Greta VanBuskirk Leahey Dow
Welcome to the biographical webpage dedicated to Greta VanBuskirk Leahey Dow, a remarkable individual whose unwavering commitment to education and life long learning has left an important mark on the community of Pugwash, Nova Scotia.
Born in 1922 Greta VanBuskirk experienced the challenging times of the depression era. Growing up with five siblings in a small farm in Pugwash, she learned the value of hard work, focus and determination. Her early education began in a local Pugwash school where she demonstrated a natural curiosity and passion for learning.
Dreams for Education and Teaching
She married Francis Gerard Leahey in 1940 and had twin sons, Stephen and Douglas. When she was 24, she left her husband and with her sons moved to Forties Settlement, Lunenburg. There she worked as a housekeeper for a short period before relocating to Truro to attend Teachers Normal College and equip herself with the skills and knowledge to teach.
After graduation at age 26 Greta returned to Pugwash and became the teacher of more than 20 students in a nine grade one room school in South Pugwash. She simultaneously completed her Grade 12 through correspondence. Later Greta transitioned to a four room Pugwash school where she taught for ten years. She always believed she was the “Master of Her Fate” and her dedication and guidance left a lasting positive impression on the students she taught.
Aspirations for Higher Education
Once her sons had graduated from Pugwash District High School Greta taught in Halifax/Dartmouth. In 1961 at age 39 she moved to North Attleboro, Massachusetts where her sister Delia was living. She married Jim Dow, became a U.S. citizen and continued her education studies earning a Bachelor of Science in Education at Bridgewater State University. She also completed courses toward a Master of Library Science at the University of Rhode Island while teaching elementary school in Attleboro and Norton in Massachusetts.
A Passion for Books
Greta had always been a passionate lover of books and searched for interesting ones to peruse and study. This led her to join the Attleboro Public Library staff and eventually rise to the position of Senior Research Librarian. It was a position that gave her many satisfying opportunities to help and give assistance to people in their quest for learning. She was known there as “That Canadian woman” owing to her frequent conversations about Pugwash and Nova Scotia.
Greta’s love of books, reading and education were an unwavering force in her life. Each year she would give her children and grandchildren a subscription to the local Pugwash newspaper: The Oxford Journal. Her reading interests ranged from the
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam to mystery thrillers to biography and history. She instilled in her sons the importance of poetry and words. Greta often would read poetry to them in their early years from a book entitled The 50 Best Poems in History. To this day both sons can repeat many of the poems by memory. Her gifts to her daughters in law, grandchildren and great grandchildren were carefully chosen books always inscribed and very well illustrated. At Christmas she always asked that her grandchildren be read aloud A Child’s Christmas in Wales.
In 1989 at age 67 Greta and her husband Jim retired back to her beloved Pugwash where the VanBuskirk clan lived. She enjoyed visiting with her sisters, brother, and 13 nieces and nephews. In later years she found delight in her dog and good friend, Chum.
Greta was keenly interested in geneology and traced her family history back to the Seaman family who were settlers in Pugwash in the early 1800’s. She loved to tell stories about her life and Pugwash experiences: the unpaved roads and lack of indoor facilities, her work as a waitress at the Lobster Factory, her meetings with Cyrus Eaton and the 1957 Pugwash Peace Conference.
Greta’s volunteer activities included the North Cumberland Historical Society (Pugwash), the Cumberland Historical Society (Amherst), and the Pugwash Library. As an early member of the first Book Club at the library she had the opportunity to share her reading insights. She was a Past Noble Grand of Silver Spray Rebekah Lodge and was involved with the Pugwash Baptist Church.
An Enduring Legacy
Above all else Greta was a devoted mother to her sons and their wives upon whom she showered much attention and affection. They were the centre of her life. She was very interested in children and was exceptionally patient in listening to them, intrigued with their stories, their thoughts, and communication skills. She respected them and their opinions and they in turn respected her. Her grandchildren and great grandchildren would bring their friends to visit her. Her sparkle at meeting this younger generation was reciprocated by their interest in her and they often returned to visit and delight in her presence.
In her 80’s as her eyesight slowly deteriorated owing to Macular Degeneration, Greta bought large print books and started listening to audiobooks. Through CNIB she bought a reading machine which enlarged the print.
At the age of 93 she moved into East Cumberland Lodge where she enjoyed living for over three years. She died there at age 97 in March 2020.
In Memory of Greta's Life
As a testament to Greta’s legacy the Leahey family made a donation to the Pugwash Library in 2022. It was a contribution to the Pugwash community that she cherished as an enthusiastic teacher, librarian, and lover of books. It is their hope that people walking through the library will be inspired in a manner that would have caused her delight and satisfaction.