My Nanny died an hour ago. Her kidneys failed and she was given only a few days to live. My Mom, Dad, and Debbie were with her until the very end. I am really glad that I got a chance to see her last month while I was at home. I got the sense that she didn’t want to live anymore. In fact, the last photo that I took of her she was looking sadly out the window.

My mom said she looked really peaceful when she died. I haven’t been able to stop crying since. I think she wanted to go. She wanted to be in heaven with Max.

~The Woman of Mystery~

My Grandmother, Eileen Mary Hayes, was born on 4 Jul 1926 in St. John’s, Newfoundland. She was the second oldest daughter of Mary and John Hayes who had 5 other children: Kay, John, Michael, Dick and Dot Hayes. She is a descendant of Michael Hayes who was a famous sea captain in Newfoundland. Her father, John Hayes, was a shoemaker and her mother, Mary (Hayes) Hayes, was a first generation Irish Canadian.

Eileen spent all of her childhood in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The family lived on Blackmarsh Road next to the Mullins family, another Irish Canadian family. Eileen’s best friend was Mary Mullins who was the same age as Eileen. The two spent a lot of time together up to and during the Second World War until Mary died of Tuberculosis.

In 1941, at the age of 15, Eileen met and fell in love with a 20 year old soldier from Nova Scotia, Maxwell Parker McKinnon. Max was very handsome with curly dark hair and a mischievous nature.

Max was a recruit trainer from Mill Village, Nova Scotia sent to Cape Spear, Newfoundland to do active duty with the Royal Canadian Artillery. Cape Spear is the most Easterly point in North America, so from here soldiers could protect St. John’s Harbour from U-Boats. St. John’s (like Halifax) was a staging point for troop convoys and was a target for Germans U-boats. Max often reported sightings of U-boats that surfaced along the coastline of Newfoundland. He fired artillery shells at these U-boats, but never hit any.

One day in 1941 Max saw Eileen and her friend Mary Mullins in a corner store. He and his military friends followed the girls and teased them until Eileen finally agreed to a date. Max bought a camera at the Canex and took photos of their courtship.

These photos were lost for years until the photo negatives were found in an old couch. The couple who found the photos were able to track down Eileen and give the negatives of Max and Eileen’s courting back to the family. This whole incident earned Eileen the nickname “The Woman of Mystery.”

My grandmother was very beautiful and these photos held people in two provinces entranced for years.

One story that my grandparents often spoke of was the sinking of the S.S. Caribou. On October 14, 1942 the S. S. Caribou was sunk by an enemy torpedo on the way between Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and North Sydney, Nova Scotia – all hands were lost. Max was originally supposed to be on the Caribou but missed his connecting train and subsequently, the boat.

Eileen says the reason he missed the train was the night before they drank too much rum and in the morning Max was unable to wake up. This date is also an interesting because nine months later, the couple’s first son Ern was born.

The couple married on 28 Jun 1942 in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The best man was Eileen’s brother Dick and the Maid of Honour was Eileen’s sister Kay.

As was mentioned above, in July 1943, the couple had their first child Ern. Their second son, Robert, came a year later. In time came a daughter, Debbie, and another son Kevin.

After the war the couple moved back and forth between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and eventually settled in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. They lived a long and happy life with many nieces, nephews, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

Max died in 1998 from Cancer and Eileen has been sad ever since. I am glad that now she can now be with him again.

~My Dear Nanny~

As a person, Eileen was very generous. She would give you the shirt off her back if you asked her for it. I remember the year that I moved to Calgary, I mentioned in passing over Christmas that I didn’t have enough mittens and Calgary was cold. About a month later a parcel arrived in the mail full of mittens, hats, scarves and sweaters – and she had knit them all.

That was the kind of woman Eileen was. She was full of love. She loved her children; her grandchildren; and her great grandchildren. I remember going over to the house and the first thing she did when you walked in the door was give you a big kiss. And then she always asked: “Have you had something to eat?” and if you hadn’t she would make you a meal.

The world and the family has lost a very kind and loving woman, the family matriarch. It is a sad day.


McKINNON, Eileen Mary – 76, Lower Sackville, passed away February 3, 2003, in Dartmouth General Hospital. Born in St. John’s, NL, she was a daughter of the late John and Mary (Hayes) Hayes. Eileen loved her bingo, knitting, travel, enjoyed life to the fullest and being with her grandchildren; great-grandchildren. Surviving are sons, Robert (Sandra), Wilmot; Kevin (Yvonne), Westphall; daughter, Deborah (Vernon) Hiltz, Lower Sackville; brother, Richard (Nellie) Hayes, St. John’s, NL; sister, Bernadette (Stanley) Lamrock, Villagedale, Shelburne Co.; nine grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; several nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her husband, Maxwell; son, Ernest; brothers, John and Michael; sister, Kathleen. Visitation will be 2-4, 7-9 p.m. Thursday in Atlantic Funeral Home, 771 Main St., Dartmouth. Funeral service will be held 10 a.m. Friday in St. Clements Church, Gaston Road, Dartmouth, Father Robert Floyd officiating. Reception to follow. Burial in Oakridge Memory Gardens, Sackville. In lieu of flowers, donations to a charity of choice. On-line condolences may be made at: