The Spanish flu pandemic lasted from January of 1918 until December of 1920. It was unusual because it viciously attacked people between twenty and forty years of age; people in the prime of their lives, people who prior to catching the flu were healthy and vigorous. A new mother by the name of Marie (Ryan) Doherty was one of those young people whose life was cut tragically short by the wave of death that spread across the world. Were it not for her untimely death, life in the Madawaska Valley might be very different than it is today.
In this multipart series on the Spanish flu pandemic, we take a closer look at the impact the influenza outbreak had on former Combermere resident, Fr. Eddie Doherty. Doherty was the husband of Catherine Doherty and co-founder of Madonna House. Eddie moved to Combermere with Catherine in 1947 intending to live a quiet life in retirement. Instead, the couple attracted thousands of people to their way of life, either as guests or as permanent members of the Madonna House community. It is entirely possible that were it not for the outbreak of the flu in one Chicago neighbourhood, Eddie might not have met Catherine, and they might not have established the community which has come to be an essential part of life in the Madawaska Valley.
In the early part of the twentieth century, Eddie was a promising young newspaper reporter from a large Irish Catholic family living in Chicago.
Doherty wrote: “Chicago, in those days, was called the wickedest city in the world, the modern Babylon, the toughest town that civilization ever built. But it wasn’t tough to me. Nor was it wicked. It was the greatest city in the world, the friendliest and the most alluring.”
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