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Volunteers: The best neighbour in Sault Ste. Marie (2 photos)

After beating cancer this woman just doesn't stop and her neighbours think she's just the greatest

If you live on Wellington Street West you’ve seen Bernice Cole out cleaning and more than likely she’s even done you some kind of awesome favour.

Cole, 74, is one of those people that is just loved by everyone and even in her senior years can out-work and out-walk any spritly twenty-something, even if they are playing Pokémon Go.

Cole’s neighbours say there's no end to the little ways she is helping the neighbourhood.

They say she’s always out sweeping the street, picking up dog droppings, unclogging storm drains, shoveling driveways, mowing lawns, walking people’s dogs, and even painting people’s houses.

Neighbour Heather Barr said that she and her husband have health problems preventing them from doing certain activities and that Cole will often come by and shovel their driveway for them in the winter.

“You’d try to pay her but she’d never accept a dime. Fortunately we finally got her to accept a Timmies gift card so she could go enjoy a nice coffee,” said Barr, who originally reached out to SooToday to make sure someone knew how great Cole was.

The grey-haired wonder woman who always has a smile said she just likes to keep busy.

Cole said she started working when she was eight-years-old looking after kids while her mother wasn’t home.

She spent 29 years working for the local hospital as a porter and then another 29 years cleaning for an apartment building downtown and that’s where she really picked up the cleaning habit.

Cole recently started having a blood clot issue in her leg that makes it difficult for her to walk but even that hasn’t stopped her.

“Whenever I sit around all I can think about is cleaning; I just can’t sit still,” she said.

All of her neighbours just love her.

“She is one hell of a woman; one of a kind. She works like a bull around the neighbourhood. I told her that I couldn’t even carry her sweat,” said Freida Charette, a long time neighbour.

Cole’s friend and neighbour William Luck remembers a time when birds got into the trash.

“One morning I got up and there was garbage just everywhere all over the street. Well, Bernice came out and it may have taken her a couple of hours but she cleaned it all up,” said Luck.

Neighbour Rhonda Charette said Cole shoveled and mowed her lawn while she was pregnant.

But that’s not even her best Cole story.

Charette said, “I saw her one day last year carrying a ladder and paint buckets. I asked her what she was doing and she said, Oh, just going to help a friend.”

Did we mention Cole is 74?

Cole’s neighbours describe her as being “kind hearted”, “friendly”, “easy going”, and “just amazing”.

Cole told the story of how she got her positive demeanour.

About 12 years ago, just before moving to Wellington Street West, Cole got sick and had to travel down to Sudbury to see a doctor.

She said she was lying in the hospital bed one day and the doctor just walked in and said, “You have cancer, take it or leave it,” and then he just walked out of the room.

“He was such a jerk,” she said.

The doctors informed her she had breast cancer and only six months to live but she used her famous determinism and after a double mastectomy and the most challenging time of her life she managed to beat the disease and live to be the street-cleaning super-neighbour she is today.

However, even after it was all over, the way the doctor treated her stuck.

“What he said to me should never have been said in the first place. So now I go around only trying to say positive things and I’m very careful with my words,” said Cole.

So if anyone out and about runs into her, maybe send her a kind word back as a thank you.

Jeff Klassen

About the Author: Jeff Klassen

Jeff Klassen is a SooToday staff reporter who is always looking for an interesting story
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