The shaggy saint of Labrador
A MACLEAN’S FLASHBACK
When Wilfred Grenfell first saw the wretched “liveyeres” of Labrador they were dosing pneumonia eases with cold water. He stayed there forty years and with his inspired scrounging and his strong bare hands built the best-known medical mission in the world
ON THE northernmost tip of Newfoundland, where that rugged island pokes a finger up at Labrador and the Arctic beyond, sits St. Anthony, a small cluster of buildings sloping down from dark hills to the sea. Its tall schooners, stilted wharves and the tangy aroma of dried cod stamp it as a fishing village. But St. Anthony is much more. As headquarters of the International Grenfell Association, the world’s best-known medical mission, its chief industry is mercy.
From this remote outport a dedicated band of men and women doctors, nurses, teachers, crew-cut college boys and last year’s debutantes go out, as they have for half a century, to carry help to the isolated peoples of northern Newfoundland and Labrador. In the short sub-Arctic summer they travel by boat, plane and on foot to hospitals, lonely nursing stations, orphanages, schools and libraries that have risen along the bleak coastline. In winter, when the mercury shivers at forty below and the coast is trapped in ice, they make their rounds by dog team, ski and snowshoe.
The trails they follow today were blazed more than sixty years ago by one of the greatest figures of the northland— Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, the Labrador Doctor. For forty-two years as a country doctor in one of the most forbidding countries on earth Grenfell nursed, fed and guided it towards health and hope. In that cold sullen land he lived one of the warmest stories of human charity this world has known.
When Grenfell first came to Labrador in 1892, as medical missionary to a fleet of visiting Newfoundland fishing schooners, he did not plan to stay long. He was a restless young Englishman of 27 with a shaggy head of hair and a scraggly mustache. Just six years out of Oxford and London universities, he was searching for a life of adventure and service. He found it in Labrador, which explorers had called “the land God gave to Cain.” Like many a man before and since, Grenfell felt the lure of Labrador—the sight of its ruddy cliffs frowning through Atlantic mists, great mountains marching down to the sea and mysterious fjords cutting deep into unknown frontiers of forests, lakes and gigantic waterfalls. In summer it was ruggedly beautiful; in winter, wrapped in ice and snow, it was coldly defiant, hostile.
Rut what held Grenfell there was the plight of a forgotten people. “As doctors,” he once said, “we know that men are born neither free nor equal.” Among the natives of Labrador—the Indians of the interior, the Eskimos of the north, and the white “liveyere” (live here) families who had been on the rock-ribbed coast for a centui'y—he found widespread poverty, illness and ignorance. He devoted the rest of his life to making theirs easier.
Grenfell made his rounds of the coast in a tiny hospital ship or, more often, on an Eskimo komatik hauled by eight huskies. He treated patients and performed operations in snow houses, skin tents, sod huts and, on the trail, under spruce lean-tos.
Though he worked in an obscure country, the Labrador Doctor caught the world’s imagination. Newspapers in Britain, the United States and Canada found him colorful copy. They reported that he wore furs and seal boots, often slept out on the trail with his dogs and sometimes dined on whale blubber; that once, when skin grafting was needed to save a Labrador fisherman’s shattered hand, Grenfell had another doctor remove flesh from his own back to patch it; and that when he got lost on his first visit to New York City he found his way by following the North Star.
Whenever Grenfell came out of the north on lecture tours to raise money for Labrador—to build the hospitals, schools and orphanages that stand along the coast today—hundreds of thousands of people in North America, Europe and Australia paid to see him and to hear hair-raising stories of his strange land. Over the years they gave him millions of dollars. Wealthy men underwrote the cost of a hospital or a hospital ship; school children, told that Grenfell was caring for the crippled, blind, orphaned and unwanted children of the north, sent him dimes and quarters from sidewalk fudge sales.
A U. S. magazine once called Grenfell “the most useful man in the North American continent,” and his work so impressed the British government that in 1927 King George V made him a knight.
Moved by Grenfell’s selfless example, many people followed him to the north. British, Canadian and American doctors and nurses volunteered, as they
still do, to work in the Grenfell mission fields for a token payment. They were joined by a great army of Grenfell “wops”—from “workers without pay” —who served in Labrador and northern Newfoundland and footed their own bills for the privilege of a part in his story.
