EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Chapleau stands with Humboldt Broncos during hockey tragedy in Saskatchewan

More than 40 years ago now I took a course in 20th Century European history from Dr Jacques Goutor, and the first thing I learned from him was that hockey kept Canada together.  Well, he didn't actually come out and say that exactly, but on the first day of class he told us about his arrival in Canada from France.

Dr Goutor told us that upon arriving in Toronto, he went out and bought the newspapers and the headlines were LEAFS WIN STANLEY CUP! It was 1967, our Centennial year as a nation, and the Toronto Maple Leafs had defeated their arch rivals the Montreal Canadiens in six games. It was to be the last time the Leafs would win Lord Stanley's mug. 

If newspaper headlines were about hockey, Dr Goutor decided that Canada would be a great place to live having been raised in France during World War II. He stayed and had a distinguished career at the University of Western Ontario. He died a few years ago.

Ever since,  I have watched the headlines of Canadian  newspapers, and headline writers are ecstatic on those days they can proclaim victory for their local hockey team when it wins a title, and are beside themselves with joy when Canada wins internationally. But they know their audience. Hockey has kept it it all together in this vast and magnificent land where we will travel great distances for a hockey game, and complain about that other great Canadian unifier, the weather.

Fast forward to April 6, 2018, and the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, are travelling by bus for a playoff game --- something that at this time of year, was occurring across Canada. It is playoff time.

I turned to Pam O'Hearn Morin of Chapleau, the mother of two boys who play hockey for help. 

Pam posted on Facebook that on "Friday night I went to bed and had never heard about the Humboldt Broncos. Fast forward to Saturday morning with the tragic news; it is the kind of news that shakes you to the core and for so many reasons. As a parent, THAT IS your worst nightmare. But as a parent of two beautiful boys who not only play hockey (and other sports), the travelling is part of that....to and from games....near and far...great weather and crazy weather. But we do it for our children and for the love of the game. "

Pam of course was referring to the tragic bus accident that, at time of writing, had claimed the lives of 16 people associated with the Humboldt Broncos.
Courtesy Pam O'Hearn Morin

She added: "Hockey will never be the same. Every time I watch my kids play or enter an arena, I will always hold a place in my heart for the victims, their families, the survivors, their friends and everyone in that community that has no doubt been affected by this.  What now? Prayers will continue and any gesture that symbolizes unity and strength we will do."

After watching the vigil in Humboldt, Pam added  "But we have also witnessed the outpouring of support from all over. I always hug my boys and tell them I love them..lately....I am doing more of that. "

While I have believed that hockey was a great unifier, and I too have watched the outpouring of support in communities large and small, and indeed from around the world, never in my life, have I seen such an effort to bring us all together and it is working. Like Pam, many had never heard of Humboldt, Saskatchewan. I had because I worked as a daily newspaper reporter at the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix.

I also contacted my friend Gord Woods, whose son Dakotah is currently playing Junior hockey with the Dryden Ice Dogs, and since he was 13, has been travelling on buses to follow his dream. The hockey community in Canada is small in a way, despite distances, and Dakotah knew some players on the Humboldt Broncos.
Courtesy Gord Woods

Gordie added that after receiving the news of the tragedy, he hugged Cedar and Hunter, his children at home, and "phoned Dakotah with a hug". I am sure that was happening all across the country.

I also turned to Charlie Purich, a former Chapleau hockey star who has played hockey most of his life and in the 1960s was referred to as "the catalyst' of the Chapleau High School hockey team.
Charlie Purich circa 1964

Charlie said: "A split second sooner or later, it might not have happened.I think back over the three years I played for Laurentian with all the bus trips down south and back from Sudbury.

"All the car trips to Wawa, Blind River, Sudbury, Timmins, Espanola.All the train trips to Sudbury, Schreiber, Terrace Bay. All to play hockey and be part of a team and to show pride for my town.

"On every team we had such a collective group of supportive players, coaches and trainers.We had fans that joined us both at home and away games.Priceless.

"Nothing can describe that feeling.This terrible happening has touched all of us."

Thank you Charlie. Like Charlie I travelled from Chapleau thousands of miles on hockey trips over the years, and fortunately there were no mishaps. 

Back  to Pam who organized a group photo in Chapleau on Jersey Day for the Broncos with activities across the country

Pam explained: "What started as an idea this morning because I am simply a mom of two boys who play the game. My heart hurts for everyone affected and yet this picture reminds me that there IS strength in numbers and I am so blessed to be surrounded by so many kind people! The photo to which she is referring is the one above of Chapleau folks.

