EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Thursday, December 20, 2012



TRIBUTE  1924 – 2012

By Bill McLeod

Once in a while along life’s journey most of us are fortunate to form friendships with some truly outstanding human beings.  Such was my case with JamesMcNiece “Jim” Austin.

Jim Austin died on November 2, 2012 after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer and after having lived a long and generous life.  His memorial service was held at Jim’s church, St. Peter’s United in Sudbury on November 24, 2012 and his ashes were interred in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto on November 26.

Jim, as everybody knew him, was born in Chapleau, Ontario, the eldest son of Allan McNiece Austin and Alice (Dickinson) Austin.  He is survived by three brothers, John (Marjory), Allan M. “Mac” (Marg) of Toronto and Richard (Liz) of Gananoque.  He was predeceased by his wife Rosamond Ann Mills (1948) and twin daughter Rosamond Ann (1997).  Jim was the beloved father of Elizabeth “Liebes” Austin (Laurence Solsberg) of Vancouver and was dearest “Grump” to the Solsberg sisters – Emily (James Richardson), Mariel (Kelsey Louie) and Kira.  His only great-grand daughter Naomi Sparrow Richardson was born on October 12, 2012.  Also left to mourn and celebrate his life is a large extended family of cousins, nieces and nephews and their offspring.

Jim was educated at the elementary and secondary schools in ChapleauTrinity College School, Port Hope and the University of Toronto from which he graduated in 1947 with a B.A. in history.  During World War II he served as a Flight Engineer, Bomber Command, Squadron 429 (Bison).  He always enjoyed telling me about his war service - particularly flight training, life in wartime England, combat missions and especially about flying a Lancaster back to Canada from the Azores after the war in Europe was over.

Early in the last century Jim’s grandfather, a Chapleau businessman and merchant, partnered with George B. Nicholson and together they formed the Austin Nicholson Lumber Company.  Mr. Nicholson was the first reeve of Chapleau and he was also elected to the House of Commons on three separate occasions, serving the constituency of Algoma East from 1917 to 1921, 1925 to 1926 and from 1930 to 1935.  Austin Nicholson had mills scattered all along the C.P.R. lines for miles east and west of Chapleau.  The largest operations were at Nicholson and Dalton Mills.  Originally specializing in railway ties, the company branched into lumber and mining timbers and eventually became the largest supplier of ties in the British Empire.

After leaving the R.C.A.F. Jim joined the family firm and was in charge of several of its bush operations.  In 1956 the firm was sold to W.B. Plaunt and Sons of Sudbury.  Jim stayed on with Plaunt for a while before joining Eddy Forest Products in Espanola.  There he served as Assistant Woodyard Superintendent, managed Eddy’s Pineland operation at Nairn Centre and when Eddy Forest Products purchased the McChesney Company in 1976, Jim moved to Timmins as General Manager of Forestry and Mill Operations.  In 1980 he moved back to Nairn Centre and finished his distinguished career as Special Assistant to the Manager of Woods Operations supervising research and development in lumber operations and production and control of waste products.  After his official retirement in 1988, Jim put his lumber industry expertise to good use during a stint in Africa with the Canadian Executive Service Overseas. The lumber industry, particularly sawmills, was deeply embedded in Jim’s DNA.  He loved the business and he was very good at it.

Jim Austin did the research and wrote up the proposal that resulted in Alton Morse being awarded the Order of Canada for his innovative approaches to harvesting white pine timber near Chapleau.

But it was community involvement and volunteering that brought him so much affection and respect.  He was the person who oversaw the smooth transition of theNorthern Ontario Health Sciences School to Cambrian College in 1973.

Jim was a Mason, a member of the Lions Club for 52 years and belonged to the Sudbury Chamber of Commerce.  Generally, he avoided the limelight and made his enormous contribution “under the radar” - volunteering for countless church, community and charitable activities.  He chaired the Lions Club committee that was responsible for the Home for the Hard of Hearing that we all see as we drive along Paris Street in Sudbury.

