To understand who Laura Bieman was, you would have to take a look at the town she never left.
“She loved Elora, it was a part of her heart, she was always proud to say where she was from,” said her son, Kevin Bieman.
Born in Fergus on May 29, 1950, Laura was raised in Elora and would remain a lifelong resident within the community until she passed away from complications after surgery for Stage 4 colon cancer on Oct. 16, 2021. She was 71-years-old.
“She was in the hospital and did have the tumour removed and was cancer-free, the doctor had even used the words ‘cancer-free,’ but the complications of the surgery, she just didn’t have enough to fight it,” said Sheila Grieve, Laura’s daughter.
“She did what she had wanted to do, she had wanted to beat cancer, so she was successful in doing that.”
Kevin said neighbours describe Laura as a ‘welcoming’ person who was always outside with a wave and made everyone feel involved.
“They would have seen her as someone who was passionate about the area, she could always tell you about who lived in what house and who moved in and who moved out,” said Kevin. “People would come to her for some history lesson, or I hate to say, the town gossip. She was always prepared to say that.”
Sheila said her mother really liked the small town aspect of Elora, and was always out and about. Unlike other small town residents, Laura never got her driver’s licence, with everything she needed she could walk to in town.
“This was it, this little are of town is where she thrived,” said Sheila about her mother. “She developed real strong friend ties and community pride, when the town was doing really well you could almost see the personal pride like, ‘Yeah, this is me,’ type of a thing, definitely small town is the reason why she stayed here.”
As a child, Laura’s family first lived in a house on the northwest corner of Church Street East and Irvine Street, located near a railway. At the time, the rail yard was a place the neighbourhood children would gather to play games, said David Geddes, Laura’s younger brother.
"You could almost reach out Laura’s bedroom window and almost give the train engineer a handshake if you wanted to, it was that close, it’s a bit of an exaggeration there, but seriously, it was close," said David.
In 1965, the family built and moved into a house one block away on Irvine Street and Colborne Street. Growing up together, David explains his sister helped him walk to school and both also participated in junior choir. When their grandparents moved to Elora, he said they would sing during these visits while their grandmother played the piano.
“We would old school, stand beside the piano and sing with her, song after song,” said David. “We did that together, her and I, and my biggest bonding moment would be her and I singing songs beside our grandmother.”
As she was finishing high school, Laura met her future husband, Allan Bieman. Allan said he was set up on a blind date by his best friend, and describes Laura as ‘outgoing’ and the two of them were ‘compatible.’
“It seems as though we were meant to be,” said Allan.
Laura and Allan were together for three years before they married in June of 1972. In 2022, the couple would have celebrated 50 years of marriage. Throughout their marriage, Allan said there was always this feeling of love and understanding.
“We were one with one another,” said Allan, “There were often times where we were both thinking the same thing.”
The married couple moved to the corner of John Street and Colborne Street for a year before moving to Irvine Street. Allan said Laura never mentioned wanting to move.
In the spring of 1973, Laura started working at a hair salon on Metcalfe Street. She stayed there for three years, and after having kids, Sheila said Laura continued to cut client’s hair at home, stopping when Sheila was around 12 or 13.
“I remember her bringing in clients into the house and cutting hair in the house so she could be close to us kids,” said Sheila.
Living in Elora for so many years, both Sheila and Kevin describe how community members always looked out for them when they were kids on behalf of their mother.
“She liked that if Kevin or I walked downtown, when we weren't supposed to be there, she’d know about it before we got home type-of-thing, which was really annoying,” said Sheila.
“You could never get away with anything in town because someone was always watching and would report back to her,” added Kevin.
During her adult life, Laura was also a part of the women’s auxiliary and an active member of Knox Presbyterian Church. From making sandwiches to helping out with Sunday school, Sheila mentions her mother’s favourite role was decorating the church for events.
“It was everything, as Easter came along, she orchestrated getting tulips and daffodils and things like that, and when fall came, she would decorate the Christmas trees, the windows, she was in hog heaven, she got to decorate a Christmas tree at home, at the church and the windows, she really enjoyed that,” said Sheila.
As a grandmother, Sheila mentions the grandkids to Laura were ‘the light of her life.’
“I think my mom lived for the grand kids,” said Sheila, mentioning her kids would visit her mother to decorate the Christmas tree, play in the leaves and collect acorns.
When Laura was diagnosed with colon cancer five years ago, Sheila said the doctors focused on treatment to keep her comfortable. Beginning her treatment in Kitchener, Laura insisted she go to Fergus instead to be closer to home, and she engaged in comradery with the other patients and nurses there.
“She remained positive about the treatment and whatnot and carried that into the treatment room, the oncology room, and spread it throughout,” Sheila said about her mother. “That is her best legacy I think is that she was positive.”
Kevin said he will remember his mother’s strength throughout her treatment and the love she showed their family.
“Her love and her strength and her passion for life.”
A week after Laura’s passing, the family held a funeral at Knox Presbyterian Church. Expecting between 50 to 75 attendees, the funeral maxed out the COVID capacity of the church with 120 people coming to pay their respect to Laura.
“We read the names and we maxed out the church and there were flowers brought into the church, you just wouldn’t expect it,” said Sheila.
“She would’ve been shocked, but it just shows how loved she was within the community,” adds Kevin.
Allan said he was ‘overwhelmed’ by the number of residents who came to show their support.
“Her involvement within the community was obviously appreciated, because so many came out to support her.”