Office Mom Del Cumming remembered fondly

By Megan Walchuk

Mothers come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes we find them in the most unlikely of places. Staff at the Fort Frances Times were lucky enough to have a mother right in the office every day.

Del Cumming was a warm and nurturing mother figure for generations of staff at the Fort Frances Times. She was a beloved figure – a true “den mother”- to all who knew her. Although she’s about to turn 98 and some of her memories have faded, she still cares for the Times staff as though they’re her own family.

She joined the Times in 1971, when her father-in law James Cumming was publisher. She worked at the front desk, greeting customers, and handling accounts. But for the staff, she was so much more. She cared deeply for everyone who worked with her, and the larger community as well. According to her daughter, Linda Cumming, Del loved people, and did everything she could to help, wherever she could.

“If there were three fundraising teas in a day, she’d be at all three,” she said.

She instilled in her children – Jim, Don and Linda, who all took over the newspaper after their parents’ retirement – that they also had an obligation to the community. They shopped local, and supported the business community that supported them. And they were taught respect thier staff and never expect them to work harder than they were willing to.

“She really cared. It was like a family,” she said. “She made it a great place to work.”

Staff agrees. Those in the office who worked with her have nothing but fond memories of Del. Former employees may have moved on, but they stayed in the Times family, through Del. She kept a huge wall full of photos, each sent to her from past employees. They all kept in touch, inviting her to their weddings, and sending photos of their children and lives, long after they’d moved on. For many, she was more than a boss – many consider her like a second mother. In an industry where small town newspapers are often a starting point for young reporters, Del stepped in to be a home away from home for many – and for some, literally, taking them into her home while they looked for housing.

“She was very gracious. And very social. When she talked to you, it would feel like you were the only person in her universe, and that she really cared. Because she really did care,” said Linda.

We reached out to some members of the Times extended family, and they were all eager to share their memories of Del.

Recently retired ad executive John Pierce wrote:

“You often hear mothers referred to as the glue of the family. The person who brings everyone together and who helps to create that sense of belonging. Del Cumming was that special person for us. She walked throughout the office and press room every day, chatting with staff, asking about our day, our past weekend, about our children, spouse, recent trip or some exciting new development. She was sincerely interested in each and every one of us. Always kind, Del Cumming was also very insightful. If you choose to listen you can learn a lot from your mom, and so it was with Del. What I most appreciated and what has always stayed with me, is Del’s positive nature. Through the ups and downs of every day life Del’s glass was always half full, never half empty. She remains to this day an inspiration for me as a remarkable mother figure to several generations of Times staff.”

“Happy Mother’s Day, Del. You’re not only the best office mom ever, but best mom period. You, Bob, Jim, Don and Linda welcomed me into not your newspaper but also into your homes and made me feel at home from the day I first stepped foot into the Times 44 years ago on May 5, 1980. You gave me a long leash when I was young and immature and I will forever appreciate because I know I tested your patience often.

I will never forget – and always cherish – the time you scolded me for buying a motorcycle telling me, I needed to take it back because I was going to kill myself – and Kathy – who was about to go for a ride with me. I probably should have listened.

You were the kind of mom I never had and you have made me a better person. As my career in this business comes to an end this year, I feel you are in large part the reason I’ve had such a long and rewarding one. Happy Mother’s Day!”

Former sports reporter Al Beeber wrote


“To me she is Auntie Del, and growing up next door on Third Street was one of the best things about my childhood. We would joke about her being my “other mother” and she was. Every milestone in my life she was part of. My boyfriends had to not only get approval from my mom, but also my “other mom”.

She gave me advice even if I didn’t want it, and supported me and scolded me when I needed it. When Al Beeber pulled up in front of the Times on his new motorcycle to take me for a ride, Del was the first one out the door, saying absolutely not, and instructed him to turn around and sell the thing!

This year, Mother’s Day hits a little bit harder for me as I lost my mom (Del’s best friend)last fall. I am blessed to have Del in my life, where I can still go for a hug, conversation and yes maybe some scolding.
Happy Mother’s Day Auntie Del, I love you!”

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there, whether they’re biological or adoptive, or like Del, a beloved office mom.

Kathy (Spuzak) Lund wrote