Keeping the family legacy alive

My mother-in-law has just sold her home in Markdale, Ont. Her father had purchased the home in 1920 and it has been in the family for 92 years.
Annually, our family would travel to meet gramma and grampa, and it was always to the family home.
Their cousins from Waterloo and Inglewood joined our sons at Markdale, and the kids would play on the back lawn. We would hold family reunions there every other year and every few years, we would gather for the annual family photograph.
As grandchildren came along, the family grew. For almost a decade, the size did not change. And then the grandchildren began bringing girlfriends and boyfriends along and the size of the family expanded again.
When it came time to sell, my youngest son in South Korea wondered if we could just put a bunch of money together and keep the Markdale home in the family. The home carried some of the best memories of our children’s youth, and they heard the stories and history of that Foster side of the family.
My parents built a cabin on Rainy Lake in 1967. It was a centennial project for the family. Forty-five years later, it is the place where my sister’s sons and my sons look to return to every year.
They’ll come to Fort Frances, but the focus of their summer arrival here is a cabin on an island in Rainy Lake. They learned to swim from the rock in front of the cabin with their grandparents and swam the circuit.
This year’s warm water will have them revisiting the circuit.
The canoe, the kayak, the sailboats, and paddleboat all will be launched and used. With their brawn, the flagpole will be lowered, new rope installed, and the Canadian flag again will fly over the cabin.
Time will be spent fishing, and stories and teasing will occur. Friends from the island will join us for a meal or two.
The cabin has become the family destination.
I was reminded about this on Sunday while visiting my friend, Tara Pedesky, on the other side of our island. Her son, now the fourth generation to be at the family cabin, wrote a term paper at school this year about the legacy that his grandparents, Don and Layna Johnson, had created for their great-grandchildren at Norway Island on Rainy Lake.
The “Johnson Journals,” a diary that Don Johnson wrote every day of his life on Rainy Lake, tells the story of the family’s life. Excerpts from the diaries of Don Johnson, edited by their grandfather, Bern, are published weekly in the Falls Daily Journal and several books also have been published.
The stories from the diaries tell a remarkable story of year-round life on an island on Rainy Lake.
Every Memorial weekend, the extended Johnson family—and now great-grandchildren—meet at Norway Island for the annual spring clean-up of the island and cabins in preparation for the summer.
It is a battalion of workers, and everything is made ready for the summer. Cousins, aunts, uncles, and parents all join in. It is an annual family reunion.
Stories are told and retold, and the legacy of family that Don and Layna created is reinforced with every member.
I have heard similar stories across the district. It might not be a cabin, but instead a family homestead that continues to be used by another generation. It might be the home where grandparents still live and family are close by.
How does the next generation carry on the legacy of great-grandparents, and transfer the warmth and good family feelings that abound in their lives at those locations where families continue to gravitate to?
What values learned from the oldest generation will this generation pass on to their children?
It is a question I think a lot of families grapple in making decisions about family homes, farms, businesses, and cabins.

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