Posts Tagged ‘Laura McNeill’

Frank Yochim (1937 – 2018)

Written by Harold McNeill on December 26th, 2018. Posted in Biographies


Frank Yochim (1937 – 2018)

The post opens with two slideshows, one that reveals Franks deep connection to his family, friends, workmates and community and, the second, a look at the family and friends he left behind as they gathered in celebration of his life and in support of one another.

Frank Yochim Memorial

Family Time: Reflections

Songs:  It’s a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong, and You’ve Got a Friend in Me by Randy Newman from the movie soundtrack, Toy Story.

Introduction:

In December 2018, we bid a final farewell to my brother-in-law Frank Yochim who joined our family fifty-seven years ago when he married my next younger sister, Louise Kathleen McNeill.  In this collaborative post, we refer to the memories of his wife, children and friends to gain a measure of the man, who, in many ways was not easily defined even by those closest to him.

It was his first-born, Gregory Frank Yochim, (photo) who took up the challenge of completing the eulogy for his father. In a short period after arriving from Phoenix, Arizona where he and his family live, Greg along with his brother Lorin Yochim, pulled together a dazzling series of anecdotes from their siblings, other family members and friends, anecdotes that left everyone laughing and crying, often at the same time.

It was a challenging half hour that first-born son whose emotions were always close to the surface, as in his words: “ If I watch a video of two puppies playing, it makes me cry. If you were at my wedding twenty-seven years ago you’ll remember that I could barely make it through the reception speeches.”  The eulogy was then followed by a six-minute slideshow prepared by third oldest son, Lorin Yochim. If there was a dry eye in the house when Greg finished, and I doubt there was, there certainly wasn’t when that slideshow was complete.

Seeing and feeling the heartfelt response of over two hundred and fifty people paying their respects at the Harbour Light Alliance Church, left no doubt Frank will be long remembered not only for his good works but also for the love he quietly spread among those who knew him best, his family and friends. In the following, I have italicized the words of Greg, his siblings and others who lovingly remembered Frank.  We begin with Greg:

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A Magical Summer

Written by Harold McNeill on September 6th, 2015. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts


Fairy in Garden

Personal Photos:  We always knew it would be A Magical Summer since the moment our granddaughter Audrey first planted those Scarlet Runners early this spring.  It became real one morning when I captured this  photo of a fairy standing in the corner of the garden beside an old wicker chair.

Link to Photos for this Post
Part 2: Link to Crackling Fire on Cold Winters Day
Part 3: The Magical Gardens of Adam Szczawinski

Fences and Gardens, Family and Friends

So much was happening this spring and summer it was hard to keep up, but suffice it to say there was a lot of magic. Woven between various trips to destinations inside and outside Canada, as well as visits by family and friends, there was a determination to redo the garden and fences as they were in tough shape after several years of neglect.

Last year Lynn and I worked at cleaning up the decks and redoing the garden furniture, but that only made the crumbling fences and mom cropped 7 front coverovergrown gardens look even more sad and forlorn.  Growing up in a family where my mother had the greenest thumb I know, we could no longer avoid thinking how she would feel if she happened by and saw all those steely, prickly weeds making such fun of the few domestic plants that survived the long summers of neglect.

Back in the late 1990’s mom and I had spent two magical summers planting everything we could get our hands on and it was now time to renew the gardening vows that were etched in my genes.  In our family one daughter, Kari, and one son, Sean, have been gifted with that particular gene, so the linage will not be lost any time soon. The jobs, however, were not a one week fix.

Photo (Personal Files, c1990s).  When mom was here for those two long visits, we spent day son end planting everything we could get our hands on. As neither of us had ever made moss hanging baskets we must have put together fifteen of various shapes and sizes.  Many of the McNeill Life Stories, 1941-1965, a historical stories on the blog, came out of our daily conversations.

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Cold Lake High School Years: The Journey Begins

Written by Harold McNeill on April 29th, 2014. Posted in Family 1940 1965


 

Cold Lake Air Force Base

Early in the 1950’s the largest RCAF Station ever constructed in Canada was taking shape in Alberta. The small, remote, communities of Cold Lake and Grande Centre, that grew ever so slowly over the first fifty years of the century, would be shaken to their foundations as they struggled to come to terms with a massive influx of workers and their families. Our family was one of the many seeking to find their way.

Chapter 1:  The Journey Begins 1953
(Link to Chapter 2, Cold Lake High 1955 -1960)
Link Here for other Family Stories in this Series

Dear Reader,

For the several months, I struggled with how to write this post about our return to Cold Lake. To this point, it was easy to tell the stories as they were all generally positive. Even though our family was constantly on the move over the twelve years until this story, everything was relatively stable on the home front. All that changed in 1953 after arriving in Cold Lake and it continued in one form or another until our Dad passed away suddenly in 1965. While I will not dwell on the ugly parts, and there were many, I felt compelled to

Harold Louise Dianneexpress the feelings that enveloped me during those tumultuous years as a means to better understand myself and, perhaps, as a message to others.

