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July  28, 2006

Interesting people-gone but not forgotten

When you are interested in local history like I am you meet many unique people, often with some years under their belt.  This often means that many pass away, hopefully with some good records left behind for posterity.  There has been a rash of these good people in the obituary columns lately and gone are further conversations and stories. 

In the last month two WW II veterans  Elmer Allard (June 13) and Doug McDonald (June 15) are two gentlemen I talked to and wrote about on several occasions.  I remember Community Voices editor Rosalie Little (June 16) who patiently nursed me through my first 100 columns in Community Voices.  Arnie Hakala’s son spread his ashes a year after his demise recently (June 17) and I recall many conversations with him. 

When writing the Fossmill Story in the late 1990s there were numerous people who told me their stories.  A recent check showed that many have passed on.  These passings were brought home this week when three people I interviewed passed away.  The old Eau Clair at the Twin Bridges on the Amable du Fond was headquarters for the Mackey Mill where the Ryans played a big role.  Thelma Ryan who I talked to several times passed away today as I write and earlier this week Ray Bedard (June 14) from the Bedard family that ran the lumber yard at Fossmill died.  I met him only recently and we talked about Fossmill and his remarkable career as a magician while he showed me his memorabilia. 

One of the most important series of interviews I did 10 years ago when my son and I started writing our book on the lumber community of Fossmill was with Stella McGibbon (age 98) wife of Jack McGibbon, Woods Superintendant at Fossmill and later with their daughter Margaret “Peggy” McGibbon. 

Early photo of Peggy McGibbon Brushey front and centre with her father John “Jack” McGibbon on left and Sydney Staniforth and wife on the right.

Peggy died this week and at age 88 (July 16) and prompted me to review the many hours of tape from 1995-6 on Fossmill.  I met her many times over the years as did my wife especially at the Powassan Library Book Club.  As an avid reader, great conversationalist and outgoing personality she was always a pleasure to meet.  She grew up in Fossmill in the logging village where her parents lived and where her father directed the logging operation for the company.  She went to the rural school nearby and then to the school in Fossmill and got her high school and teachers’ certificate in North Bay at age 20.  She taught for 23 years, married Joe Brushey, and had six children.  Their son Peter was the Mayor of Powassan for 5 consecutive terms. 

Peggy Brushey

Her stories are quoted in the Fossmill book and her voice can be heard on the Fossmill video describing her life there.  Her mother’s voice on the video is the final sound on the screen when she talks about the powerful company Shay locomotive #53 which was “a rickety old engine as engines go”. 

The McGibbons lived beside the Howards, the Mill Foreman’s family on the other side of the track from the workers.  They had a fine home considering they lived in the bush and they had indoor plumbing and electricity, a tennis court and a beautiful car – all in the 1920s. 

She recalled the dozens of horses coming out of the bush in the spring and their yarding in a couple of pastures for the summer.  One of the horse dealers sold a beautiful horse to her dad and he rode it on his rounds to the bush camps on the company limits. 

In our interviews she described the mill, the school, the boarding house, office, church and houses in detail, and talked at length about the people she grew up with.  In the video she talks about toboganning on a hill with other school children as the big Shay locomotive came in from the woods and while the engineer Mr. Gleason went for supper Mr. Meloche’s crew unloaded the logs into the hot pond for cutting in the mill the next day.  She knew Fossmill better than anyone. 

Peggy’s garden was on the Powassan garden tour July 15th.  She died the next day. 

In a remarkable coincidence Peggy passed away 50 years to the day of her father’s death and on both occasions there was a fitting rumble of thunder at the time of their demise. 

These people are gone, but not forgotten. 

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