Every year on her birthday, for as long as her family can remember, Stella Fitzpatrick would take a dip in the ocean.
Sept. 20 wasn't always a balmy day on P.E.I.'s North Shore, either. But even if it was freezing cold, Fitzpatrick would say the same thing when she stepped back onto the beach, dripping wet, and reached for her towel: "It's just like bath water."
Fitzpatrick died in March from cancer after receiving palliative care at home. Tuesday would have been her 80th birthday, and its rain and chilly temperatures weren't going to stop about two dozen relatives and friends from carrying on the tradition in Tracadie Harbour.
"It was very important to her," said her granddaughter, Molly Pendergast.
"She was an adventurous woman… and ever since she passed, we knew September was going to come and it would be weird to not have her doing this swim. So we've decided to host a swim."
"She had a zest for life, she was always open to new things," said friend Kathy Martin.
"She loved nature and she had a tremendous imagination. So overall she had many, many friends and is missed greatly by all."
Another friend, Katherine Hughes, agreed. "She could see the funny side of everything and she was a true friend. You could depend on her and she always had your back."
Fitzpatrick's daughter, Carolyn Pendergast, said her mother was very social and loved the outdoors.
"She would just be in the thick of this…. I'm sure she's around us here. She's with us and she's smiling. She's laughing probably."
If Stella Fitzpatrick had been there on Tuesday, she would have heard the group sing Happy Birthday to her. She would have seen that many brought donations to go toward home palliative care on P.E.I. She would have heard everyone talking glowingly about her.
It's doubtful, however, that Fitzpatrick would have heard many of those cold and shivering people say the ocean was just like bath water.