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WILLY de BURGER

Oct. 15, 2006.

My brother Willy was born in Hulst in The Netherlands on June 18, 1944. He was the third child in our family and the first to be born in hospital. Myself and my brother Ronald were born at home as Holland was occupied by the Nazis during WW2 and therefore the hospital beds were for wounded soldiers. When Willy was still a young baby my mother ran out of breast milk to feed him. Dad had heard that the local farmers had invited people who needed milk to go into their meadows to milk the cows for their needs. Accordingly my father, who had been raised as a farmer, took a bucket to get milk for our baby and the rest of the family. After he had filled his pail he started to return home. Suddenly he heard gunshots and his pail was hit. It was quickly emptied of all the milk he had collected. Dad jumped into the nearest ditch for safety. When the shooting stopped he stood up cautiously and when he realized that he was now safe, he hurried home to tell my mother what had happened. For today milk would have to be borrowed from someone else.

When he was 2 years old Willy fell off a low roof and broke his right leg. Was he ever proud of that cast! Other than that he was a loveable child the darling of our maid Appolonia. Mom and Dad had a fruit and vegetable store and therefore mom needed help in the house with the general household duties and us.
Willy was 7 years old in 1951 when our family immigrated to Canada. He was in Grade One. The Brothers at his school in Holland had tried forcing him to write with his right hand although he was naturally left-handed. This had been very difficult and painful for him until my mother discovered why he hated to attend school. He was hit hard on the hand each time he used his left hand to write. Mom went to the school and soon put a stop to that! My dad was also left-handed so Willy came by it naturally. In Canada, he was allowed to write with his left hand, which was much appreciated by him as well as by my parents.

Willy loved nature! Spending time in the bush whether it was to fish, hunt or just hike gave him great pleasure. He joined the Boy Scouts and became quite proficient at using a compass, building a campfire, setting a trap, tying knots and all the other skills he learned in Scouts. Whenever he would venture into the woods alone, he would always tell my mother where he was going and assured her that he had his compass as well as waterproof matches. It was natural for him to be careful and cause our parents as little worry as possible.

On March 12, 1960 my dad took down our bikes in the garage, He repaired the spokes, oiled the chains and generally got them ready for the spring season. It was a lovely warm early spring day. My brother Ronald was allowed to take the family car for the first time that evening. Alex and I were at my friend Lorraine Mead’s house waiting for her boyfriend to come to pick us up as we were planning to go to see a movie in Sudbury that evening. We noticed that there was a great commotion on the road in front of her house. Cars were stopping. Alex and Lorraine went to see what the cause of all this activity was. I remained in the house.. Alex rushed back to the house blurting out to me, “Come quick, Erna, we have to go tell your parents, It’s Willy!” “What do you mean?” was my stunned reply. Of course I could not accept what he was telling me! My brother had been hit by a car? When we had left the house just 15 minutes previously he had been watching TV with my parents. Why was he on the road? So many questions!

Alex and I ran up the hill to our house. Someone had already gone to get my dad by that time. Alex had actually identified Willy while several men were working on him making him as comfortable as possible and trying to stop the bleeding until the ambulance arrived. Tom Shannon was one of these gentlemen on the scene. When the ambulance arrived dad climbed in the back to accompany my brother to the Memorial Hospital. Dad later told us that when they got to the Iron Ore Plant blood started to flow from Willy’s ears making dad fear the worst. Willy went into surgery as soon as he arrived at the hospital but dad was soon told that there was not much chance. He phoned home for my mother to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Mrs. Bruyns a neighbour who was also a nurse, took mom to the hospital. Willy died at 10:15, just 2 hours after he was hit. When Maria Bruyns called the house she asked to speak to Alex but I insisted that she tell me what I really already knew, that my brother had died. By this time our house had filled with neighbours who had come to offer support to our family. From my reaction they realized what had occurred. When mom and dad arrived back home they were both speechless in their grief. Dad insisted that mom go immediately to bed. She was 8 months pregnant for my sister Lillian and he was afraid as to how this horrible tragedy might affect her pregnancy as we all were.
The next day being Sunday Dad took us children to Mass at St. Michael’s. Father Regan announced to the parish what had happened and as Creightonites always do and did, people sprang into action to help us in every way possible. Food arrived all day long. Stella Vagnini came to the house to cook our dinner and help clean the house and just generally do whatever needed to be done. Father Regan also came after Mass to offer support as did Miss Black and many others. It was then that we discovered that Willy had been riding a bike when he was hit! This made no sense! Willy who was always so careful, was riding a bike which had no lights, in the dark ? Who can explain these things?

Sunday night and all day Monday at Lougheed’s Funeral Home on Eyre St., were extremely tiring days but also affirming times when the outpouring of support for our family by Creightonites, our schoolmates, teachers, and even strangers, served as some measure of comfort. St. Michael’s was packed for the Requiem High Funeral mass celebrated by Father Regan at 9 am. The First Waters Boy Scouts formed an Honour Guard on the church steps. Willy’s grade 9 classmates from St. Charles College had been brought by bus to the Creighton church. Willy was buried at the Catholic Cemetery on Lasalle Blvd. in Sudbury. He was nearly 16 years old.

 

MARIANNE

 September 25, 2006.

