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.


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:


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.


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 2:  The Silent Generation
(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. 


Farming in Pibroch, Alberta

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


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 Dad with an opportunity to reconnect to animals and the land after having spent several years mink ranching, logging and doing construction work.

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 Junior school in Edmonton was rapidly coming to an end as we would be heading North as soon as the school year was complete.


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)


Harlan: A Tragic History – Chapter 2 of 6

Written by Harold McNeill on October 12th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965

Memorial at Frog Lake

Photo (Frog Lake Memorial):  One man who died was the John Delany, the Grandfather of my Aunt Hazel (wife of my mom’s brother Melvin Wheeler), all part of the interesting history of our family. Note, many of these historic signs still denote the event as a Massacre in the midst of the Northwest Rebellion. Little mention is made at these historic sites of the attempt by an “Indian Agent” follow the “letter” of the laws passed in Ottawa, to starve the local bands into full submission to his wishes.

Link to Next Post: Snakes
Link to Last Post: Old School House (First of Part IV)
Link to Family Stories Index


Early Spring, 1949

While our home in Marie Lake, Alberta (20 miles north of Cold Lake), was nestled within the pristine beauty of the lakes and evergreen forests dotting Northwestern Alberta, Harlan District was spread out along fields and poplar forests that gently rose from the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. Situated just inside the Saskatchewan border with Alberta, the community was less than ninety miles south-southeast of Cold Lake. Today, it remains a small farming community. Most things remained the same when my sister, Louise, and I lived there for a few months over the spring and summer of 1949. Louise was six and I was nine when we moved in with Aunt Liz (Dewan-McNeill) and Uncle Warren Harwood lived on a farm property in an area that was home to many in the
extended Harwood Family.

During that spring and summer, our cousins Betty (10) and Stanley (7), explored the grassy fields and poplar woodlands around the farm. Of course, we were oblivious to a significant piece of Canadian History that played out just over sixty years earlier – The “Frog Lake Massacre of 1887”.

Calling it a massacre was wrong, as the more appropriate name should have been “Attempted Genocide at Frog Lake” or “The Frog Lake Uprising“.  While some changes slowly seeped into the historic narrative, much in the way of naming is yet to be addressed by the Federal and Provincial Governments in the naming of sights and events.

That ill-fated attempt at genocide might have succeeded if bands had not risen against the deliberate starvation through federal government policies designed to subjugate the original inhabitants of that area. While the Indian Agent in Frog Lake bore a substantial part of the blame, Sir John A. MacDonald and his government were the architects of a policy that decimated many local Indian bands across Canada. Some tried to justify what happened as part and parcel of the challenges of “taming this new land”, but that explanation falls far short in explaining the brutality of the government policy and particularly the actions taken by many “Indian Agents.” assigned the task of handing out food supplies.

At the time the four of us were playing in the fields, we now know a member of our own family, Aunt Hazel Wheeler (nee Martineau), the wife of Mom’s brother, Melvin Wheeler, traced her family history directly to those tragic events that played in the Harlan District over the fall of 1887.

The farm where we lived with Uncle Warren and Aunt Liz Harwood (nee McNeill) was twenty-five miles southeast of Frog Lake, thirteen miles from Onion Lake and five miles west of Fort Pitt. The district became the epicentre of a rebellion of which the charismatic Métis leader, Louis Riel, was the prime mover, who chaffed at the injustices heaped upon the Cree and other tribes by the Federal Government. Riel was able to weld the diverse Indian Nations together in common purpose.

In his book, The Frog Lake “Massacre”, Bill Gallaher writes: “Superintendent Crozier and a contingent of policemen aided by a small volunteer force from Prince Albert, had confronted Louis Riel and his rebels, some of them Cree, at a place called Duck Lake, a few miles east of Fort Carlton. After the ensuing battle, 14 men lay dead.” (p. 102).

News of the confrontation quickly spread to the tribes in the Frog and Onion Lake area, where activist leaders, including Wandering Spirit, Man Who Speaks Another Tongue, and others who, gained a substantial following. Much of their anger was focused on one man, Thomas Quinn,

the Ottawa-appointed Indian Agent at Frog Lake. The man was an arrogant, stingy Scotsman responsible for enforcing Federal Government policy regarding the distribution of food supplies. The bands were in desperate straits after being forced out of their traditional hunting grounds and left utterly dependent upon government handouts.