Born in 1865, Grenfell came from a comfortable English family of scholars. His grandfather had been a housemaster at Rugby in Arnold’s time. His father, Algernon, an Anglican minister, owned a private boys’ school at Parkgate, near Chester. Educated at his father’s school and at Marlborough, Grenfell decided, at eighteen, to study medicine. He learned it, as be later practiced it, the hard way—as a student attached to London Hospital, amid the slums, sin and poverty of the East End.
While studying at the hospital, be spent terms at London University and Oxford, where he rowed and played football. One night in his second year he wandered into a tent meeting held by two famous evangelists, Moody and Sankey. His upbringing had been strict Anglican, but Grenfell was impressed by the sincerity and zeal of the revivalists. “When eventually I left,” he later wrote, “it was with a determination either to make religion a real effort to do as I thought Christ would do in my place as a doctor, or frankly abandon it.”
Sermons in the Saloons
Soon he and another young student began holding Sunday night services in the dank underground lodging houses along the Radcliffe Highway. “It brought me into touch with real poverty,” Grenfell once said, “—a very graveyard of life I had never surmised.” Often, while one interne held services, the other had to sit on a drunk to keep him quiet. Several times while they were extolling honesty and virtue, their audience pressed closer—and picked their pockets.
Grenfell invaded waterfront saloons with total abstinence sermons. In one a band of toughs grabbed him and tried to force whisky down his throat. He fought his way out without tasting it.
When he graduated as a doctor, at twenty-one, Grenfell joined the Royal National Mission to Deep-Sea Fishermen, a private but church-supported organization whose motto was, “Heal the Sick and Preach the Word.” For five years he sailed about in a small schooner visiting fishing fleets from Iceland to the Bay of Biscay, patching fishermen’s injuries and, in a quiet way, preaching to them. It was a hard life. He was at sea in all kinds of weather and he received little pay. Some of his friends considered Grenfell a religious fanatic who fed on discomfort. He disagreed. “I have always believed,” he said, “that the Good Samaritan went across the road to the wounded man just because he wanted to.”
In 1892, at the Mission’s request, Grenfell fitted out the small hospital ship Albert and crossed the Atlantic to investigate conditions among the thirty thousand men, women and children who came each summer in a thousand Newfoundland schooners to fish for cod along the rocky Labrador coast.
The Albert picked her way along the iceberg-strewn coast and slipped into Domino Run, a bleak fishing village huddled against the rocks where a hundred schooners were moored. The fishermen ran up welcome flags on their mastheads, for, by the cut of her sails, the Albert was a stranger to Labrador. Some came aboard and met Grenfell. His own jib was strange: in a striped Oxford University rowing blazer he looked grandly out of place in Domino Run.
That night an incident, occurred that changed Grenfell’s life and life in Labrador. He was pacing the Albert’s deck when he heard a voice. “Be you a real doctor, zur?” Below he saw a man in a rickety dory. “That’s what 1 call myself,” he chuckled.
The doryman weight'd the fact for a moment. “Us hasn’t got no money,” he said, “but there’s a very sick man ashore, if so be you’d come and see him.”
Grenfell went. In a tiny sod-covered hovel that turned his stomach with its stench he> found a tubercular man in the last stages of pneumonia. His wife was feeding him cold water on a spoon— the only medicine she knew of—and in one corner of the dark hut six thin children in rags were asleep.
“My heart sank,” Grenfell wrote later, “as I thought of how little I could do for the sufferer in such surroundings.” He did what he could, then left. “I could only pray for him,” said Grenfell, “when what he needed was a hospital and a trained nurse.”
In the next two months his heart sank many times. In a land that offered little food but fish and wild berries - it was called Starvation Coast—scurvy, beriberi, rickets and tuberculosis took a fearful toll. There were no agencies of mercy to care for the sick, blind, crippled and orphaned except the German Moravian Brethren, who ran trading posts, and a few clergymen whose influence was weakened by an interdenominational rivalry for souls. There were a few scattered sectarian schools, no hospitals and rarely did a doctor come ashore on Labrador. Hundreds of families, underfed and poorly clothed, made their homes in crude wooden shacks, skin tents and earthen hutches. In short, life in Labrador was even more primitive than the Elizabethan dialect of its “liveyere” fishermen.
Before he left that fall, Grenfell called again at the hovel in Domino Run. The tubercular fisherman was dead. His wife and children were destitute. Grenfell gave them what food and clothing he could spare and vowed to come back.