I rather expect at least a few of my school friends shared similar experiences and might even take solace in knowing they were not alone.  The background to this story is alcohol abuse, but it could easily have been any of a dozen other things that cause family units to fracture – drugs, infidelity, mental illness, etc.  Children and teenagers, in particular, are vulnerable when this happens and need to know they are never alone, that even when things get really bad, the future can still hold a great deal of promise.

Indeed, this will become evident in parts of this post and in subsequent posts through the High School years and beyond. A great many positive things can happen even if life on the home front has spiralled into periods of darkness.

Photo: If taken between October and December 1958, I was seventeen, Louise fourteen, and Dianne four.  Louise remembered our ages as she recognized the skirt as one she sewed in her Grade 9 Home Ec class. Look at Louise for a moment. For those who know her daughter Karena, can you see Karina’s sassy smile and eyes? Looking at clothes, I also remember the day those grey ‘flecked’ dress pants arrived by mail order from Sears.  They became my favourite dress up in High School.  And, as for that sweet, innocent little girl on the right, my heart aches for having completely missed knowing her when she was young. 

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Farming in Pibroch, Alberta

Written by Harold McNeill on January 28th, 2014. Posted in Family 1940 1965


2003

Photo (From Web)  Pibroch, AB, main street as it looked in 1951 when we arrived. During a trip to that area in 2010, the main street had not changed all that much.

Link to Next Post: LacLaBiche
Link to Last Post: Edmonton
Link to Family Stories Index

Chapter 2  The Gypsy Years in Pibroch

January 9, 2015:  This post is brought forward for the accountant we met in San Francisco who looked after the accounts of several Hutterite Colonies in Alberta. He is retired but at one time worked with the Colony in Pibroch that is featured in this post.  If that accountant happens to pick up on this post please leave a message.  Regards,  Harold

1. Introduction:

After bidding a final farewell his youth, the years used up toiling away on a rock farm near Birch Lake, Saskatchewan, Dad was being drawn back to farming. In the spring he had taken over as foreman on the Murfitt spread in Pibroch, Alberta, a mixed farm with 200 head of cattle and about half the 640 acres under cultivation. It provided an opportunity to reconnect to animals and the land.

While horses had given way to tractors during the intervening years, Dad still had plenty of farming skills that made his services eagerly sought after and, as well, Mom would again be working in unison Dad. Taking over the farm kitchen she would work her magic as she cooked for a half dozen full-time farmhands in the off-season and twice that many during the harvest.

For Louise and me, it would be a new school and new friends, something we were becoming accustomed to as we shifted from pillar to post over the past two years. The great news about this move – Louise and I would be reunited with Mom and Dad in a country setting that was reminiscent of our early years. Our time at HA Gray and the big city was rapidly coming to an end as we would be heading North as soon as the school year was complete.

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The McNeill Family: Edmonton

Written by Harold McNeill on October 6th, 2013. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Edmonton Street LocationsLaura McNeill and Mr. Goodrich42

The McNeill Family: Edmonton/h1>

H.A. Gray School

Photo (From Web): The stately H.A. Gray Elementary School in Edmonton where Mom registered Louise and I in late August, 1949. It was a far cry from our one room school in Harlan, SK (see Chapter 2). Also, reference footer photo for comparison to a similar building in Victoria.

Link to Next Post: Pibroch
Link to Last Post: Dad is Missing (Last of Part IV)
Link to Family Stories Index
Link to the Old School House (First in the Harlan Series)

Chapter 1: The Gypsy Years

When Dad and Mom (Dave and Laura McNeill) took Louise and me 1 to live with Aunt Liz and Uncle Warren, in Harlan, Saskatchewan early in the spring of 1949, it was the first time we were separated from our parents. While we had made many moves in our short lives, this was just the beginning of being away from them for various periods of time ranging from a few months, to nearly a year. Our lives became a whirlwind of short-term home stays, new schools and new friends, many of whom remained steadfast for the rest of our lives.

Even our old pal Shep, the amazing Collie Cross, was left far behind in the care of our good friend Mr. Goodrich, our trapper neighbour at Marie Lake (A Final Farewell). Although the loneliness of being separated from Mom, Dad, Shep and our wilderness way of life, left a gapping hole in our lives, we had every reason to believe the hole would be filled once we settled in Edmonton.

Well, things did not turn out as planned and, in fact, Edmonton would bring the near death of our Mom and her younger sister, Aunt Marcia and the death of our one our best friends.

