Bill Fridgen has been retired for more than four decades. A time greater than many individuals invest in a career today. But Bill Fridgen continues to work. Maybe a touch slower than in past decades, certainly as intense in his thinking about the situation at hand as he ever was.
We met Bill Fridgen many years ago. The late ’70’s to be specific. In those days we were taking notes from the Iroquois and Matilda council meetings and activities. Bill Fridgen was, among other things, employed as the Iroquois village constable, a one man police force. It was a part-time job at the same time he was employed on a part-time basis with Matilda Township and Edwardsburg Township in comparable roles. By-law enforcement, drain inspector, fence viewer . . . We met Mr. Fridgen again this week at his home.
Fridgen had retired from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1976, following a 35-year career. At the time he was stationed in Ottawa, “Mostly doing office work . . .” he tells us.
So let’s go back a bit . . . and clarify . . . because longevity, according to wikipedia, is sometimes used as a synonym for life expectancy. But that’s not entirely correct in this case. Longevity, more correctly used in reference to Mr. Fridgen, describes an especially long-lived member of the population.
When we arrived at Mr. Fridgen’s home he was having lunch, sitting in his front room surrounded by piles of books and documents, pondering a wide view of the St. Lawrence River. He invites us to sit, then explains we might want to sit closer, inviting us to take a seat immediately beside him.
“I don’t hear so well any more,” he says with a huge smile, slightly loud, “So you might want to talk loud.”
We asked Bill Fridgen when and where he was born. He dug his wallet out of his pocket, adamant that we see the way his birth is recorded on his birth certificate. “Sec. 24, Tp. 33, Rge 22, W 3rd, Sask.” A first for us. We didn’t know what it meant.
The birth certificate is current, issued in all it’s wallet-fitting plastic glory only a few years ago. And the interpretation, Bill says, is “Section 24, Township 33, Range 22, West of the 3rd Meridian.” So we are all clear, today it is described by its owner as “about 100 miles south-west of Saskatoon.”
The birth date is April 27th, 1917. Bill Fridgen will celebrate his 100th birthday on Thursday, April 27th, 2017.
Describing his birth town as “the farm”, Fridgen says he attended school in Revenue, Saskatchewan, the end of one of the many railroad spur lines criss-crossing the wheat fields of the prairies during the 1920’s.
“The elevators were eight miles apart back then,” Fridgen says, “and that was a good distance for a farmer and a good team of horses to draw their crops.” Farming blood is thick . . . and today the community of Revenue is long gone, save a single home. Fridgen digs through a pile and picks out a huge aerial photograph from under a coffee table book depicting “Elevators of the Prairies”. He points out the composition of 40 to 50 buildings in the photo as Revenue. Then he points out a building, “This is the last place standing in Revenue today. I’m told an old bachelor lives there by himself. They say he’s 70 years old.”
Bill Fridgen is a bachelor these days. After joining the RCMP at Regina in 1941, serving in Sarnia, Ontario, then on to Prince Edward Island, he moved on to corporate surroundings in Ottawa. Along the way, in Summerside, he met his eventual bride.
“We were in Summerside at a dance and I met this beautiful princess,” Bill says, hesitating to celebrate what appears to be a very clear memory of the exact moment, then he continues.
“Her name was Mary Kennedy, as Irish as they come, and a hairdresser who owned her own business.” Mary Kennedy became Bill Fridgen’s bride not so long after that initial meeting, and the couple managed to raise a family of four, two boys and two girls. There are numerous grand-children and some great grand-children these days, possibly too many to keep track of.
Following his retirement Bill and Mary purchased the home where he now lives, a 75 acre farm overlooking the St. Lawrence River. His son, a contractor, has offices on the property and his daughter and son-in-law share the river views from a home immediately next door.
We noted a large Chevrolet vehicle in the yard and asked Bill if he was driving, given provincial regulations that some claim “. . . do everything to restrict many senior’s access to keeping their driver’s license”. The question appeared to spark a flame of defiance in Bill’s soul and a kind of ‘I fougth the law . . . ‘ story came out.
“They told me they weren’t going to make me hand over my license, but if they caught me driving they would take it.” Bill offers, explaining that he failed the mandatory eye-test given all drivers.
“Then I heard about this operation to implant lenses in my eyes that would allow me to see clearly again and I went for it . . .” he says, adding, “If you can believe it they take your natural lenses out of your eye and put this man made piece in there and you can see again! It’s hard to believe.” he adds, shaking his head slowly from side to side.
There is no fear in this man’s life. His eye operation took place at 99 years of age, and he closes the subject with “I went back for the exam four days after the operation and they said I was good to go and I could go back to driving. And I have been ever since.” He scoffs the scoff of a victor and a victory. Bill says he doesn’t drive on Highway 401 these days. “Too many big trucks!”
“I have to get out as soon as the weather gets a little warmer,” he adds, “Have to get some of this winter weight off.” We’re not so sure he’d tip the scales to much more than 135 pounds. But frail he is not.