"Thank you all for coming out and thank you to all those who shared the post and were there in spirit. Taken on the Chapleau River, the place where it isn’t uncommon for many to begin playing hockey. It is a simple ges
ture to show that we-CHAPLEAU (not all present of course but due to the short notice I am still proud) stand with all of you who are affected by this tragedy. In the darkness, there is a light...a light that has been glimmering...glimmering with Hope shown through unity, Prayers, Strength and Love.
"Thank you Kari Luhtasaari for taking the time to capture this picture and thank you to Wade Cachagee for the awesome sign and Joel Langelier for his drone photo."

Yes Pam, many of us throughout the history of Chapleau began playing hockey on the "Front River" where you had the photo taken, and on the pond on the "Back River" too.

Way back Dr. Goutor used hockey as a metaphor for safe place to live after the horrors of World War II. In 2018, the outpouring of support for all those affected by this tragedy demonstrates once again that Canadians from all walks of life, and communities large and small, can focus on actions which bring us all together. For sure my friends, the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

My most sincere thanks to Pam O'Hearn Morin, Charlie Purich, Gord Woods, Pat Purich Russell for their assistance with this column. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Jimmy Hong member of family who gave chosen community a "warm and unforgettable example of the true Canadian spirit"

Boo, Mrs Hong, Jean, Jim, Yen
For about 100 years in the history of Chapleau, Fong Hong, his wife Sue, affectionately called "Ma" and their family have been associated with business in the community headed since about 1960 by Jimmy Hong.

It all began when Fong Hong arrived in the village circa 1916, and started Hong's Laundry which he closed and in 1924 opened the restaurant which to my generation was called the Boston Cafe. After Fong Hong died in 1940, Mrs. Hong continued to operate the restaurant and raised their four children: Yen, Jean, Jimmy and Harry (Boo).

Jimmy who had graduated from Chapleau High School, attended Ryerson and returned home to help his mother and took over the management of the restaurant in 1960. In due course, it was totally renovated and emerged with a new name -- the Redwood and Hongrs. He was actively involved in the Chapleau business community for most of his life. Growing up he helped out in the restaurant with his sister and brothers.
Fong Hong

When Jimmy died on April 1 at age 79, it marked the end of an era in the community's history even though he had retired within the past two years. His brother Yen, who had built the Bridgeview Motel retired in 2009, while sister Jean, a retired nurse lives in Toronto and Harry died some years ago.
Jean, Jim Yen 2012

I have such fond memories of  growing up with the Boston being our central place as kids where we went to hang out and to play as well.

Although Boo was more my age, Jimmy would often join us upstairs above the restaurant, and the late Harry 'Butch' Pellow recalled one anecdote in which I was involved the day Jimmy gave us boxing lessons. 

Butch noted that Jimmy had boxing gloves, and when it came time for my lesson I was "whacked in the face and called it a day." 

Jim and I in deep hockey discussion. He won!!!!

So much for boxing but Jimmy and I remained friends and I had good good visits with him at the Chapleau High School reunion in 2012, at a party in Toronto at Butch and Brigitte's in 2014 and in Chapleau when he made the Redwood our headquarters for the launch of The Chapleau Boys Go To War which I co-wrote with Michael McMullen in 2015.

Jimmy and all the Hong family were involved sports and Butch recalled in an article called GO BOSTON that he was "A powerful steady and fast skater and great stick handler". 
Jim and Butch 2014

After reading a piece by Lillian (Donivan) Therriault about the family  in Chapleau Trails, edited by Dr. William R. `Bill`Pellow, a member of another Chapleau pioneer family I  recalled one hockey anecdote in which Jimmy was involved.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Jason Rioux provides update on progress made on restoration and future plans for St. John's Anglican Church in Chapleau

Jason Rioux, the owner of the St John's Anglican Church building, kindly provided me with a copy of a letter he sent to the congregation and Bishop Tom Corston about the present situation at the church. The letter provides details on steps that have already been taken to restore the church, and measures that are planned.

I extend my thanks to Jason for permitting me to share the letter with readers of the Chapleau Express in Chapleau Moments and here, as he moves forward. Jason is also open to hearing from you.  His email is jason.rioux@gmail.com

My email is mj.morris@live.ca


Happy 2018! We wanted to share how things are going and provide an update for our vision on things yet to come. This building was built by you and taken care of by you for the last 100+ years.

Regardless of a change in building ownership, this remains YOUR church and we are deeply committed to keeping you in YOUR church. It’s not St. John’s Anglican Church without you.

