Frances Shirley Arnold (Doherty)
Obituary for Frances Shirley Arnold (Doherty)
Frances Shirley (Doherty) Arnold had a skill few of us could imagine: she could gaze at a morning sunrise, capture that moment forever in her imagination, and transform it within hours into an oil painting
She would create a scene so real you felt you could walk from one dimension through to the other. And that’s just as mom did when she put down her brushes and was captured by the setting sky on Aug. 3, 2019, after a brief illness. She was 91, born in Melville Cove, the daughter of Dennis and Mary (Emberley) Doherty.
For a person with little formal education, she mastered more skills through self-teaching and determination (some might say stubbornness) than can be listed.
It sounds like a lyric from a Springsteen song, but she was raised on the rough streets of north-end Halifax, where she learned to throw rocks back at bullies and signal that if they wanted a fight, they had come to the right place. Frances worked at Birks on Barrington Street in Halifax, eventually meeting Gerald Arnold, who became the love of her life and her husband, and in Windsor Junction they made a home for Sandra (Jim Thomas, Fall River), Susan (Gregg Ross, Moncton), Gerry (Oakville, ON) and Dan (Windsor Junction).
And 72 years of marriage passed in a blink – a blur of Christmas tree hunts, Blue Jays seasons, loud Sunday dinners, and the usual family highs and lows.
Those years unfolded from unpaved roads and soot-belching steam engines to the digital era, bringing an impressive array of grandchildren and great-grandchildren with educations, big dreams and their Nana’s talents and passion for life.
As noted, she was a remarkable artist with a visual gift for interpreting her world. Later in her life, some of her work became available through charity sales and auctions; she got a great kick out of the fact that people would pay for her art.
As a baker, she may have been without a local peer. Brownies, cakes, chocolate chip squares and cookies and tea biscuits populated a highlight reel of her family’s favourites for occasions, or more lately, just because grandchildren were visiting.
But perhaps her most coveted talent was her green thumb; she grew gardens of colourful wildflowers and fragile, finicky species that required constant love and attention. Her encyclopedic knowledge of each variety rivaled master groundskeepers. She loved visiting Halifax’s Public Gardens (and secretly comparing her flowerbeds and prowess to those of the professionals!)
She was an avid fisher and enjoyed weekend getaways to harass the trout population in the province’s eastern regions, always returning with more stories and laughter than fish. She wrote poems and talked to the birds and entered many CBC Radio contests, occasionally winning, to her great delight.
She loved to bowl and was quite good. As her children grew, she rarely missed their sporting events, particularly hockey; in the tight confines of East Hants Memorial Arena, her voice was hard to miss.
She was a longtime member of St Rose of Lima parish and served on the parish council and sang in the choir until she was no longer able. She dabbled in other music too – guitar, accordion, even her father’s old tuba that came out of its case from time to time, mostly to amuse grandchildren with its larger-than-life sound. She was a long-time volunteer at the Cobequid Centre’s foot clinic.
She was a community activist long before that term was invented, campaigning for athletic fields and music programs for schools, signing up ratepayers door to door to get streetlights, and playing a foundational role in the formation of the Tri-Village minor hockey program.
She even wrote a history of Windsor Junction that is on file in the Nova Scotia Archives. A prowler of flea markets, she loved finding things to send to her grandchildren, whose homes in perpetuity will be adorned with “Nana things.”
Lest anyone think she was good at everything, Nana was never a comfortable driver (nor were we comfortable passengers). But as it was with so many things, she did it because it had to get done.
In conversations about the recent commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, it was remarked that over her life, she had witnessed technological innovation of staggering complexity. She waved her hand dismissively: never mind moonwalkers or cloud computing; to her, civilization’s greatest achievement was to bring central water to Windsor Junction and her doorstep. There was no debate.
There were contradictions, no doubt. It is probably worth noting that she could, if need be, curse in a manner that would cause a stevedore to curl up in a ball and reconsider his life choices. This same woman, upon seeing the Rockies for the first time in 1993, cried openly at their beauty.
In addition to her immediate family, she is survived by a brother, Joseph (Hilda, Beaver Bank, NS), and a sister Denise (Eric Patrick, Kelowna, BC). She was predeceased by a sister Joan Featherstone and a brother Dennis.
She is survived by grandchildren Drew Arnold (Nadine Archibald, Truro), Devin Thomas (Leah Oickle, Dartmouth), Amber Thomas (Frank Johnson, Dartmouth), Dr. G. Mac Ross (Lyndsay, London, ON), Jared Ross (Katherine Cole, Moncton, NB), Patrick Arnold (Jenelle Storey, Beeton, ON), and Christopher Arnold (Oakville, ON.) as well as great-grandchildren Sofia and Ava Arnold, Finnegan Ross and Maxwell Thomas.
In keeping with her wishes, cremation has taken place. A funeral mass will be held at 10 am on Friday, August 9 at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Fall River, Father Michael Walsh officiating. Family flowers only please; however, in lieu of flowers, donations to the Cobequid Centre or a charity of one’s choice, would be appreciated by the family.
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