1Aunt Liz’s first husband Tart, a rodeo bronco rider, had passed away a few years earlier and Aunt Liz, Dad’s sister, had married Dad’s friend Warren Harwood around the time we were all living north of Cold Lake. (Smith Place)

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Marie Lake: Crash on Highway 28 – Chapter 7 of 11

Written by Harold McNeill on September 16th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


P1030254

Family Photos via Mom’s Photo Keepsakes (July, 1948).  I always remembered this photo and by good fortune on January 2, 2016, it magically appeared in a photo album my sister Dianne McNeill had preserved.  It now stands as the lead photo in this story of this accident that nearly killed our father, Dave McNeill and injured several others.  The photo was taken in the Cold Lake Hospital just before Dad was transferred to Edmonton for emergency surgery.

Photo (by Mom): Auntie Marcia, Louise and I stand beside geese shot by Mr. Goodrich our trapper neighbour. Dad love eating fresh cooked goose, but would have a tough time savouring these birds.

Link to Next Post: Link to On Thin Ice
Link to Last Post: Link to My Best Friend
Link to Family Stories Index

 

July, 1948

In mid-July, our family made a regular visit to Cold Lake to buy groceries and other supplies. Heading into town was a big event as it meant visiting family and a chance to play with other kids, not something we had a chance to do very often. There would also be a lively party at someone’s home and while the men didn’t drink much while working in the bush, they made up for lost time when they hit town.

Dad with FiddleIt took men many decades for men to learn that when it came to getting home safely after over consuming at a party, horse drawn wagons or sleighs gave a much better bet of arriving in one piece.  Cars, in a hands of a drunk driver, were much more deadly.

Photo (mom’s files): Harold with guitar, u/k male and female, mom with frying pan, Louise in front of mom, not sure if the man is Uncle Emerson (Dewan) but also looks like Uncle Denny (Helen Pylypow’s dad), and dad with the violin.  All standing in from of our home on the West side of Marie Lake.

At 10:30 one evening, after drinking for several hours at the Grand Centre Hotel,  eight men pilled into old Chevy Coupe and headed to Cold Lake to catch the last call. Uncle Warren, man furthest to the left in the lead photo, was a front seat, right side passenger and as the car hurtled down the long hill leading into Cold Lake hollered: “Lee, for Christ sakes slow down, there’s a turn at the bottom of the hill.”  This bit of information came from Uncle Warren some time later as he had not been drinking as much as the others and had been watching the road closely as Lee (Hobbs?) always tended to drive far to fast particularly when drinking. 

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Marie Lake: Explosion – Chapter 3 of 11

Written by Harold McNeill on August 25th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Stove at Marie Lake

Photo (Web).  A wood cookstove that nearly ended our mothers life.

Link to Next Post:  Link to Easy Come, Easy Go
Link to Last Post: Link to Growing Up in the Wilderness
Link to Family Stories Index

July, 1947

It was one of those quiet, lazy July mornings at Marie Lake. The dead calm waters reflected the morning sun and the leaves on the poplar trees, usually twisting and fluttering in the slightest breeze, hung as if frozen in time. The only noise to be heard was the quiet chatter of a few birds and of the laughter of Louise and me as we Mom before firedredged out wet sand to complete our giant sand castle – to be a surprise for mom and dad.

Suddenly, the serenity of the morning was bluntly ended by a loud, deep ‘whooomp’ coming from the direction of the house. A split second later the silence was further pierced by a blood curdling scream that echoed through the trees and down to the water. Louise and I sat there, momentarily frozen.

With the screams rising in intensity, we jumped up and run towards the house. As we topped the small sand bank we saw mom running with flames and smoke rising from her body. We were stricken with fear at a site we couldn’t fully comprehend.

After a short distance, she fell and rolled in the sand, grass and pine needles covering the yard. We stopped dead in our tracks not knowing what to do. At that moment dad came running from the mink pens. He frantically tried to smother the flames with his jacket but it wasn’t large enough to cover her whole body. Each time he moved the jacket, flames would spring to life.  An eternity passed before the flames were finally extinguished. The nauseating smell of burnt cloth, plastic and flesh permeated the air.

Dad hollered: “Harold, Louise, get a sheet off the bed.”

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Birch Lake -The Fire Tower: Chapter 4 of 4

Written by Harold McNeill on April 16th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


The Fire Tower

Photo (Web) Fire towers in the early years were flimsy wooden affairs.  Over the summer of 1944, dad took a job with the Saskatchewan Forest Service as an observer at one of the hundreds of fire towers that had been erected throughout Northern Saskatchewan, this one above being similar to the one dad worked near Meadow Lake.   After that one summer, we often returned to Meadow Lake for the yearly Stampede.