Mom could not understand why she was constantly feeling so unwell in October of 1951. However with the sea voyage from Holland to our new homeland Canada and the painful emotional farewells to her family beforehand, she just felt it was due to all these difficult events. Without warning in November she started to bleed heavily. This was very frightening for her and my dad as they were in a strange land where neither spoke the language, had no family support  nor did they know any doctors. My dad explained with great difficulty to his employer that a doctor was needed as quickly as possible for his wife. When the doctor arrived we were scared, as we did not understand what was wrong with our mom. I was only 10 years old and such matters were not explained to children in those days. The doctor gave my parents to understand that mom was pregnant and if the baby was to be saved she was to stay in bed for the next several weeks.

In the spring of 1952 we moved from Warren to St. Charles where dad went into a partnership with a farmer named Lafontaine. Dad would run the farm while Mr. Lafontaine operated the grocery store in town. The house we lived in was not much more than a shack. We could actually see outside through cracks in the walls! But at least we lived there by ourselves.

In early June after an otherwise uneventful pregnancy mom went into labour. The nearest hospital was in Sturgeon Falls about 20 miles away and of course mom had not seen a doctor except for that time when she had almost lost the baby. A neighbour, Mr. Lemieux, drove mom and dad to the hospital. As the back  roads were not paved up to Highway 17, it was a terrible ride for my mother. When they arrived at their destination mom was in hard labour. Dad approached the nun at the registration desk to ask that mom be admitted to give birth. She refused telling Mr. Lemieux that dad’s bill must be paid first from an earlier hospital stay due to an accident he had suffered. Dad loved to tell this next part of the story. A man, whom he did not know happened to walk into the hospital lobby, took in the situation at a glance and asked the sister what the problem was. After it was explained to him he took out some money, paid dad’s hospital bill and finally mom was admitted. This man refused to give dad his name and we never did find out who he was.

After a long and difficult labour, mom gave birth to a baby girl whom they named Marianne. She was born on June 7 which was my birthday! When dad arrived home to tell us that we had a baby sister, I was elated! Finally after three brothers I had a baby sister and on my birthday no less. Dad apologized to me as he had only a small birthday gift for me, a red, white and blue sponge ball. Joyfully I replied that I had received the best present possible for my 11th birthday, a baby sister. What more could anyone want?

That evening Mrs. Lafontaine invited all of us for supper. Her sister was there as well with her family. I had excitedly told this other lady about our new baby and how I could not wait for mom to bring Marianne home so that I could help take care of her. The two women were speaking to each other in French with concerned looks on their faces. By this time I understood enough French to realize they were discussing the fact that, “le bebe est tout bleu”. That meant little to me, as I had no idea what colour newborns were supposed to be. However the expressions on their faces told me that there was something seriously wrong especially so when they told me that the baby might not be coming home with my mother. Fear lodged in my heart. However it dissipated when a week or so later mom did indeed bring our baby home.

Marianne had red hair and big blue eyes. She was beautiful! Mom told me later that as soon as she saw her she knew that the baby was a mongoloid baby with slanty eyes as well as the fact that she had a serious heart defect, which is why she was blue at birth. Today such children are referred to as having Down’s Syndrome. We did not realize that this was alife-long problem.

        When Marianne was 3 months old we moved to Creighton Mine where my father was working in the mine. The baby was constantly ill and hospitalized many times. Dr. McGruther told my parents that she would never walk but be in a wheelchair all of her life, would likely never speak and her development in general would be slow. Dr. McGruther gently explained to my parents that the baby was multiply handicapped physically as well as mentally. Creighton residents were most supportive and drove my mom and dad to hospital each time it was needed. Father Regan walked to our home two miles back of Creighton at least once a week to have tea with my mother and to generally check to see how we were doing. One day while working underground one of dad’s colleagues approached him to ask,”Dutchie, I heard that you have a sick baby”. When my dad replied that this was so he told him about a hospital in Toronto that was just for sick children. That day on the way home from work dad stopped in to ask Dr. McGruther whether Marianne could be helped there. Dr. McGruther replied that she was not strong enough to survive the train trip to Toronto.

        When we arrived home from school every day the first thing we would do is say hello to our baby sister. She smiled at us from her bassinette and that made our day. Her red curly hair and blue eyes were so beautiful! She radiated love to us all!

        In May, Father Moore came to Creighton with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima with which he travelled the world. After hymns and prayers around the statue with the entire parish attending, Father Regan told Father Moore about our family and our sick baby. The two priests walked to visit us bringing with them the rosary from the statue. After we prayed the rosary around Marianne’s bassinette Father Moore gave my mother a small medal which he took off his watch and told mom to pin it to the baby’s nightie. He also said that we should pray the rosary daily around Marianne’s little bed and promised that we would see a change in her condition within 10 days. On the tenth day little Marianne died. What a shock! I will never forget my mom putting a mirror in front of the baby’s mouth to see if she was still breathing. She was not. Dad had sent my brother Ron for the doctor. Dr. McGruther was on vacation and Dr. Thibodeau was taking his place. He pronounced the baby dead. Mom washed the baby then wrapped her in a blanket and so my dad carried her in his arms out of the bush. When he got to Wavell St., Mr. Brown saw him coming and asked if he could help. Dad explained that his baby was dead. Mr. Brown drove dad to Lougheed’s Funeral Home in Sudbury. The next day, June 5, we had a small funeral service for my baby sister with Father Regan officiating. Marianne was just 3 days shy of her first birthday. In her short life she had drawn our family so close together! I will never forget her as long as I live!

