There was something more than just returning to her childhood haunts that compelled Alice Devaney to come home to Corner Brook last week.
Devaney would have been known to her friends as Alice Johnston when they were kids.
She was the girl who lived in the Glynmill Inn. Adopted by the Johnston family, her father, Eric Johnston was manager of the hotel at the time.
Her world got turned upside down in 1968 when her dad went missing on a fishing trip to the Serpentine River. The body of his drowned fishing buddy was recovered, but her dad was never found.
Not long after, her mother returned to her home country of England, taking along 13-year-old Alice and her sister.
“We had a really good childhood,” Devaney said in the lobby of the Greenwood Inn. It's built on the location of Park Street Public School, which she would have attended as a child.
“I had friends all along Cobb Lane. That’s where we hung out.”
After they left for the United Kingdom, Devaney never kept in contact with anyone from Corner Brook.
“My mom didn’t really encourage it,” she said.
The only time she came back to Canada was to live with her sister in Ontario for a short period before moving back to Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, where she's lived since.
Still, she often reminisced about going to the movies at the old Majestic Theatre, skating on Glynmill Pond and swimming at Margaret Bowater Park.
When she got wind of Corner Brook planning a Come Home Year, she decided to return.
But Devaney had more on her mind than having a good time and visiting those sites. The Johnston family had actually adopted Devaney and she wanted to find and meet relatives on her biological mother’s side of her family.
She and her daughter, Amanda, who accompanied her, used AncestryDNA testing to track down the relatives in Corner Brook she has never met.
Unfortunately, her birth mother died years ago.
“I just thought it would be fun to meet up with cousins and aunts we have never seen before,” she said.
Fortunately, upon meeting her newfound relatives, Devaney was able to learn a lot about her birth mother’s family.
Not only that, Devaney found out she has a half-sister living in Ontario. So, she and Amanda made last-minute changes to their travel plans to cut their scheduled stay in Corner Brook a little short so they could go visit her before returning to England.
“I won’t really be able to think about all of this until I get back home,” she said of the overwhelming experience of the family connections she’s been able to make.
Devaney had reached out to a childhood friend through Facebook once she decided to make the trip to Corner Brook. While they never arranged to meet up, by coincidence she ran into that friend, who just happened to be with an entire reunited group of Devaney’s childhood classmates at the time.
“It was embarrassing because I didn’t remember them, but it was nice that they remembered me. I just wished I had more time to chat.”
Devaney won’t wait too long before she returns to Corner Brook. She hopes to bring more of her own family back in the near future to meet the relatives she can now call her own.