In St. John’s, the Newfoundland capital, Grenfell embarked on a career of shocking people and scrounging. Said a friend, “He has a genius for generating sympathy and he can simply wring tears from people’s pocketbooks.” To officials of two large fish companies Grenfell told harrowing tales: of a crippled child whose only dress was her father’s cut-down trouser leg; of a fisherman who had killed his three youngest children and himself the winter before so that his wife and the two eldest would have enough food until spring. He told them, too, that he was hoping to open two cottage hospitals
on islands two hundred miles apart — one at Battle Harbor, north of the Straits of Belle Isle, and the other at Indian Harbor, near Hamilton Inlet. They donated the buildings.
Back in England, he told similar stories of suffering: of an Eskimo, both forearms blown off by the explosion of a signal cannon, who had lain on his back for two weeks with the pitiful stumps wrapped in wet rags until, for lack of a doctor, he died. Grenfell’s friends gave him money to buy an X-ray machine and a small steam launch, the Princess May. He recruited two doctors and two nurses to go back to Labrador with him and begged money to pay them small salaries. His own skimpy wages, paid by the National Mission, went for medical supplies.
One of the doctors, Arthur Bobardt, an Australian, took charge of a 16-bed Battle Harbor hospital—Labrador’s first—while Grenfell, who had studied navigation on the North Sea, took the Princess May to the far north where no doctors had gone before.
All along the coast, wherever people lived, he found he was needed. At first he had to combat age-old superstitions. Whites and Eskimos alike treated diphtheria by tying a split, dried codfish around the patient’s neck. Dried and powdered bull’s heart was prescribed for TB and fishermen brewed medical potions by boiling old pulley-blocks in water. Gradually they came to accept Grenfell’s strange medicine—with reservations. One woman agreed to let him cut a tumor from her leg, but refused to take ether. Five men sat on her during the operation.
No Money lor His Dreams
To the Labrador people Grenfell was a miracle man. Simple cataract operations made the blind see; five minutes of surgery on an ingrown toenail and a cripple walked erect. Often he performed his wondrous works on rough kitchen tables, by lantern light. He delivered babies, pulled teeth, tried to instruct mothers in proper child care, treated everything from chickenpox to cancer, broke and reset crooked legs.
As his fame spread along the coast, hundreds flocked to his two hospitals. The Mission expected him to charge each patient twenty-five cents; he seldom did. But grateful patients repaid him with what they could spare— sheep, hutter, a chicken, goose feathers for hospital pillows or a day’s work.
As Grenfell’s work grew, so did his plans. He had visions of a network of hospitals and nursing stations along the thousand-mile coast, of schools, orphanages and a larger force of doctors and nurses who would remain in Labrador all year. Since the Mission Society couldn’t finance his dreams, in the winter of 1893, Grenfell and Bobardt came to Canada to beg. In Montreal they called on Lord Strathcona, president of the Hudson’s Bay Company, the CPR and the Bank of Montreal. Strathcona, who had once lived in Labrador as Donald Smith, donated a steamer, the Sir Donald, to the Mission and agreed to be chairman of their first public lecture. To keep expenses down, Grenfell and Bobardt both did duty at the ticket window before going on stage.
Grenfell continued to make lecture tours until the year of his death, 1940, though he claimed an abiding hatred for them. He said he preferred a komatik to a train, a sleeping bag to a posh hotel room and seal boots and parka to a dinner jacket. But lectures brought in what his mission needed—money and interest—and they were too good to pass up. Once on stage, talking about Labrador, his uneasiness fell away.
In New York, years later, the Metropolitan Opera company staged a benefit performance for the mission. Between acts Grenfell was asked to say a few' words. He responded with a few thousand. The signal bell for the next act rang. Grenfell talked on. The outraged stars were stamping off to their dressing rooms when he finally stopped. Absent-minded about matters that seemed unimportant to him like dress
he once showed up for a lecture wearing a patent-leather shoe on one foot and an old sneakei on the other.
The people who heard Grenfell’s lectures responded in a variety of ways. 'They gave him money, clothing, toys, books, bandages, boats and food for Labrador. They bought beds, as they still do, for the Grenfell Mission. Over the years, thousands of “wops” volunteered to go “down north on the Labrador” to help him.
»Slowly, Grenfell’s dreams began to come true. In the fall of 1899, after his two Labrador hospitals had closed for the winter, he crossed the Straits of j Belle Isle to St. Anthony. Cold and isolated, it was Labrador all over again. Here, too, he found hunger and its resultant diseases. That winter, his first in the north, Grenfell lived and worked in what he called “a glorified cupboard.” Finally he told the fishermen, “I can’t carry on here another winter without a hospital.”