 

ERNA de BURGER-FEX

 

LIVING IN THE BUSH

September 14, 2006. 

Our family had not been in Canada a full year yet when my dad got a job working in the mine in Creighton. When he went to apply to INCO in August of 1952, he was weighed, and then asked if he spoke English. My father replied, “Yes” and was hired on the spot. Little did they know, or seem to care in those days, that he didn’t know much more of the language than that! He would be paid $60. per week, a vast improvement from what he had earned since coming to Canada the previous October. He needed to support his wife and five children so he took the job. This was very difficult for a man who had been raised as a farmer in Holland. Going underground was inconceivable but what was he to do in this new land? Now to find a place to live first for himself, as he was to start work immediately, then for his family. Dad got a room in one of the boarding houses in Creighton Mine. At that time there were several such rooming houses in the little town. He lived there for six weeks all the while searching for a house for us, his family, whom he had left behind in St. Charles. Finally someone told him about a house which was about two miles behind Creighton in the bush and was owned by a man named Julius Ranta. Since there were no other options, dad rented this place for us for $25 a month. Then he managed to come to St. Charles to tell us we were moving to Creighton very soon. My mother was very happy since the people of St. Charles spoke only French at that time, and with my father gone she was extremely lonely having only her children to talk to.

With what little money they had, a truck was rented to bring our meager belongings and us to Creighton Mine. Dad had given the driver instructions as to the location of the house he had rented for his family. He could not accompany us, as he had to go to work his afternoon shift from 4pm – midnight. We needed the money desperately! As the driver reached Creighton he drove up the Hill and turned right at the top onto Wavell Street. He then proceeded onto this narrow bush road and kept driving. By this time Mom was very frightened and had begun to cry. Where was this man taking us? She kept asking him if he was sure this was the way to our new dwelling. He assured her it was but he must have begun to wonder himself by this time. Finally we drove into a clearing and there it was, our new home. It was actually an abandoned farm with sheds, an outhouse and rusted equipment lying around. We were so glad that our journey was over that we children were excited to explore the place. However mom insisted that first we had to help to carry everything into the house. I looked after my baby sister Marianne who was just 3 months old at that time while my mother and two brothers, Ronald and Willy, set up the beds. My brother Franky was only four years old so he was not much help. When my father arrived home around one A.M., my mother was waiting up for him in this strange house so far from civilization. We had lived in a small city in Holland and were accustomed to having neighbours all around us. So began our lives in Creighton Mine.

The next morning dad took us to Creighton Mine Public School to register us there. What a warm welcome we received from the principal, Miss Ursula Black! Miss Black was very tall, quite an imposing figure, who was loved by everyone in town. She placed me in grade 5 with teacher Keith MacNaughton, Ronald in grade 4 and Willy in grade 3. The teachers could not have been more helpful and encouraging to us.

Just six weeks after we had moved there some hunters walked out of the bush carrying two long poles. Hanging from these poles was a large dead black bear! We were astounded! The thought that wild animals lived in the forest surrounding us had never crossed our naïve immigrant minds! From then on my mother insisted that we always play in the clearing where she could see us. She stressed that we should be careful and on the lookout for wild animals on our way to school and to church on Sundays. I don’t know what we would have done if we had seen a dangerous animal! We learned very quickly that the beautiful deer, which we saw often, would not harm us. Foxes, porcupines, squirrels and other small animals were a common sight. Our puppy had an unhappy experience with a porcupine. He chased it up a tree then stood barking at this unknown animal. Of course the porcupine reacted to protect itself by sending down numerous quills. These were embedded in the dog’s snout. Yelping loudly, the puppy rushed to the kitchen door. This was certainly a new problem for us! What to do? My dad did the only thing he could think of to relieve the dog’s misery and proceeded to pull the quills out using pliers while my brothers held the dog. Another new experience!

Every morning mom would give us our sandwiches and fruit and off we’d walk to school. Mom often said that none of us were ever sick that year because of the daily exercise and abundant fresh air. Dad walked to the mine of course. He worked afternoon shift one week and day shift the next. The winter was a challenge although at the time we did not see it as such. Snow was still an exciting novelty to us as this was only our second winter in Canada. On day shift dad made a path for us and when he was working afternoon shift we made our own. One night while he was coming home from afternoon shift, it had snowed, and the path had blown in. As a result he became lost and disoriented. He finally arrived home after daybreak. My mother was a nervous wreck, certain that she would never see him again. That’s when the decision was made that we would not spend another winter in the bush. Whatever we had to do to find another place to live we would do it. The answer to that was picking blueberries! Once mom and dad realized that there was money to be made doing so we were in the hills around the house all summer long. We children were expected to do our share of picking the tasty juicy berries. When we came home with our full baskets dad would cut cardboard lids for them. He then carried these to the train station in Creighton on his way to work and they were shipped off to Toronto. Some time later the cheques would arrive to be saved so that we could achieve the family’s goal of moving into a neighbourhood in the fall of 1953.

It had been an eventful year with the death of baby Marianne and the birth of baby Mary Alice (Liesje), adding to the stresses, which my parents especially experienced. No electricity, the outhouse, thunder storms, snow storms, no neighbours, were all huge factors in our family needing to get out of there. My parents were able to put a down payment on a house in nearby Rockville (aka Dogpatch) in September of 1953 and life settled down into a more familiar routine.

 

CREIGHTON  REVISITED

July 12, 2006

In 2003, while reading the Northern Life newspaper, a letter to the editor caught my eye as I knew the author of this letter very well. She was Audrie Jamieson Brooks who had been our babysitter when our daughters were little and we were living on Wavell Street in Creighton Mine, just down the street from Audrie and her parents . In her letter Audrie announced that she had devised a website called "Creighton Revisited" for all we Creightonites who had been born, lived in, or were associated with the town. She gave the website's address as www.creighton.o-f.com and invited everyone who was interested, to sign the Guestbook.

    The response was overwhelming to say the least! To date, three years later, the website has received more than 35,000 hits! Former Creightonites living in all parts of Canada and the U.S.A., are still discovering the website for the very first time.  To say that it was, and is, a huge success is an understatement. The happiness expressed by people reconnecting with former friends, teachers, neighbours, is obvious. Renewed interest in former Creighton residents’ achievements, family events, has blossomed. The deep sense of our loss when INCO decided to demolish the town in 1986, has not dampened the Spirit of Creighton Mine. The proof of this is that on the third Sunday of September every year, there is a Creighton Reunion at the townsite. Never mind that there is nothing there. We all just gather and catch up and reminisce and renew friendships. The Creighton website has helped to make interested people aware and has had a huge effect on the turnout every year.

          We thank Audrie Jamieson Brooks for having the prescience and the skill to make “Creighton Revisited” a reality for us. Constant updates and new features keep the website fresh and current. She does this even though she resides in Thompson, Manitoba! We look forward to Audrie and her husband Earl being able to attend a Creighton Reunion in the near future so that we can express our collective appreciation to her personally. 

Erna Fex,

Awwww. that was so nice Erna, thank you!  It's been a great ride - and we've
only just begun!

                                                                                                                           Audrie

 

May 2006

Father Hutton's 40th Anniversary

     On May 12, 1966, James Arthur Hutton was ordained a priest in St. Michael's Church in Creighton Mines by Bishop Alexander Carter. Father Jim was the first priest to be ordained in St. Michael's. Parish priest Father Emmet Reagan was very proud and Father Jim Sharpe assisted in the solemn ceremony. Jim's parents, Jim and Emily Hutton as well as his sister Sandra, were joined by the entire congregation of St. Michael's to witness the proceedings. Everyone was proud of this young man dedicating his life to the service of God and His people.

    Fast forward to May 7, 2006 at St. Patrick's Church on Walford Road in Sudbury, and 40 years have passed. Father Jim is now the pastor of St. Patrick's after having served in Sudbury, (Christ the King), in North Bay, and in Sault Ste. Marie before coming to his latest church. On this, Vocation Sunday, it was appropriate to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Father Jim had organized the prayer service in thanksgiving for his Anniversary. Clergy from many denominations had been invited to participate and some had travelled quite a distance to do so. This was in keeping with Father Jim's strong belief in Ecumenism, i.e. that all Christians share more things in common than what separates us. It was a beautiful prayer and song service. The highlight for me and other Creightonites present, was when Father Jim Sharpe was invited to speak. Even though he had been given (so he said 5 minutes), he spoke much longer with many jokes interspersing his homily. At one point he reminded Father Hutton that his family, the Sharpe's had lived on the rock above the Hutton's and had therefore looked down on them! That got a great chuckle from all of us!  Both Father Sharpe and Father Jim Hutton gave Father Regan as well as their parents, much credit for their vocations.

    After the ceremonies in the church had concluded everyone was invited for a reception in the hall downstairs. father Jim had made it very clear that there were to be no testimonials or gifts. His sister Sandra Singbush had prepared a wonderful, moving video presentation of the highlights of Jim's life. Seeing his parents, now deceased, as well as his home on George Street, brought back memories for him and those of us who had passed by there many times. Sandra told me that Jim had done a lot of the gardening at home and it always looked lovely with many flowers and shrubs. Then a presentation was made to Father Jim, totally unexpected by him. He glared at his sister but she explained to him that it was from his parishioners. When he opened the gift he was visibly moved. It was a painting of his childhood home done by Royce Simpson who had also painted pictures of the school and the club. It was beautiful! just then Father Sharpe came running to the front carrying what was clearly an old box of some kind. He took the mike and told us about his gift. When Father Regan was dying, he entrusted his Chalice, which he had used in His daily masses, to Father Sharpe. Now Father Sharpe was passing it on to Father Jim Hutton!  Jeannine (Barbe) Kuik who happened to be standing beside me at this point, felt emotional as did I and other Creightonites who were present. Even people who had not known Father Regan realized what a special moment this was. Father Sharpe went on to explain that the polished ore which was the stem of the chalice was something he personally had added. When he worked his last shift at 3 shaft in Creighton Mine, he had picked up this piece of ore and put into his pocket. After receiving this precious gift from his parish priest many years later he had the ore polished and added to the stem. He reminded Father Jim that it came from underground right across the street from where he grew up.

    Father Jim promised to pass the chalice on later.

    It was a wonderful, meaningful afternoon. I'm glad that I was able to attend this special occasion.

 Photos of Father Jim Hutton's 40th Anniversary celebration found HERE

 

March 2006

While reading this little monthly paper called "South Side Story", I came across some facts of interest to Creightonites in their special section on Hard Rock Mining in the February issue. 

1) The township of Creighton was surveyed in 1884 and was named for MPP David Creighton member form the North Grey Area.
2)In 1916 carbide lamps replaced candles at INCO mines.
3)Nickel was 78 cents per pound in 1956.
4)During the war years (1939-1945) the nickel mined equalled the production levels in all years previous.
5)In 1895, nickel price was 21 cents a pound.
6) The first scooptram was used underground in 1967.
7)The rock temperature at 7200 feet is 110 degrees F. and increases by one degree every 100 feet.
8) One 6 foot rock bolt has the ability to hold about 18 tons of rock.
9) In 1950, Sudbury supplied 95% of the world's nickel.
10) In 1914, Henry Brearly of the U.K. invented stainless steel for cutlery and coined the term "stainless steel".
11) In 1916 Creighton Mine became the first Canadian mine to use a hoist drive.
12)On March 13, 1968 Creighton Mine reached the depth of one mile. At the time it was believed to be the deepest
mine in the western hemisphere.
13) Since 1901, the Creighton Mine has produced over 160,000,000 tons of ore, producing 4.8 billion pounds of nickel and other associated metals.
14) The first electrical mining equipment used in Canada was installed in 1906 at the Creighton Mine.

January 15, 2006

ANNIVERSARIES

    This year of 2006 brings to mind some evocative memories for we Creightonites. On January 20, it will have been 30 years since Father J. Emmett Regan died of cancer. Difficult to believe isn't it?  I well remember his body lying in state in St. Michael's Church and the out pouring of love and grief for this wonderful man who had been born in Creighton and returned to serve his community as Parish Priest for nearly 40 years. It was not only the Catholic community who mourned  Father Regan. Everyone in town knew and loved him! His "boys" who had been altar boys and gone on to become priests, were there to honor him. He was immensely proud of all of them! It's quite a tribute to his influence that four young men from this little town followed in his footsteps. Father Sharpe is currently living at Christ the King  Rectory in Sudbury, Father Jim Hutton is the Pastor at St. Patrick's in Sudbury, Father Bob Bourgon is Pastor in Levac, and I believe that Father Bill Fortune is in the North Bay area. Father Regan, along with Roy Gotro, was instrumental in starting the Creighton Mine Credit Union which still exists but under a new name and is now called "Community and Savings Credit Union". He was a priest in the true sense of the word in that he made a point of personally visiting his parishioners in their homes at least twice a year and oftener if he was in your area of town. His wide Irish smile and great sense of humor were always welcome!

 

Another anniversary this year has a direct connection to Father Regan. It was in September of 1986 that St. Michael's Church was officially and irrevocably closed forever, thus 20 years ago this year. The Closing Ceremonies occurred over an entire weekend with events beginning on Friday evening and concluding Sunday afternoon. I was a member of the choir which sang at all of those ceremonies and it was a bittersweet experience for me. The sight of the dignified Knights of Columbus in their ceremonial regalia lining the steps and guarding the altar will always remain in my mind and in my heart. When the final prayers and ceremonies had been completed, it was time to remove meaningful and blessed objects form the church. The statues were carried down the church steps and laboriously loaded onto half ton trucks which carried them to their new location at St. Pius In Lively. It was a most impressive procession carried out with reverence and sadness. Afterwards there was a homecoming reception held in Cabrini Hall where we all had a chance to visit and renew acquaintances with those who had come from far away. We all realized that we were saying goodbye to an essential part of our lives.

     My daughters were baptized in that church by Father Regan. My brother Willy was buried from that church in 1960 after his funeral Mass celebrated by Father Regan. My brother Frank received his First Holy Communion at St. Michael's. As a teenager I was a member of the church choir under the direction of Mrs. Della Drennan. Our Wedding Reception was held in Cabrini Hall. So many personal memories! Copious tears were shed by current and previous parishioners. People came from all over the country to participate in the ceremonies closing their church!

    I heard years later that the pews from St. Michael's are now being used in St. Joseph the Workman Church in the Soo.

 

                                                                       August 16, 2005

A TRIBUTE TO STELLA 
To know her was to love her!

It has now been 4 years since our Stella died and it doesn’t seem possible. But yes, on July 11, 2001, our Lord called her home. Father Bob Bourgon, one of her 21 godchildren, concelebrated her funeral mass with St. Pius X  pastor Father Jack Goldie, and she was buried at St. Stanislaus Cemetery on July 14.

The name “Stella” means star and her parents unknowingly gave their only daughter the perfect name – star! She wouldn’t like my writing that about her because she was a humble person in the way she regarded herself.

Stella was born in Creighton Mine and very proud of that fact. Anyone fortunate enough to also have been born there or resided there for a pewriod of time, was automatically a dear friend. She lived in Creighton and in its suburb, Lively, all her life.

However there were no boundaries to Stella’s friendship and caring. Whether at work at Tom davies square, in her numerous volunteer activities, both organized and many initiated by her, her warmth, enthusiasm and dedication were an inspiration to all around her wherever that might be! Stella’s hugs were legendary and were  happily, even gratefully, received by one and all. Her wonderful smile was infectious and always brightened my day. As Gerry Lougheed said at her prayer service in his wonderful tribute to her, “Did you ever notice that whatever you were doing or wherever you were you always had time to stop for one of Stella’s smiles and hugs?” He was right of course!

