served the United Nations as a mission doctor, travelling to a host of far-flung places, including China and the Ivory Coast.
When asked why they called themselves the “two chicks by the sea,” Juanita’s eyes sparkled.
“You have a voice to bring humour and laughter. We were the Canadian Oumas for the international students, when we were in the U.S. we were the Canadian geese. It’s just to give a person a laugh. Now, we’re the two chicks by the sea.”
The North Saanich Fire Department reported a very busy time responding to snow-related call-outs in addition to their regular duties.
To thank the firefighters, who the sisters called their “guardian angels,” Juanita and Carol wrote this letter:
Guardian angels in a time of need
Challenges in life pose hardship but inspire a lot of amazing things to happen. Sometimes community steps up to give a hand to seniors experiencing a difficult time. During the recent blizzard, my sister Carol and I were struggling to endure and things seemed bleak. None of our staff were able to reach us. And then one of our caregivers, being concerned for our wellbeing, called the North Saanich Fire Department. In no time at all, there was a knock at our door and three handsome firemen appeared. “We came to see if we could help you,” they said. They immediately cleared our driveway making our exit accessible. They filled our kettle, opened some canned food, which we’d been struggling to do, and assisted with our little service dog. We chatted and they left Carolwood Manor filled with joy and happiness, and we were reassured that people cared about us. It seems like thank-you is not enough, but two grateful ladies will never forget these acts of kindness at a very dark time.
“Two Chicks by the Sea.”