SHEET HARBOUR – James Howe is a proud Indigenous man who, at 87, is the oldest living resident of the Sheet Harbour satellite reserve of the Millbrook Band.
Howe, who was born July 9, 1933 to Albert and Mary Howe of Sheet Harbour, is one of 14 siblings.
Making a trip to Halifax in 1955, Howe joined the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery – the regular field artillery units of the Canadian army – and was posted to Winnipeg, where he drove large army trucks, taking soldiers to maneuvers.
His wife of 59 years, Florella tells The Journal a family favourite anecdote.
“An old army friend of James’, Wally Martell from New Glasgow, told our family a funny story. They were on maneuvers for weeks and it hadn’t rained for a long time and they were dusty and dirty. Well – when it started to rain a downpour – James stripped off and had a free shower provided by the rain. The crew teased him a lot about it,” Florella recalls.
At one-point during his service, Howe signed up to go to Germany, but a captain asked him to stay with them because he was the best driver they had. Howe obliged and remained in Canada.
Howe served until 1959, when he returned – on leave – to his hometown of Sheet Harbour in rural Nova Scotia. While on leave he met his future bride, Florella Russell, and he did not return to the west. Howe was discharged and the couple married on October 21, 1961. They raised their two children, Dawn and James Jr (Jamie), in the community while Howe worked at whatever jobs were available.
His wife speaks about the jobs he held over the years. While he never forgot his service years, she says her husband had to create his own jobs.
“He was a self-employed taxi-driver and worked in the lumber camps.”
Long before the days of accessible busing, Howe drove local children in wheelchairs to school in his taxi.
“He was a bus driver who drove the route from Moser River and Sheet Harbour to Musquodoboit Harbour,” Florella explains. “He had a mini-bus from the school board and then an 11-passenger van to transport the children.”
There was a time Howe worked on the trains from Halifax to Sydney.
“He worked whatever job was asked of him - cleaning, maintenance and even sold things from the canteen.”
Howe is an elder with Millbrook Band. Howe’s wife says his biggest pride has been his family.
“He is proud of his daughter, son, grandchildren and his whole family,” she says.
When Nov. 11 comes each year, Howe dresses proudly in his legion jacket, beret and wears his service medals to observe Remembrance Day.
He recalls his time in the Canadian military and wears his poppy on his lapel to remind others to remember those who have served and to honour those who have fallen.
Lest we forget.