PORT AUX BASQUES, N.L. - Call it an early Christmas present.
On Nov. 23, Joe Gale’s cabin was ripped open during a typical winter windstorm. The cabin is only minutes down the highway from the infamous Wreckhouse, near a cabin area called Red Rocks.
Gale, who lives in Cape Breton, found out about the damage via friends who saw pictures posted on social media.
But by the time he made the journey across the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the ferry – and much to his surprise – the cabin had already been repaired.
“They all pitched in,” said Gale by phone from his home in Nova Scotia. He said he doesn’t really know the folks who pitched in to fix his summer home, but, “It was fabulous.”
Gale, 77, retired after 50 years at sea and has medical concerns that restrict his ability to perform physical labour. Usually a couple of friends help him with chores around the cabin and it was those same friends who called to tell him of the initial wind damage.
“When I got the news that the cabin was beat up, the porch went, the side of the cabin went, the wood shed blew down, I was in turmoil.”
Other acquaintances who called were concerned the gaping hole in the cabin would allow would-be thieves to abscond with his belongings before Gale could get here from Nova Scotia.
“By the time I made my reservation to go across, the anxiety was sky high,” said Gale, who is also mourning the loss of his beloved wife, Theresa, who died earlier this year.
“Becoming emotional is not hard for me at all.”
His two friends, Paul and George, intended to patch up the cabin while Gale was en route, but when he arrived they told him it was already done.
Gale started to thank them profusely before Paul was able to set him straight.
“He said ‘You’ve got an angel on your shoulder,’” recounts Gale.
“He said Eddie Osmond and Richard Hardy done that for you. I don’t think you know them.”
"Paul said I had an angel on my shoulder and I told him I had six." ~ Joe Gale
Although Gale was familiar with their last names, he didn’t know anything more about the men who did the work.
With help from Paul and George, Gale took extra lumber up to the cabin to assess the situation and see if further patching up was needed.
“The thing about the storm was that it lifted the porch up onto the roof and I was very scared that any time a high wind would come up, that big piece of wood would go out on the highway, so we had to get it taken down,” said Gale, recalling his first look at the damage.
After Paul and George took care of that, the men tried to clean up some of the debris strewn around the property.
“It looked like a disaster area. There were curtains and buckets and tablecloths and doors and windows spread all over the yard.”
Inside the cabin all of Gale’s possessions were still in place. After running a few errands, Gale and his friends went looking for Hardy to thank him, but he wasn’t able to get in touch.
Due to other commitments, Gale couldn’t linger once the situation had been brought under control and the interior of the cabin was cleaned up. He made his reservation to return home without managing to meet or thank his unseen angels in person.
Wanted to help
For his part, Richard Hardy, who likes to be called Dubsy, is entirely nonchalant about the whole thing.
He says he doesn’t want attention, nor does he think of himself as any kind of hero, but just someone who wanted to help out when he saw what had happened.
Hardy also clarified that while he and friend Jack Courtney did the repairs, it was Osmond who donated all of the materials.
“I’ve got a cabin at Red Rocks,” said Hardy by phone. “I’d seen what happened, so I went and boarded it up for him.
“I couldn’t leave him (Gale) like that.”
Hardy says he is just glad they managed to seal the cabin before any further damage could occur, adding while it might not look pretty, the boards will keep out the snow.
Gale maintains that even after returning home, the overwhelming kindness of Hardy, Osmond and Courtney still gets to him.
“Paul said I had an angel on my shoulder and I told him I had six,” said Gale. “I went down expecting the worst and I got the best instead.”