Preserving the Building In 2016 and 2017, we undertook major renovations to improve the bones of the building. Without this investment, the building would have fallen into further disrepair.

Major basement renovations were completed to allow for fully accessible commercial food and retail use. This turned out to be an enormous job with many costly hurdles that were overcome. Exterior brick repairs and restoration work began.

We completed repairs to the northeast corner of the building near the chimney and started on the west wall’s spaulding brick. The brick chimney was rebuilt to full height and lined so it can be used again.

The rear cement patio and landscaping was added. We are lucky to have found Marc, our local experienced bricklayer to take on this work, and he had to find 100 year old reclaimed brick from southern Ontario and haul it north to Chapleau to do the job right.

And as it turns out, our bricklayer is now the tenant downstairs with homemade pizza making skills second to none!

As for 2018, we will finish the brick repairs on the west wall, point the brickwork around the building, and start brick repairs to the bell tower. We would like to bring back the original “castle top” -- if we can find a way to fund it.

Financial Sustainability

The church building remains a money losing project, big time. Our objective is to bring the building into financial sustainability for the for the long term. To accomplish this, the reality is we have 3 things to focus on:

1. Finding additional rent from the main floor

• We need this new rent to co-exist with the congregation, and will likely come from a new additional tenant or from running special events.

• We are currently looking for ideas, other non-profits focusing on local history and culture, performing arts, entertainment, special events, etc.

• Unfortunately this will require most of the pews to come out. More about pews discussed below.

2. Reducing our heating costs

• Step 1 – Install a new wood stove in the basement, just finished!

• Step 2 – Get completely off heating oil – We plan to install a new boiler heating system in 2018 that will use renewable wood pellets as the fuel. These are considered carbon neutral (good for the environment) and will be sourced from northern Ontario (good for the local economy).

 • Step 3 – Seal up the building – we need to seal up air cracks and gaps on the main floor. We will get a blower door test conducted to identify the air leaks and then try to seal them up to improve the efficiency of the building and reduce our heating costs for next winter.

3. Helping our current tenants be successful long term

• We are working closely with our current basement tenant, Stonewalls restaurant, to help them grow their business to meet the needs and desires of the Chapleau community. We are in the process of installing a new wood fired pizza oven downstairs for everyone’s eating pleasure in the next month or so, I’m super excited about that.

• We want to help the Anglican Church congregation find ways to innovate and connect with the community. We are open to trying new things, we have the large vacant lot next door that can host special events, we have the ability to be creative together for mutual benefit.

Please keep this in mind as you plan 2018.

We are here to help where we can, just pitch us your ideas on what you want to try.

Environmental Sustainability

We believe that we can make investments in the b that can both accomplish financial and environmental sustainability. For example the heating system improvements have the ability to make the building “carbon neutral”. Currently we are burning over 15,000 litres of heating oil per winter, this has significant CO2 emissions that are bad for our climate.

It just happens that converting to modern wood pellet heating is lower cost than oil, and is carbon neutral, a win-win situation. But it takes effort to make this switch.

We are working with technology suppliers from Europe, and we are working with Ontario pellet fuel suppliers for bulk deliveries to Chapleau. It’s not easy going first, but we think it is worth the effort.

What to do with the Pews? We expect that any new uses upstairs will require more flexibility in the space, different seating arrangements, more open space, ability to set up tables and We would like to hear ideas and preferences from the congregation on how we select which pews we should keep. We think we can probably keep 6 to 10 long pews in the space. Some questions and ideas we would like your feedback on:

1. Do we add name plaques to identify the original family pews that will remain in the church? This way we can keep track of the pews as they are shuffled around over time. Can you propose which pews we should keep as a priority?

2. We will be looking to sell 20 or more pews to help offset our building restoration costs. Should we first offer the pews for sale to the original families they may have sat in them? If so, how do we contact those families if no longer in attendance?

 3. Any ideas for local businesses or places that might need pews like this?

4. Do we know a local carpenter that can shorten pews so that they can fit better into people’s homes? This could help more of the pew find their way into homes in Chapleau.

 In terms of replacement seating that can accommodate multiple uses, we are thankful to receive 100 chairs from the United Church to help get us started! Opening up the space and getting more people into the church will help with our collective community outreach. It's a beautiful building and sharing it with the community is a positive thing that increases the long term viability of the church.

As always, I want to hear your thoughts. You can email me anytime at Jason.rioux@gmail.com

Michael J Morris

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


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Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE