ST. PETER’S: It began as a family project, but interest quickly grew in the life story of one of Richmond County’s most avid volunteers and well-known educators.
Eva Landry celebrated the release of her autobiography, Just a Farm Girl, with a well-attended book signing event in St. Peter’s on January 26.
Landry – born Eva June Mauger in Cap la Ronde on Isle Madame – had hoped to become a psychiatric nurse, but the training proved impossible to access.
Instead, she began a long career in education when her father, the chairman of trustees for Cap la Ronde, convinced her to apply for a teaching permit and take over the Isle Madame school for a year. Later her father would also enroll her in the Normal College teaching program, though she still had no plans to become a teacher until practice teaching sessions inspired her to pursue the education field with determination, she writes in her book.
She would go on to become one of the first female principals in Richmond County and was the first woman in the county to be the Superintendent of Schools. In 1980, she also became the first female Inspector of Schools in Nova Scotia.
“I didn’t do that intentionally, it’s just that the opportunity was there, and I took it. But what I would like to emphasize is that just because you’re a woman, these things are not closed off to you, you just have to apply and you have to be prepared to take on a new challenge,” Landry said Saturday during her book signing event at the Kiss Me Arts Gallery in St. Peter’s.
“A lot of people are afraid to take on a new challenge but I kind of like to have something new all the time,” she said, noting a willingness to take chances may be the thing she is most proud of as she looks back at her life.
Before accepting the inspector post in 1980, she entered provincial politics as a candidate for Richmond, running against her friend, Liberal incumbent Gaston LeBlanc, who ultimately won the seat. Already active in the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party, she was asked by then-Premier John Buchanan to pursue the seat again in a 1980 by-election, necessitated by LeBlanc’s illness and subsequent death. Looking back at the loss – by just 60 votes – Landry notes the Inspector of Schools position was offered to her soon after and allowed her to continue her satisfying career in education with “fewer headaches than an MLA would have,” she writes.
She took a break from her political activities while she was Inspector of Schools, as she was an employee of a government department, but when she left the post, she jumped back in locally and at the provincial level.
Landry says she had been fortunate to live her life in communities that are supportive of volunteerism.
“It’s sort of a community story, it’s not really just my story because those sort of people draw you in and I’ve been just as busy since I retired as I was when I worked.”
Landry has been especially busy with the 4-H program for over 50 years. She and her husband, Doug Landry, were instrumental in the development of the Camp Rankin 4-H camp, located in Cape George, as well as the MacAskill House Museum in St. Peter’s, which showcases the work of native son and celebrated marine photographer Wallace MacAskill.
She has been honoured with the Order of Nova Scotia, the Order of Canada and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, in addition to numerous accolades, and has served on countless boards and committees, many related to health and economic development.
She says her work and volunteerism have been fulfilling and meaningful to her and she hopes the book – which has already sold out its initial print order – might encourage others to become involved as well.
One-third of the proceeds from each book sold are being donated to the Strait Richmond Hospital Healthcare Foundation, in memory of Kenny Fougere.