Stella sensed when someone needed the comfort which only human contact can provide. She didn’t hesitate to do just that-and it was always welcomed. Her warm enveloping, genuine hugs, accompanied by her ever-ready listening ear, calmed those who needed it. Her smile at a joyous occasion or when you shared good news with her made the event that much happier. Similarly, Stella could become very angry at an injustice suffered by an undeserving person.

When someone required practical help there was no need to call Stella because somehow or other she found out and she was there. Sometimes that might be a pot of soup, a ride to an appointment or to get groceries, a hospital visit, visiting someone who was lonely and just needed to talk to someone in their own home, Stella found the time.

Stella’s profound Christian faith permeated all her actions and was the basis of her life which enabled her to face her own minor and major burdens. The loss of her beloved Lando (1975), and her precious daughter Melanie (1987), were understandably most difficult for her and she often spoke of them with longing for what might have been but with her faith in God undiminished.

Lest I’ve made it seem that Stella had no interests of her own let me hasten to correct that impression! Stella loved a good joke and would throw her head back and laugh heartily. She was a passionate bridge player and with the help of her dear friend Madeline Mayer, played as long as she could even while she was already very ill with the cancer that destroyed her life.

We learned from Stella Vagnini that one person can indeed make a difference in a community. What an example she set for the rest of us!

Her death is a great loss to all of us who were fortunate enough to have known her but of course most difficult of all for her family. Her children Debi and Anthony (Tony), and her cherished grandchildren ,Christi-Lee, Dane and Cody will miss her forever.

Stella (Koralyk) Vagnini has left an indelible mark on this community and will be long remembered. It has been 4 years now since we lost her and many miss her still. I certainly do. She is in my thoughts very often Sleep well, dear Stella!

May the Lord of all creation enfold her lovingly in His warm embrace.

 

June 28, 2005

Jimmy Nicholls 

Meeting  friends from Creighton Mine is no different than meeting  family members. We rediscovered that on Sunday when Alex and I met Jimmy Nicholls, 89 years old, coming out of church. As soon as he saw us his face lit up with a huge smile of recognition, followed by great hugs for both of us. He is very sharp proven by the questions he asked about my parents whom he remembered quite well, asking Alex if he was still in real estate, telling me he remembered me singing in the choir at St. Michael’s. He and Alex chatted about some of the men they both had known at the mine, recalling that Alex had worked there in the Time Office. The whole time we were conversing and reminiscing with him he held my hand or touched my husband on the arm. His wonderful smile never left his face. He exuded warmth and friendship! We had a difficult time leaving him as he told us about his wife Eileen who is unfortunately in hospital at present.

Jimmy was dressed in a lovely grey suit, white shirt and tie, as is befitting a gentleman attending church on Sunday even though the temperature was nearing 30 degrees!

As we left, he claimed one more hug from both of us and told us separately that he loved us “bunches”! Our meeting with this wonderful man gave us a terrific start to our day. And we marveled once more that we just  have to love Creightonites who greet us so warmly and are so genuinely happy to see us Thanks, Jimmy.

June 23, 2005

Nostalgia….. 

Yesterday we hung a very special picture on the living room wall of our new home. It is a print by Royce Simpson of Creighton Mine Public School which my husband purchased for me several years ago. I had it framed for our new dwelling and it was beautifully done. In fact it takes my breath away as wonderful memories keep pouring in as I gaze at the picture. Memories of friends, teachers and colleagues. Friends, like Jeannie (Palys) Rouleau, Joan Villeneuve, Wendy and Penny Drennan, Judi Massey, Frances Peacock, Mae Kierans, Shirley Ingraham, Sheila Quinn, just to name a few. Interestingly enough, I have been in touch with most of the above either by seeing them, through this wonderful website, or by snail mail. I remember the Drennan girls, Judi Massey, and Sheila Quinn coming to play with us at what later became known as the Conservation Club, but was Ranta’s farm when we lived there in 1952-3. The cold did not stop them from taking that long walk and we were most happy to have playmates. My brothers, Ronald, Willy and I walked to school from there every day and mom used to tell us that none of us were sick one day that year! At school we were met by kindness and warmth both physical and emotional. Miss Black couldn’t do enough to make us feel welcome and part of the wonderful community that was Creighton Mine Public School.  We were so  fortunate to have her as our principal! Of course we loved her! Didn’t everyone? My teacher was Mr. MacNaughton that year and he also went out of his way to help me learn English grammar and spelling  and taught me a great deal as to what a good teacher should be. I think the desire to become a teacher was planted in me by him. I have  thanked him mentally often for that spark.

When I graduated from North Bay Teachers’ College in 1962, there was no doubt as to where I wanted to start my teaching career. Mr. Gordon Whalen hired me and I couldn’t wait for school to start that September! My salary for that first year was the princely sum of $3200.

 As I walked up to the school that first day, I wondered how long it would take Mr. Whalen to discover that I really had no idea how to start my day. What was I doing at the front of this class of 32 trusting 8 and 9 year-olds? Fear as well as excitement were my overwhelming emotions that day!

 I lived at the Teachers’ Residence with two other first year teachers, Helen Hughes and Barbara Fraser as well as veterans, Eileen Mulligan, Jim Kaay, Muriel Bertrand, Hugh Imerson and Lois Cramm. What fun we had! Hallowe’en parties, Christmas parties, sometimes parties for no reason at all! We new teachers also learned a great deal from our experienced colleagues.

Amazing what hanging a meaningful picture on the wall can do to one’s mind. I will treasure it and the memories for the rest of my days!