Jim was just as happy sharing his considerable management and organizational skills with Meals on Wheels as he was doing dishes after an Out-of-the Cold supper, selling geraniums and Hard of Hearing Home tickets or shaking a tambourine for the Salvation Army in one of the malls at Christmas time.

But it was at St. Peter’s United Church that Jim really left an indelible mark.  He served on the Sudbury Presbytery, the Mission and Service Council and numerous other church groups and committees.  He was an honorary member of the United Church Women’s group and was affectionately known by young and old as “The Candy Man”.  He never went to church without a pocket full of Werther’s candies for the kids and anyone else with a sweet tooth.

As I was sitting in St. Peter’s on that cold but sunny November morning on Grey Cup weekend a number of thoughts and memories flashed through my mind – two of them quite ironic.  In her eulogy, Jim’s daughter Elizabeth referred to his fondness for Canadian football.  On Grey Cup Day he always cheered for the team from the west.  He used to laughingly tell folks that the general Canadian wisdom held that Winnipeg was the Gateway to the Canadian West.  Jim always insisted that was wrong.  The gateway to the west, according to Jim, was really Chapleau.

The other memory that struck me that morning was that it was on the same weekend in November of 1963 that the world was in shock over the assassination of President Kennedy.  Of all that I have heard and read about that dark time, one quote still sticks out.  Asked about Kennedy’s funeral, Mary McGrory, the crusty old reporter for the Washington Post told an interviewer that John F. Kennedy would have liked his funeral.  Jim Austin would have liked his too.

Like the rest of us, Jim Austin’s life had its ups and downs.  But some of his downs were much deeper than he deserved.  The grace, courage and class with which he coped serves as an example to us all.

The McLeod and Austin families have many connections going all the way back to 1899.  My grandfather was hired to be the fur buyer for the Austin retail operation in Chapleau and my grandmother was the nanny for Jim’s father and his uncle Bill.  My mother (Georgina Emiry) was his first teacher and, in the 1950s, when I was a teenager, Jim curled with us.  My dad was the skip, Ovide Cote the third, Jim played second and I was the lowly lead.  After Sheryl and I moved to Sudbury we often saw Jim and we eventually became neighbors.  I was honored and pleased to be of some assistance in Jim’s later years when he was unable to drive and when he was managing his daily life with difficulty.

In her remarks at the memorial service, Rev. Dawn Vaneyck summed up Jim brilliantly when she said that he was both a gentleman and a gentle man.

R.I.P. Jim

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


It's beginning to look  like Christmas and the holiday season when Bill Groves of Chapleau sends along one of his wonderful series of photos for us to enjoy. Here is another outstanding selection from Bill.  Thanks so much Bill and it was so great to chat with you and Barbara at the Chapleau High School reunion.



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Thanks for hockey memories from back in the day and best wishes to all for Christmas and holiday season

MJM at Cocoa Beach FL By Michael Pelzer

It's amazing the things one thinks about while relaxing in a lawn chair at Cocoa Beach, Florida, watching the sun set on the Atlantic Ocean as the last of the surfers ride the waves, a cruise ship passes by slowly, couples walk along the beach, and I end up thinking about hockey in Chapleau from 40 plus years ago.

Only I could start out intending to come up with my last Chapleau Moments column for 2012, with a focus on Christmas and the holiday season, and end up on hockey.

Anyway, my thoughts turned  to an email from Henry Byce about a "blast" from his hockey past, and a follow up from Mark Dillon, about a tournament in Senneterre, Quebec, and later "The Chiefs" hockey team on which both of them played.

In his email, Henry advised that he couldn't recall how they did in the tournament, but "I know we had fun." He also included a photo of the team, noting that I had coached and taught "most of us" in the team photo. And I had at Chapleau High School.

He added: "As a kid watching the (Chapleau Intermediate 'A') Huskies was one of the greatest memories I have, and to have two great players as our coaches was awesome".  The coaches to whom Henry refers are Pat Swanson and Paul McDonald, both of whom as he says were "great players" on the Chapleau Intermediate A Huskies of the Northland Intermediate Hockey League from 1975 to 1979, a team I also coached and managed, sharing those duties over the years with Doug Prusky who was mainly responsible for the team's on ice success.

