Muskoka Mosaic: Stronger than a tank
Introducing Beryl Clayson
HUNTSVILLE – Growing up in England during the Second World War left many with memories that would stand out over time. One such memory for Beryl Clayson was being run over by a tank.
Beryl Clayson has been passionate about health care since moving to Canada and is an active volunteer with the Huntsville Hospital Auxiliary. She received recognition for her contribution to the organization in November.
/ Mandi Hargrave
It happened while Clayson was standing on a snow bank waiting for a friend, before the two headed to school.
“This American convoy came along and this Bren Gun Carrier, which is a light tank, it came up over the bank and I went under it,” said Clayson, who was about seven years old at the time. “My friend went to school and told everyone I was run over by a tank and was dead.”
Clayson, however, escaped the incident with little injury.
“The villagers were wonderful, I mean our house was filled with cakes, jellies, cookies and everything,” she said. “And it was very severe rationing, nobody had anything. You couldn’t get sugar and we had all of these goodies.”
Throughout the remainder of the war Clayson learned how to budget and purchase only what was necessary. She learned this while boarding with a wealthy family when she was sent away to grammar school. At the end of each week she wanted to ensure she had enough of the money her mother sent her to be able to take a bus home for the weekend.
It’s a lesson Clayson said has stayed with her throughout life.
Her first job was with an insurance company in London where she would eventually meet her future husband, Paul. The two have been married for 55 years and have three children, eight grandchildren and one great grandson.
When Clayson and her husband moved from England to Canada, she thought it was just for a few years. They moved to Toronto in 1959 with their first-born, Lesley, who was just five months old at the time.
“We travelled by sea as we didn’t want our lives to change in one short flight by air,” said Clayson.
During their time in Toronto, Clayson worked in a doctor’s office and learned how to do a variety of medical tests; this passion for medical care would stay with her.
In 1984, the couple was on the move again, this time to Trinidad. Once again, for just a few years.
Clayson said she didn’t need nearly as much convincing to make this move, as their children were grown and living their own lives. Paul was working as a consultant for a large financial company, while Clayson was not permitted to work, which was clearly stamped on her passport.
“Life in Trinidad was easy,” she said.
During her time there, Clayson began to actively volunteer with an area hospital, which wasn’t very appreciated by staff, as they feared they would lose their jobs. She wasn’t offended by this but took it as a chance to spend more time playing with local children.
“We didn’t feel guilty we spent more time playing than volunteering. After all, Trinidadians love to play,” she said with a smile.
While still in Trinidad, the couple was told by their daughter who had a cottage on Penn Lake that condos were being built in Muskoka. They bought one and would use it during quieter months of the year as a base to return home to.
In 1994, they decided it was time to permanently return to Canada, but they didn’t want to settle back in Toronto. They had sold their house there before moving to Trinidad, but had kept their cottage near Bancroft and now had a condo in Huntsville.
When they returned they sold the condo and bought a house here. While they didn’t know many people in the beginning, it didn’t take long for the two to make friends.
They became involved in a number of social groups and Clayson began volunteering with the Huntsville Hospital Auxiliary. She has served two terms as president and given countless hours to the hospital through volunteering with day surgery and the gift shop and helping with a number of fundraisers.
In November, Clayson received a Provincial Life Membership in the Hospital Auxiliaries Association of Ontario for her work.
“It was wonderful, a great honour,” she said.
Fundraising for the hospital is only hard in the sense that Clayson isn’t fond of asking people for money, but the community makes that easier.
“They’re great. It’s a small town and they’re always being asked to give,” said Clayson. “The most important thing in our lives is our health and we have a wonderful hospital … We want it to be well equipped so that people don’t have to travel long distances (for surgeries).”
Clayson and her husband are looking forward to an upcoming vacation. The two have spent quite a bit of time travelling together and exploring all seven continents.
“Over the years we’ve grown together and become one,” said Paul.
Thank you Lesley and Ian Hastie for recommending Clayson. If you know someone in the community you would like to recommend, contact Mandi Hargrave at 705-789-5541 ext. 285 or firstname.lastname@example.org.