SYDNEY, N.S. — Two lonely Cape Breton seniors aren’t feeling not quite so alone anymore.
Following a recent story in the Cape Breton Post where both Clyde Harvey of North Sydney and Judy James of Sydney described how they spend Christmas Day alone, the love poured in.
Harvey, 66, who is originally from Ingonish and is battling lung cancer, said he has spent Christmas Day by himself for at least the last 16 years, listening to the radio and looking out the window. That all changed this year.
“I had different people dropping in Christmas Day,” he said.
Harvey, who had two visitors just leaving when the Cape Breton Post dropped in to see him on Monday, said he got more than 60 Christmas cards from across Cape Breton and as far as Alberta.
“I even got one from Texas. Her mother is from Sydney and she has relatives in Glace Bay. She is coming for a reunion in August and she’s going to try and get over to meet me in person.”
When approached by the Post to share what it was like to be alone during what is supposed to be one of the more social times of the year, Harvey said he told his story in hopes of helping other lonely seniors.
“I wasn’t expecting anything, I wanted to help other people,” he said.
“It has made me feel real good and I hope it helped other people too.”
Harvey said so many people were good to him, including Alaina MacKenzie of the North Sydney Salvation Army and a woman named Rose Jessome. He said Madison’s Angels founder Renee Smith was “amazing.” When Smith heard about Harvey from the story in the Post, she wasted no time in not only organizing a huge public Christmas Eve party for him, but she collected donations and got him a television, VCR, and telephone — none of which he had before this — and paid for cable and his phone for a year.
“Someone else paid for my phone and cable for another year so I have both for two years,” he said. “If something happens now I don’t have to wait for someone to find me, I can call 911.”
Other Christmas gifts included everything from clothes to gift cards and food items.
“If something happens now I don’t have to wait for someone to find me, I can call 911.” — Clyde Harvey
Harvey said there have been too many amazing moments to share, including having the Memorial High School basketball team and coaches raise funds and not only treat him to a grocery shopping expedition but present him with a jersey that is now proudly displayed in his apartment.
“When they have a game they are going to call me and if I’m not too tired they are going to pick me up and take me to the game and then drive me home.”
As well, Harvey, who mentioned how much he loves the late John Allan Cameron’s music, touched the heart of Cameron’s wife LaLa, living in Ontario, who sent him CDs, DVDs and autographed photos. A group from the Grace Fellowship Church in Sydney Mines brought him over for entertainment, socializing and even gave him a bag of gifts.
As well, Harvey said, he was extremely touched by the doctors and nurses at the Cape Breton Cancer Centre who also sent him a bag of gifts.
“I can’t thank people enough,” said Harvey. “I really appreciate what everyone did for me.”
Judy James, 72, whose usual company includes home care and Victorian Order of Nurses workers, said she has two daughters on the mainland who are good to her but they work and rarely get to Cape Breton, so she would be alone over the holidays again. In an earlier Post story, James had said her highlight on Christmas Day normally would have been opening the stocking hung in her living room for her beloved cat, Jenny.
James said following the story she was surprised to receive several bags of gifts including gift cards, a sweater, shampoo and body wash, necklace sets, candy, etc.
She was shocked total strangers thought of her and sent gifts.
“Someone sent me a watch,” she said. “It’s like a piece of gold to me. I’ve never gotten anything like this before.”
As well she opened up a brand-new winter coat.
James said she loves it.
“I looked at it and said, “I can’t believe it’s mine.”
The Post could not give out the address for James, who lives alone, but after receiving many calls from people wanting to reach out to her, Major Corey Vincent of the Sydney Salvation Army came on board to co-ordinate as a place to receive any gifts or cards for her.
“He’s very nice,” she said. “He said he will come and get me sometime for a coffee.”
Jenny the cat wasn’t forgotten either. James said people sent everything from a cat house/play area to a cat mat, food and toys.
“There was a toy for Jenny in the bag from a six-year-old boy,” she said.
She said homecare workers dropped in on Christmas Day with a beautiful dish shaped like a fish for her cat before preparing a nice supper for James.
Although she was otherwise alone Christmas Day, James said she didn’t feel alone, as the love shown uplifted her spirits.
“I appreciate it all very much,” she said.
“All this made me realize there are people who care about the seniors out there.”