Coldbrook's Nell Ward celebrates 98th birthday

Local businesswoman served in Second World War

John Decoste
Published on January 14, 2014

The long and full life of Nell Ward passed another milestone Jan. 10, when the venerable Coldbrook woman turned 98.

Born Nellie Leona Lloyd on Jan. 10, 1916 in South Waterville, she was the eldest of seven children of Perez and Eva (McDow) Lloyd. At age 98, she is in relatively good health for her age and still lives in her own home with the assistance of caregivers.

“She’s always been a real-go getter,” her niece Susan Helpard says. “She applied for the pension at age 65, and they informed her she was already 66. They ended up giving her the year back.”

Nell volunteered for the armed services at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. She spent four years in London, England as a member of the Canadian Women Army Corps (CWAC). She was in London during ‘the Blitz’ and the subsequent German bombings, which she recalls as “a scary time.”

“It was kind of miserable at times,” she says. “Between the Blitz and the bombs, we saw a lot of pretty horrible things.”

She acknowledged, as well, it was “scary at times. You took things day-by-day. You couldn’t make plans to do anything.”

Nell doesn’t always enjoy talking about the war – “it wasn’t a very pleasant time,” she says – but Helpard says she has told her family lots of stories over the years.

“She’s told us about the sound the bombs made, and that when the sound stopped, it was about to hit.”

A corporal when she first enlisted, Nell eventually rose to the rank of Sgt.-Major. As a non-commissioned officer, she was in command of around 30 people.

“I got along good with everybody,” she said. “I never had any trouble.”

The billet where they stayed was a country house in the Hyde Park area that had been converted into what Nell describes as kind of a hotel.

“We used to go up on the roof – the roofs were all flat - and see if we could see any planes. We saw plenty; their engines sounded like an old Model T car.”

One night, she recalled, “the Queen (Queen Elizabeth, in later years the Queen Mother) came down and spent some time with us during a blackout.”

Among Nell’s duties during wartime was processing all the paperwork for the hundreds of war brides leaving Britain for countries like Canada. She did all the background checks and prepared all the papers for them.

Nell’s younger brother, Merrill Perez Lloyd, was killed overseas at the age of 24, leaving a widow and two small sons.

“He was going on leave, and was coming over to see me, when he was killed in Holland in February, 1945,” Nell says.

After the war, Nell returned to Nova Scotia. She operated a successful beauty salon, Garden Hairstyles on Spring Garden Road in Halifax, for around 25 years. She lived many years in Fairview, Halifax before returning to the Valley to live in 1978.

After the war, Nell joined the Royal Canadian Legion, choosing the Ortona Branch in Berwick “because it was handy home, where I grew up.” The Berwick Legion presented her with a life membership in October 2005.

She received the Queen’s Coronation Medal in 1953 and the Queen’s Jubilee Medal 50 years later.

Nell married Tom Linkletter, at one time a Maritime fiddling champion. After his death in an auto accident, she married the late Laurie Ward of Coldbrook.

She had no children, but says she has “a fairly large family, and a lot of friends.”

Today, Nell is the oldest living member of the Berwick Legion, and according to Helpard, “might be the oldest living World War II veteran in Kings County.”

She is bothered by arthritis, maybe a function, Helpard says, of “sleeping on all those concrete floors in London, and all the years on her feet as a hairdresser.” 

Nell’s family held a birthday party for her Jan. 11 at her home.  “She was always very kind to her family, including us, her nieces and nephews,” Helpard says. “It takes a lot of help from a lot of people (for her to stay at home), but it’s worth it.”

Nell wasn’t passing along the secret of her long life, though there is longevity in her genes. Her younger sister Audrey Helpard Poirier, her only surviving sibling, is 87.

“I always worked hard, and I always enjoyed working,” Nell says. “I always enjoyed life, and I still do.”