Quinn took his directions to heart by forcing the largely peaceful Indian bands to bow to his every whim before he would release any food and other supplies agreed upon in the treaties. As the tribes became increasingly desperate and as their land base continued to shrink under the onslaught of the white settlers, it was not long before their traditional food supplies all but disappeared. Pleas for relief emanating from moderate leaders, including Chief Big Bear, fell upon deaf ears at Fort Battleford and Ottawa.

Having heard of Louis Riel’s initial successes in confronting government forces, activist leaders convinced many warriors to stand and fight rather than bow to the dictatorial Indian Agent. To resolve the situation, a meeting with the local settlers and Indian Agent would occur at Frog Lake:

“The air in the room was hot and close, thick with pipe smoke and body odour. All of the whites in Frog Lake had gathered in John and Theresa Delaney’s house to discuss Dicken’s message (a message from Inspector Dickens of the North West Mounted Police suggesting all the white settlers at Frog Lake, evacuate the community immediately and head to Fort Pitt), viewed by some as an emergency. It was near midnight as Theresa served tea and coffee strong enough to make sleep a far off in the country.” (Gallaher, p. 103)

I noticed, as I’m sure others did, that he didn’t mention the Indian’s dislike of Quinn – they always called him “Dog Agent” or “The Bully” behind his back – and that perhaps he should go too.” (Gallaher, p. 105)

“Early the following morning, the group was taken hostage by the rebels, then under the leadership of Wandering Spirit. While being forced back to the Cree village, Quinn suddenly stopped and refused to follow instructions. Wandering Spirit stepped in front of the belligerent man, “You have a hard head, and I wonder if there is anything in it? He raised his rifle and shot Quinn through a head not so hard that a bullet couldn’t split it open…” (Gallaher, p. 106)

The sudden, violent killing of the “Dog Agent”, Quinn, left the remaining hostages scrambling for their lives:

My mind was churning madly. We hadn’t taken more than a few steps when John Delany cried, “I’m shot!” He reeled several feet away like a drunkard, then staggered back and collapsed at Theresa’s feet. Oh, my God! Theresa cried. “Father, Father!” As she called, one of the priests, Father Fafard, came running to her side and dropped to his knees. Delany lived only long enough to hear the priest administer consolation and say, “You are safe with God, my brother.” These words had just passed Fafard’s lips when Man Who Speaks Another Tongue shot him in the face. He fell across Delany’s corpse.” (p. 128)

The uprising had passed the point of no return as the rebellious leaders and their followers headed toward Fort Pitt to confront the government forces. Only a few days passed before miserable weather a lack of weapons, food, and other supplies led to the collapse of the resistance, but not before many more had died in skirmishes in the valleys and hills surrounding Harlan, Fort Pitt and Frenchmans Bute.

The eight Indians, considered ring leaders, were arrested, and taken to Fort Battleford for trial, the outcome of which was never in doubt. After being convicted, they were hanged on makeshift gallows within the Fort. Chief Big Bear, the moderate leader of the Cree, who was present for the hangings, was then put on trial believing that he, as the leader, was ultimately responsible for the A group of people in a room Description automatically generatedrebellion. After being convicted, he spoke eloquently in defence of his people:

Photo (Web File): The eight Rebellious leaders were hanged in a public event at Fort Battleford barrack square on November 27, 1885. Their bodies were unceremoniously interred in a scrubby bush area below the Fort.  More photos and words follow near the end of this story. The men hanged—Kah-Paypamahchukways, Pahpah-Me-Kee-Sick, Manchoose, Kit-Ahwah-Ke-Ni, Nahpase, A-Pis-Chas-Koos, Itka, and Waywahnitch.

Following the hanging, Big Bear (Mistahimaskwa) was put on trial a sad end to a popular leader. In 1871 he was the leading chief of the Prairie People and by 1874, headed a camp of 65 lodges (approximately 520 people). His influence rose steadily in the following years, reaching its height in the late 1870s and early 1980s. Due to events leading to the Frog Lake Uprising, his power was slowly eroded by the more aggressive leaders for reasons outlined later in this story. Following is the full Chief Big Bears full speech to the court as translated from the original Cree.

I think I should have something to say about the occurrences which brought me here in chains! I knew little of the killing at Frog Lake beyond hearing shots fired. When any wrong was brewing, I did my best to stop it in the beginning. The turbulent ones of the band got beyond my control and shed the blood of those I would have protected. I was away from Frog Lake a part of the winter, hunting and fishing, and the rebellion had commenced before I got back. When white men were few in the country, I gave them the hand of brotherhood. I am sorry so few are here who can witness for my friendly acts.