NORTH WEST RIVER, N.L.
Trudy Mesher-Barkman was the type of person who believed certain things happened for a reason in life, rather than mere coincidence.
She even believed that the extraordinary events that led to how she met the love of her life, Lowell, were destined to happen 25 years ago.
Back then Lowell Barkman was on the run from the police on Christmas Eve with his two young children. He was going through a bitter divorce at the time and didn't want to give up custody of his two kids. So he took off in his car in Manitoba and ended up staying at a hotel in Grand Centre, Alberta. The hotel just so happened to be managed by Trudy.
There weren't many guests at the hotel, since it was the night before Christmas, so Lowell and Trudy struck up a conversation.
“We ended up talking most of the night, while the kids were asleep in the hotel room,” recalled Lowell. “We just sat there and talked all night and played Mrs. Pac-Man.”
“We both needed somebody and Trudy always believed since we first met that God wanted us together. All these years, she always felt that way.
“I was really messed up from my first marriage and (Trudy) really helped put me back together, so I owe her an awful lot for that.”
Lowell says the charges against him were eventually dropped. But he and Trudy began their romantic relationship and were married seven years after that fateful meeting at the hotel.
When asked what he loved most about Trudy's personality, Lowell says he always admired her honesty and straightforward approach with people.
“There were no grey areas with Trudy. Things were either black, or they were white,” explains Lowell. “She didn't bullshit around and she didn't pussyfoot around. You knew exactly where you stood with her.
“She was firm in her convictions.”
They stayed married right up until Trudy passed away in her sleep on Dec. 28, at age 65. In her life, Trudy had four children and four grandchildren, on top of many other extended family members.
Trudy was born and raised in Labrador, but left in her early 20's and ended up travelling all over Canada. Lowell recalls that she loved moving around, always looking for a new start in a new town.
“We were always optimistic that a better life was waiting somewhere else,” said Lowell.
In 2005, Trudy and Lowell decided to move back to Labrador. They lived in North West River right up until the fall of 2018, when the couple decided to move back to Manitoba for healthcare reasons. Trudy may have only lived a few more months following the move, but she got to enjoy an amazing Christmas, which was always her favourite time of year.
“I was just looking through a bunch of pictures here. It seems every year we were together she always wore one of those Santa hats weeks before Christmas,” Lowell said with a chuckle.
“She would get up at 4 a.m on Christmas morning and she was just like a little kid...and it didn't matter if she was giving or getting a present, she was equally happy.”
Because of all the moving she did, Trudy had a lot of careers throughout her life. She managed several hotels across western Canada, helped run Lowell's auto shop business, worked in Voisey's Bay, became an economic development officer with the Nunatsiavut Government, and, was eventually elected as Sivunivut Inuit Community Corporation chairperson in North West River.
“If you knew Trudy much, you knew she was terribly proud of Labrador and very proud of being Labrador Inuit,” Lowell said of Trudy's reasons on running for office.
“She wanted to go in and accomplish something very meaningful. She felt that, if people elected her into that, she was going to work to make them proud of her.”
Patricia Kemuksigak worked with Trudy in the Nunatsiavut Assembly. At the time, Patricia was an Ordinary Member for Upper Lake Melville. She says Trudy deeply cared about the people she represented.
“She always worked really hard to try and get programs and craft projects, and different things on the go,” says Patricia. “And she always listened to people about what they wanted.”
Now that Trudy is gone, Patricia likes to remember how the former Sivunivut chairperson always made people laugh.
“She was very funny. She found humour in everything,” said Patricia. “Trudy was always very full of life ... she was a very good person, and a very kind person. I was very sad to hear of her passing.”
Lowell describes the 15 years living in North West River as being “wonderful” with Trudy. Life was especially sweet for the two of them when they built their cabin. As a man from western Canada, Lowell admits that, at first, he didn't understand why Labradorians loved having cabins.
“I was astonished...because you live in North West River, so you're already in the middle of nowhere, and now you got a cabin to get away from it all,” explains Lowell. “I thought, ‘How foolish.'”
But when they finally built their cabin together, there was no looking back. It became one of Trudy's favourite places in the world.
“She could just become one with nature and watch the waves endlessly,” Lowell noted. “And she was just thrilled to see any wildlife coming around.
“And when our cabin got situated, we got a fair number of people visiting, especially in winter on snowmobile. She really enjoyed that time with friends coming by. So for her, the cabin is where she had her happiest times, no doubt.”
Lowell describes his late wife as a true Labrador woman. Not long after Trudy passed away, Lowell remembered a particular Christmas years ago that drove this point home.
“As a Christmas present, I got her a shotgun and I got her a pair of flannel pajamas,” Lowell recalled. “And you know what? She was equally happy with both.
“I thought to myself: only a Labrador woman would be that way.”
A memorial for Trudy was held in Steinbach, Manitoba on Jan. 2. Lowell is hoping to bring her ashes back to Labrador closer to spring, so the many friends and family in the Lake Melville area can celebrate her life as well.