 

February 8, 2005

Creighton  Support

I have commented before about the phenomenal support that Creightonites provide whenever the opportunity arises. There was fantastic evidence of this again last week at the funeral of Eleanor Miron. Eleanor was a lovely lady who lived to be 87 years old. She was the mother of eight children, six of whom survive. Her family was there in four generations and the comments they made about their mother and grandmother were beautiful to hear. Obviously she had inspired and encouraged them all and in return they loved her dearly. What a wonderful family ! I know that she was very proud of them as she talked about them constantly.

To get back to my original point, 23 Creighton families were represented at Eleanor’s funeral Mass at Lively’s St. Pius X church! I may have even missed some. In that case I apologise. The families of whom I am aware were: Quinn, Liske (Zanier), Zadorozniak, Holmes, Cassell, Maloney, Mulligan, Cushnir, Mynerich, Fron, Albiani, Pevato (Tokaryk), Donnelly, Blackwell, Roy, Mumford, Sharpe, Sime, Uttley, Cayen, Groulx, Ryan, de Burger (Fex). Isn’t that impressive? It is proof once again although our town is gone, the people have not lost the closeness they experienced towards one another. What a tribute to Creightonites!

I am proud to be able to call myself a Creightonite and the warm feelings in my heart that day will always remain!

August 10. 2004

Ghost Town

Last week we had visitors from Holland staying with us. They made me realize once again the enormity of what we lost when the town where we were so warmly welcomed in 1952, was demolished. Of course I drove my cousins to our beloved town site and tried to point out where our house on Wavell St. had been, where St. Michael’s Church had stood, the school where I was a student and later began my teaching career had been located, and so many other points of interest such as the Club, the doctor’s office, the stores. It was obvious from the looks on their faces that although they were most interested to visit these important places, it was impossible for them  to visualize the town. I kept repeating that there were houses along both sides of the streets…really!  My cousin’s wife wondered why the government had allowed an entire town to be destroyed against the will of the residents. She stated that this would never be allowed in The Netherlands. Of course I explained that the Company owned both the houses and the land not to mention the mining rights below the town. They still found it inexplicable that a vibrant town could just be permitted to disappear. They had never heard the term “Ghost Town” before and when I translated it, I could see it was still impossible for them to believe that this could happen.

On Wednesday August 4, 2004, the Sudbury Star ran an editorial on the Ghost Towns of this area. The subtitle stated, ”Ghost towns are a reminder of Northern prosperity and mortality.” Another quote from that editorial states, “Worthington, Creighton And Happy Valley were once all towns thriving with industry and a sense of community. As the towns grew through the last century, they became increasingly affluent – right up until the mines that sustained them closed and the townsfolk were forced to move on.”   That describes exactly what happened, doesn’t it?

The article also describes how strange it is that nothing remains of these once happy and productive communities where families were raised “and dreams forged….but which are now covered over with weeds”.

Our annual reunions in September and the indomitable spirit of Creightonites as evidenced by the enormous success of the “Creighton Revisited” website, allow us to prove that although the physical features of Creighton have disappeared, the people and the memories have not!

**Erna, thank you for this heartfelt contribution.  How right you are - we have been forced to accept a reality that boggles the mind of an *outsider*.   Seeing our world through their eyes is a stark reminder of what we once had.            ~AB

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A 60th Anniversary Celebration

June 10, 2004

On June 5 I was fortunate to be able to join Gerry and Ivy Wagner and their family in celebrating their 60th Wedding Anniversary. The Open House was held at the beautiful home of their daughter and husband Kathy and Phil O'Neill. Ivy looked so lovely sitting facing the door so that she could see immediately all who arrived. She had a lovely white and pink roses corsage and never stopped smiling. She was also wearing a beautiful pendant which her creative husband had designed as his gift to her. It consisted of a gold horseshoe (her father was a blacksmith), set with three diamonds on each side. Those diamonds signified each decade of their marriage. At the bottom there is a large diamond "for the future" as Gerry explained to me. He of course was busy circulating among the guests and talking to each one, wearing a lovely red and white roses corsage. The happiness in both Ivy and Gerry was wonderful to observe!

The luncheon was delicious!

Of course it was a mini-Creighton reunion...Sally Davies, Alice Zadorozniak, Mervena Hodgins Degrechie (Ivy's last remaining sibling)...and others whose names I didn't get unfortunately.

Greetings were received from Prime Minister Paul Martin, Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson, MP Raymond Bonin, James K. Bartleman Lt.-Governor of Ontario, Shelley Martel MPP, Dalton McGuinty Premier of Ontario, David Courtemanche Mayor of Sudbury. These were all framed and proudly displayed throughout the room. The following day, June 6,Ivy and Gerry renewed their marriage vows at St. Peter's United Church in Sudbury.. Unfortunately it was pouring rain that day and as Ivy told that's just the weather they had on their wedding day June 6, 1944.

Daughters Bonnie Wagner Courchesne and Kathy Wagner O'Neill and their families hosted a wonderful party for their parents ! Congratulations to all!!

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Interesting Findings !

April 19. 2004

I spent one Saturday afternoon lately in the Lively branch of the public library… the Earl Mumford branch, due to the substantial contributions made by INCO to build it. In a filing cabinet at the back I came upon a vertical file containing most interesting material about Creighton and of course the mine where all our fathers, brothers, and uncles worked. In fact one family about which I read had 4/four members working there at one time…the Mynerich Family. They were Carlo and his three sons: Tony, Snug and John. The date was unfortunately difficult to see but I believe it was 1950.