They acted swiftly. In the spring of 1900, before fishing season, a hundred men and three hundred dogs entered the woods. Two weeks later they emerged with enough lumber to build a roomy hospital. »St. Anthony became Grenfell’s headquarters.
From there he and his volunteer doctors and nurses traveled by boat and dog team. They camped out in freezing weather. Sometimes, lost and hungry, they had to chew pieces of green sealskin cut from their boots, or to boil their skin gloves for supper.
On one occasion at least Grenfell nearly perished. A sudden spring breakup left him stranded with his eight dogs on an ice pan in the middle of a huge bay. His frozen raft drifted slowly out towards the sea where a thousand shifting pans were grinding them.selves to snow. At night Grenfell killed three of his huskies, skinned them and wrapped their bloody fur around himself. »Stuffing his clothing with unraveled rope, he piled the bodies of the three dead dogs to make a windbreak, made the others lie close to him for warmth and went to sleep. In the morning, he tied the frozen legs of the dead dogs together with harness rope, to make a crooked staff, then hoisted his flannel shirt to the top of the staff and began waving to the fading shoreline. Fishermen saw his signal. By the time their boats reached him, both his hands and feet were frozen and his ice pan was on the point of disintegrating. Later, on the shore, Grenfell erected a bronze tablet:
To the memory of three noble dogs. Moody, Watch and Spy,
Whose lives were given for mine on the ice.
On one of his trips into northern Labrador, in 1904, Grenfell was summoned to see a sick family. In a hut on a lonely headland he found the mother and father dead. Grenfell took their five young children back to St. Anthony that winter. A few months later an anonymous donor provided funds to build a Children’s Home. Grenfell had no trouble filling it.
At Eskimo Bay he found a family of neglected children. He bartered food and clothing with the father for two of the children. One of them, educated at St. Anthony, later became a nurse. Later one of Grenfell’s “wops,” Frank Sayre, a son-in-law of U. S. President Woodrow Wilson, doubled the orphan-
age accommodation to thirty. On the front of the orphanage, which now holds seventy, was the text: “Suffer
little children to come unto Me.”
As he had done as a young interne in London, Grenfell combined his medical work with religious teaching. Wherever he went he held Sunday services and, in a land that offered little supporting evidence, he tried to show men that their God was not one of hell-fire and damnation but kindness and mercy. He taught by example. Once, on a schooner near Cape Chidley, he found an unmarried girl cook who had
just given birth to a child. She was hemorrhaging to death. “I wants to die, doctor,” she said. “I can never go home again.” When she died Grenfell rowed her body ashore to a rocky headland. On a cross over her grave he wrote:
Jesus said, neither do I condemn thee.
On the subject of liquor, his pet prejudice since college days, Grenfell was less tolerant. Appointed by the
Newfoundland government to be a roving magistrate—his court was generally the after-deck of his ship—he waged war against traders who sold rotgut whisky to Indians and Eskimos. On one occasion he discovered that the only other magistrate in the district was a bootlegger. By disguising his boat one day with flags and white bunting to look like a wedding party, Grenfell sailed right up to the other jurist’s home, on the shore of a small cove, and nabbed him red-handed. He went to jail.
But neither prohibition, nor religion nor medicine alone could reform the north. “How can one preach the gospel of love to a hungry people by sermons,” Grenfell said once, “or a gospel of healing to underfed children with pills?” Rickets, scurvy, TB—the scourges of the Labrador “liveyeres,” Indians and Eskimos—arose mainly from malnutrition, by reason of poverty.
Poverty came easy in this hard land but it was helped along by feudal cod barons, village merchants and traders. Many merchants wouldn’t sell nets or traps outright. They rented them for a heavy share of every catch. Trappers
and fishermen rarely got cash for their catches. The Hudson’s Bay Company paid off in colored bone counters. One large lumber company paid its wages in tin money stamped “Valuable only at our store,” and charged exorbitant prices at the store.
At first Grenfell had the Eskimo and Indian trappers turn over their furs to him. He sold them for cash and returned the money to the trappers. At the fishing village of Red Bay, in 1905, he got fishermen to start their own cooperative store. After saving for a year seventeen families had a total of
only $85. Grenfell lent them money to bring in their first boatload of supplies. Within thirteen years the original $5 shares in the store were worth $104 each and the village was debt-free. In three years Grenfell launched ten coops. Most of them flourished but when one failed, through mismanagement, he sold one of his boats and many personal effects to square its debts.
