EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Sunday, July 5, 2015

Coming home to 'lovely land called Chapleau' included book presentation to Donald White its oldest surviving veteran of World War II

Michael, Harry, Don White, Norma, Trudy
Perhaps Laurie (Nichol) Taft summed up my trip to Chapleau with a Facebook comment when she learned I was going home to officially launch 'The Chapleau Boys Go To War', which I co-authored with my cousin Michael McMullen.

Laurie wrote: "Be sure to write about that lovely land called Chapleau where my favourite Auntie Moo lived."

Laurie is the daughter of the late Iven and Arlene Nichol, who came to Canada from the United States as World War II started. Her father, Iven joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, and became a flying instructor with my father Jim Morris in the Commonwealth Air Training Plan at Mount Hope near Hamilton. My mother Muriel became "Auntie Moo" to the Nichol children when Mom and I started visiting them in the United States after the end of the war.

As most regular readers know, my father was killed on active service in the RCAF on July 16, 1943, just on 72 years ago now. 

I am still in touch with my "American sisters" as the bonds created between families during the war remain forever.

So, I went to Chapleau, and here I am writing about Laurie's "lovely land" and mine too, launching a book, and marking  six years of sharing 'Chapleau Moments' in the Chapleau Express, thanks to Mario Lafreniere, its publisher. 

Before I go any further, I extend my most sincere thanks to all of you I met while wandering about town for your most warm welcome and kind comments. 

Paul Carson, taking a line from Kevin Walker, wrote on Facebook, "You're so Chapleau, Mike." I guess I am guys.

For me, working with Michael McMullen on 'The Chapleau Boys Go To War' was a deeply personal experience of course because of my father.

But it was much much more. I think Michael best expressed my feeling  about the book in the broader sense when he wrote in part about its launch: ""Ideally, our book will serve as a catalyst for families to search old shoeboxes for pictures and letters from those who served. Also, medals and awards should be documented for future family generations. It is important that this information not be lost. We owe this to all Chapleau Boys who have served in wars and conflict."

In effect, our book will be a beginning not an end to the story of the Chapleau boys. They shall grow not old!

MJ with Bruce Poynter at library
Michael and I are cousins through our paternal grandmothers Lil (Mulligan) Morris and May (Mulligan) McMullen, members of a family who first arrived in the community in 1885.

It was simply awesome to meet old friends, (although I must admit I had some difficulty recognizing folks I've known all my life -- aging eyes on my part) at book signings at the Chapleau Public Library, Royal Canadian Legion Hall and Hongers Redwood (Boston) and on the street. Our sincere thanks to the library, Legion and Jim Hong. 

And it took me about five hours to walk from the Redwood to Grey Street with a side car ride with Orville Robinson to look at some historic photos. Thanks to my old lifetime friend Ken Schroeder for picking me up so we could do the back lanes and back yards for childhood memories. That is a story for another day.

However, for me, the greatest  privilege and honour was  to be able to present a copy of the book to Donald White, born in Chapleau, and the community's oldest surviving veteran of World War II, who is now 102 years old.

Donald has been a member of Branch Number 5 of the Legion for many years.

Donald, a member of Chapleau Cree First Nation, enlisted in the Canadian Army shortly after World War II began, going overseas and seeing action in the drive from Italy, into France, Belgium, Germany, and present for the liberation of Holland in 1945. In being able to present a book to Donald, we were able to honour all  our First Nation Chapleau boys who served in the country's armed forces in World War I and II too.

After living and working in various places after the war but always making time to come home to the Chapleau area for hunting and fishing, Donald returned to retire at the Fox Lake Reserve in 2005. But, according to his daughter Norma Rowena, who kindly arranged our visit with her father, he was still hunting at age 100, with his grandson Stephen Caldwell. Thank you Norma.

Butch, Dr Bill, Ian with MJM
I was so delighted that Harry "Butch" Pellow, one of my oldest and dearest Chapleau friends was able to be with us for the book launch. As an aside Butch was the architect for the Chapleau Civic Centre and Chapleau General Hospital, among other Chapleau buildings, and we were able to get some photos of the "historic"  moment for the community's archives.

Also here were his brother Dr. Bill Pellow, the editor and publisher of 'Chapleau Trails', and another great friend Ian Macdonald, retired professor and head of the department of architecture and now Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba. Butch, Bill and Ian have been of great assistance with my column, and thanks so much guys for all your help.

My very personal thanks to Michael McMullen who spent countless hours making it possible for 'The Chapleau Boys Go To War' to be written and published.

Thanks to everyone who made my most recent return to Laurie's "lovely land called Chapleau" so fantastic. By the way, Laurie has never been here, although her father Iven and her grandfather have on a fishing trip in 1954. 

If you live in Chapleau,the book is now available at Chapleau Village Shops. It is also available on amazon.com, amazon.ca and Kindle ..My email is mj.morris@live.ca

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Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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