The Pinecrest nursing home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., was the first long-term care facility in Canada to report a major outbreak. The facility declared its outbreak officially over on May 14. Three members of Knox Presbyterian Church were among 29 people who died. Rev. Ann Blane reflects on lives lost.
Trisha Elliott: You knew some of those who died of COVID-19 at Pinecrest. Tell me about them.
Ann Blane: Jean Pollock was the first church member who passed away. She volunteered at Pinecrest. Her husband, Ted, who lived at Pinecrest, passed away a week later. They were a wonderful couple. About three days later, the oldest member of my congregation passed away at Pinecrest.
TE: Were you able to care for them before they died?
AB: I had just got back from holidays and phoned Jean Pollock. She said, “I’m celebrating my birthday today. I’m 82 years old.” I sang Happy Birthday to her. We had a good chuckle. A week later, I found out she had gone into the hospital. I wasn’t able to speak with Ted or the other church member while they were dying because of the timing; all of a sudden there were more deaths at Pinecrest.
TE: Have you been able to conduct funerals?
AB: No. A lot of families are going straight to burial. When this is all over, I will be conducting the services for my three that passed away. It’s the waiting that is hardest for the families. As a minister, the hardest part is not being able to put your hand on their shoulder and tell them it will be okay.
TE: How has the community pulled together?
AB: The support has been amazing. One day, there was a drive-by parade in support of the nursing home. It seemed like hundreds of cars were there. There are “Bobcaygeon Strong” signs on people’s lawns. One night, there was an online prayer gathering. The Knox congregation is reaching out. One couple made and gave out all kinds of food for people in their complex. Others are buying groceries for those who can’t get out. We’ve supported each other through the good, the bad and the ugly.
TE: What does moving forward look like?
AB: The ministerial team is talking about having a memorial with Pinecrest when we can. There is also a suggestion to have a service of thanksgiving for the community. Whether it will ever be the same after this is over, I don’t know. It will be glorious to see members of my congregation again. I said to my organist, “Just put your Easter music aside because when we get back, the first service we are going to have is an Easter service.” New life, you know.
TE: What will it be like to walk into Pinecrest?
AB: I think there will be real sadness there. I knew some of the people there, if not all by name then by face. When I see the staff, I’ll want to say, “We’re here for you. You did the best you could. You weren’t alone through all this.”
This interview has been edited and condensed. It first appeared in Broadview’s July/August 2020 issue with the title “Tragedy in Bobcaygeon.”
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