Faye Jamieson was named Miss Credit Union – Sudbury Chapter, when she was 18 years old. She won out over 12 other contestants ! The Beauty of Creighton girls was not to be denied!

Another Creighton lovely who did our town proud was Miss Stella Koraluk (later Vagnini) who was crowned Miss Creighton at age 18. Stella was described in the article I read as “an ardent athlete, excelling in badminton, skating and skiing.” It was also noted that she had “blonde curls and flashing blue eyes” and danced at some function with Ontario Premier George Drew. The man definitely had a good eye for pretty girls.

Some of you probably remember that the original Creighton Mine Credit Union building was the town jail ! We really did have everything, didn’t we ? I vaguely remember hearing that a long time ago but had forgotten ‘til I read it.

When Lempi Stephenson retired in 1962 a huge surprise party was held for this remarkable nurse at (where else ?) the INCO Employees’ Club, better known as “The Club” by the rest of us. They gave some interesting information about her life. Lempi had been a nurse for 40+ years. She was born in Copper Cliff but her family moved to Creighton when she was 6 years old. One short year after her marriage to Dick Stephenson, he was tragically killed in an accident in the mine leaving Lempi with a 7 week old baby boy also named Dick. Dick later became a civil engineer. Lempi’s brothers: Jack, Frank, and John were all living at the old family farm with their mother and Lempi moved there after her retirement. The first baby she delivered in Creighton was John Dingwall of Lake Street.

William Regan wrote in an article that the St. Michael’s we knew was actually the second church by that name and was built in 1916-7.

What an enjoyable time I spent at the library ! My next visit of course will have to be to the Anderson Farm Museum, although curator Jim Fortin may already have sent in most of his data re: Creighton.

Enjoy !
Erna

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Memories…

April 1, 2004

As I think of Creighton, many memories, in random order, crowd into my mind…some memories which I hope will bring back recollections  of others.

  1. Moving to Creighton to what later became known as the Conservation Area and my mother crying, saying why are we going so far into the bush ?

  2. My first day at Creighton Mine Public School as a Gr. 5 pupil with Keith MacNaughton as my teacher.

  3. New friends.

  4. The overwhelming size (to me) and kindness of Miss Black.

  5. Father Regan’s wonderful Irish smile.

  6. My brother Willy’s death and the outpouring of love and warmth from Creightonites…never to be forgotten!

  7. Living at the Teachers’ Residence with Eileen Mulligan, Barb Fraser, Helen Hughes, Hugh Imerson, Jim Kaay, Muriel Bertrand, Lois Cramm. Party time!

  8. Our wedding reception at Cabrini Hall (where else ?) when some of my pupils came to see me there.

  9. Watching my husband skating on the school rink at night….he loved it !

  10. Joe Craigen coming to parent-teacher interviews when he was dying (son Paul was in my class).

  11. Getting a company house on Wavell St. next door to Enci and Helen (Marcinyshyn) Difillipo.

  12. My kids and everyone else’s playing on the street …everyone looking out for each others’ kids !

  13. Kids tobogganing down the small hill behind our house, squealing with delight !

  14. My 3-year old Jacquie picking just the blossoms off Mrs. Leblanc’s tulips bringing them to me both her hands full, Mrs. Leblanc right behind her in tears….had planned to give them to her mother on Mothers’ Day !

  15. Creighton Shines in ’89 !!!! We were all on a high !

  16. Father Regan lying in state in St. Michael’s.  A little piece of many Creightonites died then in Jan. 1976.

  17. Closing of St. Michael’s 1986.

  18. Audrie baby-sitting our children; also Lillian Cozzarini, Karen Mulligan and Connie Larson……..we left with no worries whatsoever !

  19. Library at the club.

  20. Reunion 2003 !

 Bet you can come up with your own list of 20 , or more, like this! Do it ! Great way to reminisce !

Erna.

Only in a Small Town

March 21, 2004

There are many advantages to living in a small town where ‘everybody knows your name’, and  habits ! On Friday mornings I have my hair styled at Connie (Larson) Conners’” Hair Magic” salon. Wanda (Latendre) Cormier does my hair.  Also there on that morning are Donna Holmes, Helen Cassell, and Dot Morrison.  Creighton talk abounds about memories, people….who died, had a birthday, is not feeling well, etc. While this is happening Helen and Donna are folding towels, sweeping the floor (as taught to them by Sophie years ago), taking out curlers, in general making themselves useful. This is their day out and they make the most of it ! Mini-Creighton reunion every Friday.  This is where my story comes in . Last Friday I placed my glasses at Wanda’s station while getting my hair washed. Wanda combed out Dot’s hair and the ladies left. When she was finished with me, I reached for my glasses and realized immediately that those glasses were not mine. I couldn’t see ! Now what to do ? One of the ladies must have taken mine !  Wanda and Connie said oh, the ladies go for lunch at the coffee shop every Friday. Drive there and go and check it out, one of them must have your glasses ! Sure enough I found them exactly where they were supposed to be AND Dot Morrison was wearing my glasses. We traded them laughingly and I returned home marvelling at  the joy of  knowing people so well that what could have been a major problem, was so quickly resolved and with humour enjoyed by all !

Erna.

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