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Victoria's First Town Clerk

Mrs. Mae Vaters ( Sept. 22, 1912 - Jan. 23, 1987)
By Frank E. Clarke

I cannot remember a time when I did not know Mrs. Vaters or Aunt Mae as she was affectionately known by all of us. Her son Mark is a close friend with whom I grew up. We spent a great time together, as boys do, playing ball, hockey and all the other things that make life exciting when you are young. The Vaters' lived up in the Marsh by the rail road track and we congregated there often; playing games and listening to Mr. Vaters telling fish stories. When meal time came Aunt Mae fed whoever was around. She was a great cook and smells coming out of her house were delightful. She seemed to always be baking bread and cooking. Her kitchen was a child's delight. Busy chatter and gales of laughter filled the house. Mrs. Vaters was a woman who made a significant positive difference in the lives of many people and affected the way of life of Victoria in her lifetime. She was born into a large, hard-working family at Victoria on September 22, 1912. Her parents, Frederick and Clara Clarke struggled hard during harsh economic times to raise their family. At a time when morality and giving were linked directly to survival, she had her roots planted deep in the community and came to value education very highly. From an early age she was encouraged to read and write, and she maintained a love of them for the rest of her life. At a time when educational opportunities were scarce, particularly for women, she thrived and achieved the highest level of education available in Victoria at the time, Grade 10. On January 17, 1932, she married Mark Vaters. Together she and Mark raised nine children; Don, Mary, Frank, Claire, Mark Dianne. Beverly, Gary and Terry; all of whom have achieved various levels of success in their lives.

Though she had little time for herself while she was raising her children, she was a very active volunteer in the community, especially with the Canadian Red Cross and the Carbonear Regional Hospital. At one time she was the organist of the Pentecostal Church. She was of great help to her neighbors and often wrote letters and completed documents for them. As early as 1968 she discussed with me the value of Victoria being incorporated. She was well aware of the deficiencies in the town, particularly the need for a clean source of water and was keenly interested in anything that would enhance Victoria. She believed that the only way Victoria could achieve success was to encourage cooperation between the people and try to acquire the needed services that nearby towns took for granted. She realized that this could be best achieved through a Town Council and wasn't shy about talking publicly about it. For a year or more after we talked, little happened in this direction, but by 1969 a group of people came forward who were dedicated to achieving the goal of electing a Town Council. She attended some of the first public meetings and took an active role. It is believed that she was the first recording secretary of the group that led the movement toward the incorporation of the town. A great deal of effort was required to achieve incorporation. A number of petitions were taken and after a great deal of discussion, persuasion and pressure the people of the town voted to begin the process. Mrs. Vaters was asked to help organize the first election and she volunteered to become the returning officer. It should be stated that at no time did Mrs. Vaters request any kind of remuneration for her efforts. She was a consummate volunteer who gave her all and expected nothing in return. The process began with an ad she placed in the local newspaper The Compass on August 26, 1971. Nominations for the first town council were to take place at her home on October 3, 1971. On nomination day nineteen men and one woman of the town submitted their names to sit on the first town council. She took full responsibility for the election and hired a number of people to help her. The election process was very exciting and on election day more than 70% of the citizens got out to vote. After the election the Town's first mayor, Mr. Lloyd Clarke, asked Mrs. Vaters if she would care to continue to volunteer her time to act as clerk until the council was organized. She readily volunteered. Not satisfied to just watch events evolve, she requested a copy of the Municipal Manual of January 1, 1970 and learned everything she could to help council run smoothly, efficiently and effectively. It is fair to say that she became the source of much of the information that was required for the first council to operate.

Mrs. Vaters served as volunteer clerk until October 14, 1971. At that time she was asked to take the job of Town Clark. She accepted the position cheerfully and served faithfully until her retirement on January 1st,1977. During her years of service she never wavered from her dedicated task of helping make improvements to the town. Some of the major events that took place during her period of employment are significant. She saw the commencement of the town's water and sewer system. She also witnessed the evolution of the Fire Department and the construction of a new Town Hall. She served several different councils extremely well and was always vigilant about how, in her words, "you spend the people's money." I can say that there was no other person other than my own family who influenced me more than she did when we worked together. She was a visionary who saw that she would like the Town to become and worked diligently with others to achieve it. There was no room for anything less than the best in her commitment to this Town and her presence is continually felt. I often talked to her about her commitment and dedication to her job but she merely shrugged and said, "We live in this little old place, and we all do what we can to make it better." Mrs. Vaters retired on September 19, 1976, happy in the knowledge that she had done all she could to make Victoria a better place in which to live. Mrs. Vaters passed away on January 23, 1987 having seen the Town of Victoria grow into one of the most effective and well-managed municipalities in the province. Her glowing portrait hangs on the wall of the new council chambers; a reminder to all of us that good things happen when people work together toward a common goal.

Dr. Frank E. Clarke is a retired teacher living at Victoria

 

 

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