Link to Next Post: Martineau River Logging Camp (Beginning of Part II)
Link to Last Post: A Place in the Sun
Link to Family Stories Index

Spring, 1944

Mom repeatedly called: “Hoo hoo, Harold, where are you?  Hoo hoo, Haarooold.” There was no answer and she was more than worried. At three and a half, I was always running around outside playing, but when mom hadn’t heard me for a while she went out to see what I was doing. She knew that dad was in the bush cutting wood and sometimes he would take me along, but would always told mom first. She probably thought I was into some kind a mischief which would not be far off the mark for a three-year-old.

Birch Lake Fire TowerMothers! So trusting of their little boys!

Photo: This photo copied from a Cater and District “Least we Forget” series of stories found in my mothers files.  The tower at Meadow Lake was very similar to the Birch Lake Tower (L). The ladder to the top can just be discerned on the right side. It is hard to believe this structure was capable of holding the small lookout shelter built on the top, to say nothing of when a line squall with gail force winds passed through the area.

In one of our conversations, Mom recalled that summer day in the wilderness north of Meadow Lake:

“Louise was sleeping and when I couldn’t find you after a few minutes, I became worried. I called and called but you didn’t answer. Finally I could hear this faint little voice: “…..here mom..!” It was so faint I could not figure out where on earth you were. I walked further back along the path that led to the fire tower and continued to call. Your answers came back a little louder, but still distant …. ‘up here mom….’.

When I neared the clearing by the fire tower I looked up and there you were about 50 or 60 feet off the ground on the open ladder. I was petrified.  In the few months we had been at the Ranger Station, I had never climbed that open ladder to the top. I tried a couple of times with Dave, but only got up about 15 feet before I had to come back down.

Over my objections, your Dad had taken you to the top several times. You would climb the ladder ahead of him and between his arms. I could never watched as I was petrified. I told him to even tell me when he was taking you up otherwise I would be worried sick. Even at the top there was no railing that would stop a three year old from falling over the edge.

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Comments

  • Andrew Dunn

    May 14, 2019 |

    Thank you so much for all your help thus far Harold, aka. Tractor guy! I could not have done without you!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 25, 2019 |

    I find it interesting to contemplate how a small community evolves in general isolation from the rest of the world. We have a similar situation in the northern communities in Canada to which access is limited. The inclusion of the world wide web and mass media has changed things, but these communities are still left pretty much to their own devices when it comes to personal interaction.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 19, 2019 |

    Hi Dave. Not that I am aware and I have a fairly comprehensive family tree for the McNeill side of the family. I will pull it up and scan. Cheers, Harold. Great chatting with you and I will give Ben a nudge.

  • Dave Cassels

    March 16, 2019 |

    Were you related to Guy McNeill who owned the Bruin Inn in St. Albert in the late 40’s or early 50’s? Guy was a close friend of my father-in-law who was the first President of the Royal Glenora Club. My phone number is 780 940 1175. Thank you.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 15, 2019 |

    So glad you found the story and enjoyed. Indeed, they were memorable times. I did a fair amount of searching but never managed to contact any of the Murffit kids. However, it was neat to make contact with the Colony and someone I knew from back in the day. I have enjoyed writing these stories from back in the 1940s and 50s and have made contact with a lot of friends from those early years. I will give you a call over the weekend. Cheers, Harold

  • Yvonne (Couture) Richardson

    March 7, 2019 |

    I enjoyed your story. I too, lived in Pibroch in 1951, as my parents owned the hotel there. I was a very close friend of Bonnie Murfitt at the time. I moved to Edmonton in 1952, however, and have not seen her since. I would like to be in touch with you to talk about your story. My email is listed above and my phone number is 780-475-3873.

  • Laureen Kosch/Patry

    March 5, 2019 |

    I grew up in Pibroch and would not trade those years for anything. “ Kids don’t know how to play anymore” Never was a truer statement made. During the summer we were out the door by 8am, home for lunch, and back when it got dark. For the most part our only toys were our bikes and maybe a baseball mitt. I will never forget the times when all the kids got together in “Finks field” for a game of scrub baseball. Everybody was welcome, kids from 8 to 18. I didn’t know it then but I guess I had a childhood most dream of. Drove thru town last summer. It all looked a lot smaller.

  • Harold McNeill

    January 13, 2019 |

    Well, my dear, it’s that time again. How the years fly by and the little ones grow but try as you may you will have a hard time catching up to your Daddy. Lots of love young lady and may your day be special
    Love, Dad

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Guess what? My response went to the Spam folder. Hmm, do you suppose the system is trying to tell me something?

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Thanks, Terrance. Your comment came through but went to the Spam folder. Have pulled it out and approved. Can you send another on this post to see if you name is now removed from Spam? I’m not sure why it does that. Cheers, Harold