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Labrador West Pioneers: Joe and Patsy Purcell

Joe and Patsy Purcell enjoy the Labrador Pioneer lifestyle.
Joe and Patsy Purcell enjoy the Labrador Pioneer lifestyle. - Gary Shaw


As has been the case in most of the Pioneer articles that have appeared on these pages, the reason for the arrival in Labrador by the young folks was adventure in their souls. It was for the opportunity for good steady work that came with a good paying job.

It was no different for Joe Purcell. He left Harbour Grace, Newfoundland to seek his fortune. Joe arrived in Labrador West in October of 1965 as a young man. He had attended a recruitment fair in St John’s and ended up with a job at the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC).


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​​​​​​​It was time for him to have his first plane ride, that didn’t turn out to be the best. The plane experienced some mechanical problems that forced an unscheduled landing. He laughed as he told that he received a $4 meal voucher on the delay, all was good, he had it scalded.

When Joe arrived in Labrador West to give the mining sector a try, little did he know that it would turn into a 34 year career with IOC.

Patsy arrived in Labrador West from Gander, Newfoundland at the age of 17 in August of 1966. She came to stay with her brother and see what was available for work opportunities. She wasn’t in Labrador West long until she had a job. She went to work at Jubbers. They had a popular snack bar set up there and she was busy working as a cook preparing meals for the customers. Whoever said that the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach was right. Joe became a more than regular customer at the snack bar. The food must have been good, they were married in 1967. As was often the case in those days, the rest is history.

Joe stood in line for four hours for the opportunity to get a house. They got their house and had to wait and walked by each evening waiting for it to be finished. Their home was on Carol Drive and they are still in that same home today. Patsy told of the day they moved in. They had two boxes of stuff to their name including a frying pan. They cooked porkchops and sat on the floor to eat them. They decided that night that this would be their home.

As was the case in those days, the community was full of young people with nowhere to go and little to do. They, like all the rest, worked away, made new friends, made their own fun, and in many cases, had new babies. Joe and Patsy had three children, one boy and two girls. One child remains as an adult in Labrador West, one is in Corner Brook and the third lives in Rockland, Ontario. They also have four grandchildren who are their pride and joy.

They made their own fun like everyone did in those days. The children had their own friends to socialize with as did the adults. Dances, bowling, basement game nights and darts were regular events for all.

They were a busy family. Skating, hockey, softball, figure skating, and Girl Guides were all on the Purcell’s calendar. Patsy was involved with the Girl Guides as a leader and Joe was busy in softball at both the local and the provincial level. They have both been active in their church as well with Joe being very active with the Knights of Columbus.

The last question is always the same, any regrets in their life and times in Labrador West? Two big smiles and an answer together — not a one. They said that it was a great place to live. They felt they belonged to a community where folks cared about each other and were always there to lend a hand. It has been a safe place and a great community to raise kids.

They have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in Labrador West. They have not a single regret in staying. We are all glad they stayed, folks like them have made Labrador West the great place it is. 

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