In the spring of 1909, after spending the winter lecturing and raising money in Britain, Grenfell sailed on the Mauritania for the U. S., where he was to get an honorary degree from Harvard Uni-
versify—one of many awarded to him. On the second day out he met a tall blue-eyed brunette named Anne, a graduate of Bryn Mawr who had once turned down an invitation to hear him speak because she thought he would be “too dull.” The doctor fell in love. Four days later, before the big liner reached New York, he proposed and was accepted. “By the way,” he added, “I’m afraid I don’t know your last name.” It was MaeClanahan.
Married in Chicago that November, the couple arrived in St. Anthony two months later. The fishermen met them with cheers and flags and patients in the mission hospital gave them a picture of a fleet, of fishing schooners, inscribed: “Inasmuch as ye did it to
one of the least of these My brethren, ye did it unto Me.”
The doctor’s young wife adapted herself quickly. She took a special interest in the orphanage and the grade schools that Grenfell opened in Labrador and northern Newfoundland. She set up an education fund and wheedled scholarships. When TB patients, housewives, children and elderly fishermen were put to work hooking rugs, weaving, carving ivory and tooling leathergoods, she opened Grenfell handicraft stores. in England, the U. S. and Canada. She arranged the sale of calendars, depicting Labrador scenes, around the world and in one year added $10,000 to her education fund. Soon some of the mission’s brighter children were enrolling at McGill, Upper Canada College and other leading schools and universities in North America. They returned as teachers, nurses, ministers and mechanics to become leaders among their people.
His Books Paid the Bills
Before Grenfell’s time education in Labrador was entirely sectarian. While most villages and settlements had no schools, in a few others there were as many as three — Roman Catholic, Methodist and Anglican—each presided over by a clergyman who vied with the others for converts and students. “Religion is tied up in bundles,” Grenfell said, “and its energies are used to divide rather than to unite men.” When he failed to sell the missionaries on a more sensible distribution of learning, Grenfell began to open his own non-sectarian schools.
With money coming in from lecture tours, large and small donations, government grants and his own books— between 1905 and 1938 he found time to write more than twenty—Grenfell extended his medical services. A hospital was opened at Harrington, on the south coast of Labrador and two nursing stations—three-bed cottages—were built farther north. The sister of one of Grenfell’s most famous co-workers, Dr. John Little, raised $10,000 to expand the St. Anthony hospital. Sir Donald Smith donated another large hospital steamer, the Strathcona. In 1911, at St. John’s, a $200,000 mission home for visiting fishermen and sailors threw open its gleaming new doors. The cornerstone was laid by King George V—by telegraph wire—on the day of his coronation.
Some of the nurses and most doctors who went north to work with Grenfell were given small salaries—many skilled surgeons, and Grenfell himself, took less than $1,000 a year—but, then as now, most mission helpers were unpaid “wops.” They came from many countries—Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland and Britain—and from every rank in society. They were doctors, dentists, socialites, nurses, architects, professors, engineers, teachers and clergymen. Many college students, having no money, worked their way north to spend a summer with the Grenfell mission. But most “wops” came from wellto-do families because they had to pay their own expenses. All Grenfell could offer them was a taste of adventure and “the joy of service.”
Every spring for 18 years Dr. Joseph Andrews, a wealthy and famous eye specialist in California, got a wire from Grenfell: “The ice is breaking up.
Start.” Each time, he closed his office, went to Labrador or northern Newfoundland and spent two months treating Grenfell’s fishermen and half-breed Indians. For years Ethel Muir, a PhD., recruited a team of U. S. schoolmarms who gave up their vacations to teach in hidden villages along Labrador’s fjords.
When Grenfell started the women of the north weaving, a carpenter came all the way from Kentucky, at his own expense, to show the men how to make looms. Once a “wop” nurse who had worked with Grenfell in the north, resigned and left for the U. S. “1 want to earn some money,” she said, “so I can volunteer again.”
Hundreds of students from Canadian and U. S. colleges paid their own way to Labrador for the short summer. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown and Johns Hopkins all sent hospital-ship crews and the Yale boys donated a boat. Some of the wealthier “wops” adopted mission children, took them home in the fall, and paid for their education.
Stockings Run to Labrador
Grenfell’s “wops” manned boats, rolled bandages, taught art, cooked, preached, filled teeth, delivered and christened babies (hundreds were named for Grenfell), built wharves, dams, lighthouses, drove dog teams, mixed fertilizer on tl\e experimental farm that Grenfell started at St. Anthony and strung telegraph wires linking his hospitals and nursing stations. They did whatever they were asked to do. Grenfell once saw two men stripped to the waist building a road. One was a professor of higher mathematics at Princeton; the other the head of the department of religious literature at Scribners.
