Kayaking experience brings back cherished memories for 87-year-old woman
ALLAGASH - It's not every day a great-great-grandmother who can no longer walk has the opportunity to kayak for the first time in her life. However, Ida Begin, an Allagash native and current resident of Forest Hill Manor, did just that on Sunday, Aug. 3, along with her granddaughters Angelina Dubourg and Candy Hafford.
"She was taking me out for a day, my granddaughter. She asked, 'Grandma what do you want to do?' When I told her I wanted to go kayaking she said 'you want to do what?' Here I am in a wheelchair; I don't walk. I'm gonna be 88-years-old. The kids, all the kids, my little great-granddaughters go kayaking and I thought, you know that must be fun. So my granddaughter said, 'if you think that's what you want to do we'll make it happen,'" said Begin.
And they did make it happen.
"I called my cousin Candy and told her it was time to make a memory. I said we are putting Grammy in a kayak," Dubourg said.
Dubourg's fiance, Tyler McBreairty, assisted the ladies by loading the kayaks.
"We put the kayak on the ground next to the truck and lifted [Begin] from the truck into the kayak. Then we slid her down the bank and into the water. She even did good paddling, her upper body strength was pretty good from using her arms with her wheelchair," said Dubourg.
Begin's granddaughters floated along either side of her throughout the trip, which lasted approximately 45 minutes.
Begin said the experience was not frightening; but was one of nostalgic wonderment.
"I'm not afraid of the water. I always spent a lot of time in the water. I grew up where the mouth of the Little Black River empties into the St. John River. I used to go canoeing with my dad when I was young. I remember my father putting me on a canoe and remember him motoring up the river with me in that canoe and here I am with these granddaughters," she said.
Begin's parents, Thomas McBreairty and Eunice Kelly, emigrated from Ireland to Canada to a place called Kelly's landing and then came to the United States, according to Begin.
"I asked my dad, 'how come out of all the places in the big United States, you picked this little corner of the Earth?' It was for lumbering. At that time they came to cut the virgin Pine for the tall, tall timbers. The logs were floated in the St. John River down to the Bay of Fundy and shipped to England for the tall masts for the ship building in England," Begin said.
Begin eventually did get to see other parts of the world—ones that are not tucked quite so far into little corners.
She lived in San Francisco for a few years and traveled to Bermuda. She settled down in Connecticut for much of her adult life when she married her husband, Ben Begin, who was a resident there. Begin worked as a hotel food and beverage manager and earned a degree in accounting once her children were grown. When her husband died at age 58, she decided to return to the Allagash.
"My father left me a piece of property on the farm there. I made a home there back on the same property I grew up on. I came back home," she said.
The kayaking trip brought her home once again. The ladies kayaked down the Little Black River past the Little Black River bridge to the St. John Bridge and came ashore at the ferry landing at the St. John River.
"When we came up past the old homestead, there used to be a path that went to the school from my home. We used to run up the path to that school. When we passed that spot where the old homestead was, it was quite a thrill. I never, ever, dreamed I'd be back on that Little Black River again in my life," she said.
A photo of Begin's kayaking trip on the Little Black River hangs on the wall of her residence at Forest Hill Manor.
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