Blossoms well-timed here

This week’s local explosion of blossoms, trees, shrubs, and flowers—probably the most lavish in our town’s history—undoubtedly is helping ease our D-Day sorrows, still haunting many 60 years after the invasion of Normandy.
The death of America’s popular 40th president, Ronald Reagan, in the same week also deserves our salute because, as a U.S. border community, we are dependent for much of our success on this comfortable relationship.
D-Day stands out as possibly the most important, as well as grimmest, time in all world history. There were 6,500 lives of Allied fighting men snuffed out in the taking of Normandy, including 2,500 Canadians.
All the world leaders whose armies were involved attended the June 6 anniversary celebration, which included Germany for the first time. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is the name of that gentleman whose personal sorrows went as deeply as the others.
One German machine-gunner now annually visits an American he wounded on D-Day—a fact the TV news coverage brought out. The same German is believed to have downed 2,000 Allies in the fierce fighting.
As for Ronald Reagan, there has never been a more popular figure on the world stage. He projected personality beyond capabilities of most people. The Illinois farm boy and Hollywood actor known as “Dutch” had it all the way.
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Amid all this international excitement, I have to add a local note: the Alberton Central School closing celebration last Thursday which I was unable to attend—and will always regret missing. Others will be regretting the need to close it.  My late wife, Emily, once served on the Crozier school board and our four children all attended Alberton Central after an old one-roomer was moved to become a home beside the river.
Here for the occasion was Shirley Wickstrom (Stewart), who arrived from her present home on the B.C. coast. She had been the school’s first principal.
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When a visiting faith healer announced in church there was a man in his Couchiching congregation that day in 1999 who had just been spared from cancer, Ray Jourdain, now 71, realized almost immediately that his back cancer was leaving him.
The miracle seemed incredible. But Ray has ben okay ever since—aside from an accident recently with a garage door closer that severed the tips of two fingers.
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John Lyons, whom you may meet using his cane, is the fifth generation male in his family to be given the same name! I stopped John to ask about a Lyons family I knew who once lived behind an earlier Safeway store here.
That father, who had an upstairs office in the post office building, was interpreter for the local Indian agent. Yes, his name also was John.
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Will looking after the new garbage system involve more trouble and expense than leaving our old system alone in the first place?
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That 10-wheel Coca Cola truck is at least as impressive as anything else passing through town these days, but the long-awaited bypass for those giant vehicles seems to deserve more attention than the proposed new skate park.
But just as school days seem to have been shortened too much to remain useful, what else can we do to keep our kids busy?
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Open water reminds me of a very promising business experience that died on Rainy Lake. I had told Carl Gray, the then popular owner of the Rainy Lake Hotel, that Dwight Smith was agreeable to my suggestion for taking American guests to Camp Ontario, not far up the North Arm, for dancing on a beautiful basketball floor on moonlight nights.
Dwight owned the “Sara A” excursion boat and Carl said there always was hotel guests asking him about what to do.
Only, this was the same week Carl was notified by his mother at Kenora that his brother had just died, so Carl had to leave here and help her. The RL went up for sale and our plans were finished.
The Grays previously also had a regular bus service between both hotels.
• • •
Dwight and his builder brother, Wellington Smith, were great movers and shakers here. Wellington created the Wellanna Apartments on Nelson Street and also was the son-in-law of contractor John East, who gave us schools and roads.
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Can Atikokan actually get away with flooding its streets with raw sewage as was recently reported? Of course! Lots of other things that should never happen also are going on!
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We understand that Mel Langtry, a star mechanic at MacDonald Motors here, is extremely deserving of honours being bestowed on him for his services.
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And, yes, Jonathan Seagull is back up the lake at Ken and Doty Egan’s summer house. She notified me of his return for at least four years now and says she has a special call to attract her feathered friend over to their dock.
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Henry Niskala, now 75, says he is assisted by a nephew in looking after more than 100 head of beef cattle in Miscampbell, and recalled when I photographed his farm during that flood time a couple of years ago that was so well-described recently in the Times.
Henry also remembered my age.
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Walter Christiansen is still going along just fine at 84. He’s the oldest surviving player of our Fort Frances Canadians who won the Allan Cup in 1952 and he always was the oldest participant.
Now his son, who coaches the University of Alaska hockey team, is thinking of retiring, Walter says.
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Colour blindness is a topic creeping into certain conversations but I hope not many are missing out right now on our local version of “blossom time” as our gorgeously flowered bushes, trees, and tulip beds keep on stopping traffic right across town.
I don’t remember such great displays in this community.
• • •
With baseball season at hand, I had to inquire about Rod Bruyere’s family team from nearby Couchiching. Rod, who once offered a taxi service there also, would bring along his boys at every opportunity, all eight of them, for some of the best games you could find.
Let’s see now, there were Howard, Ralph, Telford, “Swede,” Gordyn Irvine, Vernon and Tom—and when you hollered “Play ball,” they were ready! Rod also had four daughters.
• • •
There is another likeable family that saddens me, though, the Morneaus, who have lost five members since I first knew them. Gone are Adelard, Yvonne, Emil, Alfred, and Corrine, leaving only Edmour or Eddy, the youngest son.
We were all neighbours one time in the Johnson block across Mowat from the #3 grinder room and I’ll never forget those smiling people, including their wonderful mother.

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