Senneterre team See names below
In a message Mark Dillon clarified that in the Senneterre tournament "we were in the 'B' Division, which was above us,( I think we were 'C' back home) and we lost in the final to Val D'or before a packed house. We were a contact team and unaware that Quebec wasn't. After a few (french term)  'Placage' penalties we took the contact out of our game lol. Great showing by all made it very memorable for me."

Mark also commented on the 1982-83 Midget Chiefs who also played in the local town league.  "I was lucky to play with you guys since there was no midget team in minor hockey to play for that year."

Referring to a team photo, Mark added"  "I always  laugh at the picture. Jamie (Doyle) is holding my hair back after my mom complaining about the bangs in my eyes. I believe we won the regular season but lost to Swanson and the guys in the playoffs." Yes, we lost in the playoffs to a team composed mainly of former Intermediate 'A' Huskies.

Midget Chiefs 1982-83 names below
I felt really honoured that they named the team with my nickname. Let me explain for those who don't know how I came to be called Chief. It's not a name I heard too much since moving to British Columbia but at the Chapleau High School reunion, it was commonly used by those who knew me back in the day so to speak.

I got the name from the 1970-71 Chapleau Midgets with Garry Prusky as manager, who was also starring at the time as a player with the Chapleau Junior 'B' Huskies of the International Junior 'B' Hockey League with Earle Freeborn as the coach.

One day at practice, Keith McAdam called me "MJ", and having become "Mr. Morris" by virtue of now being a  teacher at Chapleau High School, I appropriately lost my temper, letting the team know I was Mr. Morris to them, and I stormed from the dressing room downstairs in the old Chapleau Memorial Community Arena. I was not a Mr. Morris during my years as a daily newspaper reporter.

Through the door I could hear the players discussing the situation when suddenly Lionel Corston spoke up. 

"I have it,"Lionel said, "we will call him the Chief. We are the Indians and he is the Chief." (I use the word Indians in the context of this anecdote.)

The players agreed, and led by team captain Jamie Doyle, they came through the dressing room door and each one in turn with a smile on his face, said "Hi Chief". What could I do? The kids had won a big one and they knew it. The name stuck.

So, sitting on the beach, with the help of Henry and Mark's messages which I looked up later for this column, out of the mothballs of memory came  memories of those most enjoyable years I spent in hockey, all thanks to Garth 'Tee' Chambers and L.D. "Don Card in the 1950s who knew I loved the game but didn't play it very well, so with their help I became a referee.

I became a coach in 1970-71 when those wonderful kids led by Jamie Doyle reached out and "hired' me which is a story for another day, but for which I shall always be grateful. 

Thanks guys for the memories that all happened years ago now in the cold winters of Northern Ontario, far from Cocoa Beach at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

And thanks to all of you who have been in touch and contributed to Chapleau Moments, and for your kind comments when I was home for the CHS reunion. My very best wishes to all for Christmas and the holiday season.  My email is mj.morris@live.ca

The 1982-83 Chiefs:  MJM, Gary Murphy, Doug Hong, David Freeborn, Jamie Doyle, Mike Payette, Jean Marie Besnier, Rory Foran, David McAdam playing out, Donald Omer Landry, Armand  Bellevance. Kneeling Shawn Russell, Mark Dillon, Shane Gilham, Barry Hong. Missing is Billy Scheer. Note Jamie and Mark's bangs. Armand was team sponsor

The Senneterre Team:  Back row (l-r)  P.Swanson(coach), D. Desbois, D. Morrison, D. Dionne, D. Lafreniere, C. Vezina, T. Broomhead, J. Rioux, A. Barsalou Middle row M. Dillon, K. Dillon, M. Houle, P. McDonald(coach) Front row A. Madore, R. Martel, M. Lingenfelter, T. Sawyer, H.Byce, J. Castonguay, D. Vandal

This post will also appear in the Chapleau Express on December 22, 2012.

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