District well- driller retires

Dave Ogilvie

After 44 years in the business, “Mel’s Well Drilling” is changing hands and owner/operator Mel Jack is retiring.
Last Thursday, family and friends from across the district gathered at Mel’s shop for a barbecue to congratulate him on his retirement and to meet the new owners of the business.
There were a few pictures of Jack in his early years as a driller, a fairly extensive list of former employees, and lots of stories to share.
“My mom was a school teacher and she was always preaching about the benefits of a good education,” recalled Jack.
“But the idea didn’t seem to stick with me.
“She was delighted, however, when I came home with the news one day that I was buying a drilling rig,” he added.
“People will always need water, she said.”
The early years were tough, though. There were times when money was pretty tight and other stretches where there were lots of jobs.
“We’ve worked all over the district,” Jack noted.
“From the Manitoba border all the way to Thunder Bay, and as far north as the winter roads would take us.”
They hauled equipment over ice and snow, and worked in all kinds of conditions.
But the best part of the job, as far as Jack was concerned, was the people he worked with and those he met along the way.
“I had some great employees,” he beamed. “So many I think I may have missed a few.”
Although he’s thought about selling the business for quite a while, it still was a difficult decision—and one he did not made lightly.
Jack has no immediate thoughts for the future.
“I’ve got no plans,” he stated flatly. “Never have and never will.
“I’m just going to take it a day at a time and whatever happens, happens,” he reasoned.
Jack will be missed by so many people in Northwestern Ontario. He is a person others have come to rely on and trust.
The business, purchased by Friesen Drillers Ltd. from Steinbach, Man., also is a well-known and trusted company.
“I know I’m leaving the business in good hands,” Jack stressed.
John Friesen, senior owner of the company, returned the compliment.
“Of all the owner/operator drilling outfits I’ve known over my many years in the business, Mel Jack’s is one of the top companies I’ve seen,” Friesen said.
Despite the new ownership, the business still will be known as “Mel’s Well Drilling.”
The present employees will continue to make calls in the district, with the new manager, Jason Friesen, overseeing operations from Steinbach and making visits to the area when necessary.
“We’ve got great plans for the business,” said John Friesen.
“Jason Tessier will still be doing the drilling and the phone will still be answered at the shop during normal business hours,” he noted.
“After-hours calls will be forwarded to Steinbach, where the customer will hear, ‘Mel’s Well Drilling, how can I help you?’”
Friesen Drilling Ltd. has been in business since 1892.
Although John Friesen still is active in the company, most of the work now is being carried on by his sons, a daughter, a nephew, and even a grandson.
Jack, meanwhile, will be missed across the district but his friends and relatives all agreed at last week’s barbecue that after 44 years, he deserves to retire and take it easy for a while.
They also admitted, as did Jack himself, that the business he built with his own two hands will live on under the excellent supervision of the new owners.