AUBURN – It was love at first sight for Gilberte “Gil” Farrell and her eventual husband, Paul Farrell.

He was working third shift at the time for the railroad and reluctantly went to a dance with four of the guys he worked with.

“I didn’t have a choice that night. I was the only one with a car,” he said.

Looking back on that night, he said four of the five men who went to the dance found their future wives, Paul Farrell included. Even after 57 years of marriage, he still called Mrs. Farrell “his bride.”

She died Wednesday at age 81.

Mrs. Farrell grew up in an area of Lewiston called “Little Canada,” and embraced her Franco-American heritage throughout her life.

Her mother worked at Bates Mill in Lewiston and never learned to speak English, so Mrs. Farrell grew up speaking Canadian French, as well as English.

This led to her participation in the Association Canado-Americaine, as well as performing with her husband in a band called “The Silver Tones.”

“It would be natural for her to hold onto that heritage,” said one of her four daughters, Susan MacKay.

“We played everything, all in French if that’s what (the audience) wanted,” her husband said.

He was the lead singer and guitarist in the group, and his wife also sang. The last time they visited their daughter Linda Farrell, she arranged for them to perform at a local nursing home in Virginia.

“They said my parents made everyone’s day,” she said. “That’s pretty cool.”

Mrs. Farrell’s daughters, Linda Farrell, Jane Price, Debra Hughes and MacKay, all remembered special times they shared with their mother.

When she visited Linda Farrell a number of years ago, the two went to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C.

“She told me that was her class trip back when she graduated from high school,” Linda Farrell said. “Her face and expression and how much she loved those blossoms — she loved bright colors and flowers — to me it was so special I got to share something she hadn’t seen since high school.”

Hughes realized she had taken her mother for granted, not fully appreciating her until she became a mother herself. Hughes said she called her mother in tears after having fully experienced the pressures of being a mother.

“I said, ‘Mom, I love you so much. I’m sorry for all the times I was horrible as a teenager.’ She just said to me, ‘I think you need a nap.’“

Mrs. Farrell always kept a garden with vegetables and a section for flowers. Price remembers how her mother would can tomatoes, make jam from the raspberries she grew and sell the excess at the end of their road.

She also remembers how Mrs. Farrell placed bird feeders, especially for hummingbirds, outside the kitchen window so she could watch birds while doing the dishes.

Just last summer, MacKay said she decided to help her mother go for a swim off the North Carolina shore despite the rough surf.

MacKay laughed Wednesday remembering how one rogue wave barreled toward them, knocking them off their feet.

“She was laughing so hard, she could barely stand up,” she said. “That’s just how she was. She kept us laughing.”

 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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