EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Mary (Muske) Campbell Chapleau Public School teacher for 27 years remembered for generosity and kind-hearted ways

Mary (Muske) Campbell, who was a very popular teacher at Chapleau Public School for 27 years, and a member of one of Chapleau's pioneer families died on January 2, 2017. With another school year drawing to a close, I thought it an appropriate time to remember Mary.

My most sincere thanks to Joy (Evans) Heft for her efforts in providing me with information, and to Barbara (Muske) Seadon , Mary's sister. and Anne (Evans) Scott, one of her closest friends.

Tom Campbell, Mary's brother-in-law, spoke  at a memorial service. Here are some excerpts.

"Mary was married to my older brother, Grant Campbell. Some time ago, with help from her sister Barbara, Mary put together a brief history of her life. In it she was exceptionally modest about her accomplishments, probably in keeping with the Chapleau tradition that people should not say too much about themselves. However Mary and Barbara did recall a few charming moments from her childhood which it is my honour to share with you.

"Mary was born at the Doctor’s Hospital in Toronto in 1930.  Her mother, Madeleine asked her own father to accompany her from Chapleau to Toronto for the birth. Mary’s father, Wilfred Muske was left at home in Chapleau to look after Mary’s older sister Barbara, who was only two years old.  In Toronto, since there was no husband present and only Madeleine’s father accompanied her, it was presumed she was an unwed mother.  There were offers to adopt Mary as she was such a sweet baby—all offers were refused. 

"When Little Mary Muske got to high school, even though she was the smallest kid in the school she ran the school paper, and was in the school play and the gymnastics display. [Those who know Mary would say, of course Mary would have run everything.]

"Mary attended teachers college and taught in Chapleau for twenty seven years. Early in her career Mary went back to University of Toronto for a year in residence and then for a number of years took weekend extension courses while carrying on her full time teaching job. She earned her Bachelor’s degree and one year towards her Master’s degree, all with top marks. This is not an easy way to receive an education and people who manage this kind of achievement always have my highest respect.

"I would like now to share a few personal memories of Mary. The first thought that comes to mind when I think of Mary and Grant as a couple, is their kindness and concern for others. I‘ll mention just a few of many possible examples.  Very early Grant and Mary agreed that Grant would give up his seniority on the Canadian Pacific Railroad in favour of a friend who had four children and who needed more steady work.

"That kindness turned out to be a blessing in disguise since Grant then got into trucking, road building, and the construction of longer railroad sidings, outdoor and technical work which he enjoyed. This came about as part of the long term trend in railroading to longer and more efficient trains which can now be over four kilometers long, all of which unfortunately has reduced employment in places like Chapleau.

"Another example of Mary and Grant’s kindness occurred at the time of the world’s fair,  Expo 67 which was held in Montreal to celebrate Canada’ Centennial in 1967. Expo was an outstanding success and became a symbol for Canada’s emergence as, what most Canadians believe it to be, simply the best place to live in the world. People who were there still remember it as a magic time for our country.

"Mary and Grant stayed with our sister Bernice and her husband who lived in Montreal and brought with them from Chapleau three young boys whom Mary had taught and who for various reasons would not have the opportunity otherwise to attend Expo 67. The boys were typical of our home town. One was French Canadian, one was First Nations and one was English. Mary and Grant and the three kids did the rounds of Expo 67 until they were exhausted each night and fell into bed.

"My sister Bernice believed that the boys had never before been away from the very small and isolated town of Chapleau located a hundred and fifty kilometers North of Lake Superior. She said that the children were wide eyed with the experience, which even for adults was a world of wonders.

"One of those boys grew up to be extremely successful and well known and is thought of today as one of the leaders in his field. 

"Mary continued to teach in Chapleau for her entire career and helped and influenced generations of young students. A few years ago my wife and I attended a reunion in Chapleau which Mary Campbell also attended.

"While I knew only a handful of people from my school years, it was charming to see the outstandingly warm reception that Mary received from such large numbers of her former students. It was almost as though she was holding court and there were lineups to talk to her. It was a lovely tribute to the warm appreciation and affection in which she was held in the community of Chapleau.

Mary’s loss is a sad time for all who knew her.  Mary loved life and her friends and wished good things for everyone. She wanted not only her students, but all of us to be the best we can be. In addition to sadness, we must also remember to celebrate Mary’s life. In the words of Leonard Cohen’s poem, “Ring out the bells that still can ring!”

"Mary, at heart, loved tradition. In her camp on the beautiful shore of Lake Windermere at Healy where she kindly welcomed so many, she had hung a large framed hand tinted portrait of Queen Victoria which perfectly fit the time period of the cottage. So I would like to close with a traditional blessing from that same Victorian period, which was widely used when friends were parting in former days:  “Farewell Mary, we hope that you always have a calm sea and a prosperous and pleasant voyage!”

Jim Scott, the son of Anne (Evans) Scott also spoke on behalf of his mother and others who cointributed:

"I remember being up at Healy when Mary had quite a few guests up to visit.  After a fishing trip, dinner and evening sauna most of the folks went off to bed.One of the guests though decided to stay up and had a bonfire on the beach.

"It was a really good fire!  Unfortunately he didn’t realize that he hadburned up all of Mary’s driftwood that she had been collecting all year forsome kind of a project.  Early the next morning Mary discovered what hadhappened and posted on brown parchment paper on the wall outside the cabindoor; ‘$500 Reward, for information leading to the arrest and conviction of person or persons unknown who unlawfully confiscated and burned valuabledriftwood collection.  Signed Mary Campbell, Mayor of Healy’.  Everyone had a great laugh and the person responsible was definitely red-faced.  Thelast time I visited Healy, that wanted poster still hung in the camp….a part of the long history of good times.

"One of Mary’s stories I recall was of a school trip from Chapleau toToronto to visit various points of interest.  In preparation for the tripamongst other things each child was to bring a set amount of money so thatthey could go to the royal York Hotel for a roast beef luncheon beforeboarding the return train to Chapleau.  On the last day of the trip, withall the children dressed in their Sunday best  they went to the Royal York, only to be denied service by the head waiter.

"Nothing Mary said would convince this man to let the children eat there.  Unsatisfied with this
outcome, Mary approached the Hotel’s Maitre d’.  Initially the Maitre d’ was unmoved by Mary’s request to have Lunch in his Hotel. Finally Mary said; This group of school children from a small northern town had worked long and hard to save their money for the chance to eat at Canada’s
foremost hotel.

"Some of these children were from poor families and livedin tar-paper shacks, others were the sons of lumber barons but each had come a very long way to meet great disappointment.  The Maitre d’ relentedand had the head waiter set a large table for the entire group who all enjoyed their roast beef lunch.  Mary may have embellished the facts alittle when she spoke to the Maitre d’, but she got the best for the children , which is what was important to her.

"All of Mary’s stories stood on their own for entertainment and were told by Mary with imitated voices and gestures.  Many of these stories and Mary’s life experiences underscore her generosity and kind hearted ways."

Let me close with a personal anecdote about Mary, which was so much appreciated by Muriel E (Hunt) Morris, my mother, when she retired as a teacher from Chapleau Public School in 1970. Mary was responsible for preparing a book which had the names of all my mother's students, the year and grade during the 32 years she taught at the school.

A huge undertaking but it enabled Mom to make notes in the margins about her former students for years afterward. It became one of her most cherished possessions. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An amazingly nice lady...RIP Mary...RIP. ~ MJB

Michael J Morris

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


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