Muskoka Mosaic: Age is but a number
Introducing Fran Gower
/ Mandi Hargrave
Fran Gower recently received the Lifetime Achievement award during the YWCA of Muskoka's Women of Distinction gala in November. Gower holds a handcrafted bowl by Susan Higgins that she was presented with after winning the award.
MUSKOKA – At the age of 81, Fran Gower finds it’s odd to sit and realize her age.
“I have a lot of trouble being aware that I’m over 80, I find that sort of strange because that only happens to old people and I don’t think I’m old,” she said with a smile.
Throughout her journey in life Gower has seen and done a lot, with many stories to share. And for all that Gower has accomplished, thus far, she was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement award at the YWCA Women of Distinction gala in November. A very bewildering experience for the Oxtongue Lake resident, as she was only made aware of her nomination 10 days prior to the gala evening and never considered winning to be much of a possibility.
“Even to be nominated, to me, was the most amazing thing,” she said. “I just found that it was amazing that that could happen to me.”
It was in recognition of her dedication and service to others that prompted her daughter to nominate her; from Gower’s career as a nurse and her position as a councillor in the 70s, to her many volunteer roles and involvement in community organizations, of which she is still dedicated to many.
As her daughter described in her nomination package, “Fran remains active beyond a 25-year-old’s energy level.”
Even so, Gower much prefers to be at her end of the age spectrum.
“It’s tougher now,” she said. “Life is very difficult for young people, the lack of reliability in getting jobs and keeping jobs … I had three decisions (career-wise), now it’s endless. It is literally endless and I’m not good with decisions so I would be floundering and still trying to think what to do,” she said with a laugh.
Those three decisions were to either be a nurse, teacher or secretary.
“When I was in high school, I’m the youngest of eight children, I realized I had to do something to be independent and go to work, there was no thought in my mind that I would just get married and not work,” she said. “And there were only three occupations in my mind for women then, this would have been in the mid-40s … Secretary was pretty boring, I didn’t feel I could be competent teaching, didn’t feel I would enjoy that, so that only left nursing.”
It was a career choice that allows her to still work today. Gower does a couple of shifts at local foot care clinics every week, along with in-home visits.
She moved to Haliburton County, near the outskirts of Muskoka, in 1956 with her late husband, Don Gower. She said it was Muskoka’s scenery, lakes and seasons that kept her in the area.
“I love all four seasons, all except the six weeks of black flies,” she said.
The Oxtongue River Ragged Falls are Gower’s favourite place in Muskoka. She even has a copy of a small painting by A.J. Casson of the falls in her living room. The painting was used as a guide for Gerry Lantaigne to create a much larger mural outside the Oxtongue Lake Community Centre.
Gower has such a love for the Oxtongue community that she and a friend, Marnie Brethour wrote Facts and Fables of Oxtongue Lake.
“By year 2000, I’d been here for 40 years and I was seeing that early developers on the property were dying off and no records were being kept,” she said. “History was dying and I really felt it was important that we remember some of these people that were so great in helping to establish the little hamlet of Oxtongue Lake.”
One of her current hobbies is writing her memoirs as part of a class at the Huntsville Public Library, something she wants to do for her children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren.
It’s a monthly class where participants are assigned a certain topic and given a deadline.
“Mine will only be all these scribbled things put together in a folder … topics of special events, favourite people that I’ve met over the years. If I live to 100 I might get them all sorted out,” she said.
Gower also loves taking photos, spending time with her great-grandson and participating in social groups such as Probus of Muskoka North and taking computer classes.
“Anything but house work,” she said.
Thank you Yvonne Stiver-Macleod for recommending Gower. If you have someone in the community you would like to recommend for Muskoka Mosaic contact Mandi Hargrave at 705-789-5541 ext. 285 or email@example.com.