The rugged landscape and wide-open spaces of Change Islands, where Gerald Squires was born, were vastly different to the surroundings in Toronto where he worked as a newspaper artist.
“He knew he wanted to be a full-time artist, and he knew it would happen eventually,” said Gerald's wife, Gail.
“He was also deeply affected by resettlement in Exploits. He left when he was 12, and loved it there. The people were very good to him and his family, and the village took care of the kids when the mum was preaching for the Salvation Army.”
The Squires’ had been talking about moving back to Newfoundland, and “on the way to work, whilst observing everyone else reading newspapers on the GO train, he said ‘ok, this is it.’
“So he went and told his boss that he was leaving,” Gail said.
Funds were tight, and they were looking for ways to raise money for their trip to Newfoundland.
“The children were young, and when children are young, you have to support them with school and stuff like that.”
Gerry had an unfinished painting that belonged to the Group of Seven, and Gail wondered if it could be sold.
“Talk about being disrespectful – I was using (the painting) as a file separator,” she chuckled.
They put an advertisement in the paper asking for an offer of $350.
“The phone rang off the hook, and we had a bidding war, and we quickly realised that this was above our heads.”
They took the painting to Roberts’ Gallery in Toronto, and it was sold for $5,000 – “enough funds to get us to Newfoundland.”
Their first stop was Shoal Brook in Bonne Bay; then, a pottery course took them to Corner Brook.
An opportunity to live in a lighthouse-keeper's house in Ferryland came by later, and this was their last stop, for at least 10 years.
“We went to inspect the house and the windows were out, and the paint was peeling off the walls, and there was one line of electricity, and that was to the lighthouse.
“We are two miles out to sea, there is no phone, and we had a car that someone gave us. The only money we had we spent when we lived in Corner Brook.”
The odds were against them, but their situation began to turn around when book publisher Clyde Rose approached Gerald to do some illustrations for a book and “one thing led to another,” said Gail.
Word spread that artists were living in the lighthouse, and it soon became a popular tourist spot in the summer.
“We had a Newfoundland dog that had puppies twice a year, so we had 13 little Newfoundland puppies running around – between pottery, puppies, and Gerry, it was a busy place,” recalls Esther Squires, Gerald and Gail's daughter.
Gerald’s strong ties and love for Newfoundland brought him and his family back to this province, and he is now recognized as one of Newfoundland and Labrador's most distinguished artists. Gerald died at the age of 77 after battling cancer in 2015.