CORNER BROOK — Like many young girls, Marilyn Avery joined the Girl Guides of Canada at a tender age.
She got her start with Brownies as an eager 10-year-old before moving on to guiding the next year. She had no way to know at the time that she’d spend a lifetime as a proud member of the organization.
Now 76, Avery was recently presented with a pin commemorating her 65 years of service to the Girl Guides.
Looking back all these years later, she admits she’s proud, yet somewhat speechless at the memories and accomplishments she’s managed to accumulate.
“I’m so humbled that I could cry,” Avery said Tuesday, her voice full of emotion. “Guiding has really been a part of me my whole life.”
Even now at my age, I always make a donation towards guiding in case a child wants to go to camp ... I loved my camping.”
Avery’s involvement in guiding was encouraged by her mother Laura. She said guiding has always been a family affair for her. So much so, that great-granddaughter, Samantha recently became the fourth generation in her family to get involved when she joined Brownies this year, following in the footsteps of Avery’s daughter, Denise, and granddaughter Melanie.
It was fitting then, that her daughter was the first call she made once she learned of the honour in August.
“I said ‘Denise you’re not going to believe this,’” she said with a laugh, remembering the excitement of the moment.
Avery and her late husband, Ellis, raised a family of four children as she moved up the ranks from Brownie leader, to district commissioner and finally area commissioner. She also earned her Lamp of Learning and eventually became a camp advisor with the organization.
She said without the support of her family, she would have been unable to balance her personal life with her involvement with guiding.
“I had a wonderful mom who helped me along the way and I had a wonderful husband who was behind me 100 per cent,” she said. “You can’t do those things if you haven’t got somebody at home to look after the children when you are at a meeting or on a camping trip.”
She said it’s impossible to place a value on the mentorship she received from women like Katherine Cross, Alma Chapman and Annie Stevenson as a young girl. Later, she learned how rewarding it was to put a smile on a young girl’s face while teaching her life-long skills such as how to strike a tent or bake.
“If I was to list my joys and my achievements, they would be a hundred fold,” she said.
Currently a chaplin for Western Health with the United Church of Canada, Avery said there are certain experiences which have left a mark on her over the years; precious memories which time will never dim.
She remembers boarding a train in 1952 bound for Ottawa, Ont. where she would attend an international camp with over 200 Girl Guides from around the world. In June of the next year, she was selected to represent her province as part of a group gathered to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in London, England.
It was a heady moment for a young lady who got her start at the Girl Guides Hut on Main Street in Corner Brook.
“Here I was this little girl of 16 years old, going off to England,” she said.
With a lifetime membership in the organization, she said she remains involved with guiding, but is disappointed with a recent decline in enrollment locally.
She said she would like to do her part to get Girl Guides re-established in the city, particularly since she’s had decades of first-hand experience helping little girls develop into strong young women.
“A child growing up gains confidence,” she said. “They learn how to speak properly and to share. There are so many things they are taught to do that will help them through life.”