In 1912 a group of former “wops” and mission friends met in New York and formed the International Grenfell Association, with branches in Britain, Ireland, Canada and the United States, to finance Grenfell’s work. The Royal National Mission to Deep-Sea Fishermen was now neither willing nor able to do so. Smaller regional and city organizations developed to send food, money, clothing, books and more “wops” to Labrador. Housewives all over North America contributed their silk stockings, slips and old dresses to be turned into Labrador hooked rugs — and money. “When stockings run,” quipped Grenfell, “they run to Labrador.”
In 1915 another hospital was opened at North West River, near Goose Bay, and two more nursing stations were built. Grenfell went to France with the Harvard Surgical Unit for a short time in World War I, then headed north again to plan still more hospitals. When he wrote his autobiography, A Labrador Doctor, in 1919, it was chiefly to raise funds to replace the overcrowded St. Anthony hospital.
By July, 1927, a new eighty-bed hospital and TB annex was ready at St. Anthony to serve the whole coast. One of his Labrador orphans who had studied engineering at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn designed and directed construction of the concrete building. It was complete with X-rays and radium equipment and had been built entirely
by local men. The opening was the proudest moment in Grenfell’s life.
He nearly missed it. Hurrying back to St. Anthony with a boatload of patients for the new hospital, the Strathcona stabbed a reef and began to fill with water. Grenfell and the crew helped the patients into lifeboats, then abandoned ship. F or an hour they rowed in the fog and, unknowingly, in a circle. Suddenly Grenfell heard a ship’s bell. A dark shape broke through the mist. It was the Strathcona. A large wave had lifted her over the shoal into clear water. Reboarded, bailed and temporarily patched, she limped into a flag-bedecked St. Anthony on the day of the hospital opening.
The governor of Newfoundland, Sir William Allardyce, officiated at the ceremony. When it was over he made a surprise announcement: King George
V wanted Grenfell to come to London to be knighted. Grenfell went, but with one misgiving. “I only pray,” he said, “that this tag to my name won’t be any barrier between me and my friends on the coast.” It wasn’t. He was soon known there as “Sir Wilf.”
As the Grenfell Association grew, more nursing stations and another hospital went up along the coast. Now past sixty Grenfell could look back and see many changes. Tuberculosis, still a major problem, no longer meant certain death. Infant mortality was down sharply. Rickets, scurvy and beriberi had been checked by better diets; agricultural workers from the Grenfell Mission had shown people how to raise vegetables in co-op greenhouses in the brief northern summer and how to keep cattle, sheep and pigs. Many fishermen and trappers, shareholders in co-op stores, gained a stake in their own future.
Grenfell’s five hospitals, six nursing stations and four hospital boats meant proper care was at hand for those who needed it. His scattered schools and Lady Grenfell’s education fund meant that the sons of fishermen in George’s Cove or Eskimo Bay no longer had to spend their lives in a dory if they had a talent for something better. Orphans were cared for and the blind and crippled found useful lives.
Labrador, too, was better dressed. Twelve scattered distribution centres dispensed cast-off garments that came from all over the world, and looked it. A visitor once saw two Indians coming out of one of the centres—one wearing hunting pinks, the other a cavalry officer’s greatcoat.
In 1934, at the age of sixty-nine, a weak heart forced »Sir Wilf to retire. “I’m getting too old to drive dog teams,” he said, “and I’m afraid I must take it easy until the time comes to ca»sh in my checks.”
But he didn’t take it easy. Sent to a sanitorium in Michigan to rest, he skipped out through a window and went on a lecture tour to raise more money for his missions, now running smoothly without him. Too tired to stand, he spoke sitting down. In 1939, after his wife died, Grenfell returned to St. Anthony for the last time to bury her ashes there. As he came ashore he walked under a welcome arch of green spruce boughs and, though the occasion was a solemn one, the people cheered.
Those who were there saw tears in the old doctor’s eyes when he was leaving again. Back in Vermont, where he now lived in retirement, Grenfell grew restless and he told a friend that he wanted to start a settlement house on the teeming Lower East Side of New York. But there wasn’t time. On Oct. 19, 1940, he lay down before dinner for a nap and died in his sleep. At the time, oddly enough, he was wearing the same old Oxford blazer that he had worn in Domino Run, on his first day in Labrador. *