“C’mon outside with me and I’ll show you my trees,” he explains, “I spend all summer pruning and shaping them. It’s rewarding work and it’s hard to believe how much they’ve grown since we planted them.” Bill is talking about 75 acres of Black Walnut and pine trees he tends. And at his age, we can describe him as getting up comfortably off the couch and heading straight out the door in the fashion of a man many years his junior. “I can’t jump off the step like I used to,” he says, securing a grip on the porch corner post as he steps down. “Must be getting old.” he smiles.
As we walk across his yard, bordered with sheds and collectables of all kinds, Bill points out an aging tractor parked in front of a weather-aged drive shed, it’s hood peeking out from under a tarpaulin. When I ask Bill if I can get a photo of him in front of the tractor he suggests we remove the tarpaulin so that everybody can see what a “good tractor” looks like. We explain the photo and story is intended to be about him and the tractor is more of a prop. Bill vocalizes the tractor might get more attention.
When we ask this centenarian if he has any plans to celebrate his birthday he says the family has arranged to eat at the Iroquois Legion, and that some friends might drop by to say hello. Truth is, the Legion will be having a dinner on Saturday evening and guests with well-wishes are invited to drop by. Bill joined as an official member of the Legion shortly after his 99th birthday.
“Are you expecting a lot of people?” we ask.
“Well I’m told there are about 70 family members planning to attend,” he says, adding, “And my two sisters from Calgary will be flying in for the party.” Bill’s two sisters, according to him, “ . . . are youngsters not just yet in their 90’s.” We are told there will be a number of dignitaries in attendance too.
Best wishes to you Bill Fridgen. It was indeed a pleasure talking to you, and a greater pleasure witnessing your zest for life and living. And hopefully, you enjoy many more .
. . .
Iroquois Public School’s 5th-grade student Meredith Windle stole the show at the Dundas County Public Speaking finals at Chesterville Public School on Monday evening. The Grade 5 student who lives in Morrisburg and takes advantage of the French Immersion program attending public school at Iroquois chose the subject of ‘Emotions’, and speaking like a seasoned orator not only captivated the audience, but as the results show she most impressed the judging panel.
Host for the evening, Chesterville Public School’s Principal, Toby Sebalj, said the judges struggled to select a 1st and 2nd place performance as the two leading contestants were so close. In their final decision second place went to Alissa Buttivant a Grade 6 student at Chesterville who delivered her subject on Temagami, Ontario.
In the initial round of the Public Speaking event at Iroquois Public School, Meredith Windle scored a first place, but was already a veteran at the podium. Prior to the last two years Meredith attended school in Prescott, Ontario where she won two Public Speaking events. At Chesterville Meredith was presented the Firefighters Trophy, donated by the Morewood Firefighters Association. The trophy has been making the rounds in Dundas
County for some time. Last year the 1st place trophy went to McKenzie Reid-Stevens from Nationview Public School for 2016, but had resided at Iroquois Public School in 2015 (Olivia Mudde) and 2014 (Jamie Wilson).
Ten challengers went to the podium on Monday evening, two from each of the competing schools, including Nationview’s Ben Roberts and Trinity Oosterhof; Winchester’s Alicia McNaughton and Sebastian LaFrance; Morrisburg’s James Martens and Manraj Cheema; Chesterville’s Alissa Buttivant and Baleigh Quensel; and Iroquois’ Meredith Windle and Emerson McMillan.
Prior to his untimely passing, life long township resident Frank Ault was seeking something big in the way of improvements in the Matilda Memorial Park at Brinston. The Matilda Township entrepreneur was the owner of Frank Ault Excavating for 45 years, the Iroquois Gas Bar for 35 years, and partner in South Nation Farms for 50 years. And while he and his wife Pat raised their family in Brinston they valued the local park as a family gathering and essential playground kind of place. Mr. Ault passed away in March of this year, but his wishes and belief that the park be rejuvenated will indeed come to pass.
On Saturday of this past week community residents were invited to the park to select components for a new play structure. But on arrival the residents were informed that the Ault family, Frank’s wife Patricia, son Bill and daughter Cindy, had decided to invest a considerable donation to the park rejuvenation program in Frank Ault's memory. The donation will provide the purchase and installation of a larger, fully accessible play structure. And that’s not all.
“We’re hoping to have everything in place for the kids by July,” Cindy Ault-Peters said in making the announcement, adding that the supplier’s schedule would have to be taken in to consideration.
“Once we have a model, availability and a timeline from the provisioner, we can get going on the ground prep work,” Cindy said. The overall plan for the one time “thriving recreation area” includes a BMX park, tetherball stands, a fitness zone for adults, toddler toys, a walking path around the perimeter for seniors, a volleyball court, park benches, a tennis court, two small soccer fields, free standing musical instrument area and a community garden.
The generous gift in Frank Ault’s memory will also address the replacement of player’s benches and fan area at the ball diamonds where this coming season the Seaway Surge, 9 -12 year-olds, fastball team will play two nights a week. The Surge team boasts a number of South Dundas players on their roster and stages exceptional ball games in a very competitive league.
Additional planning and long term funding is on the drawing board, and future monies may be accessible to these project stages through the South Branch Wind Turbine 30-year annual grant agreement.
News of this nature in South Dundas is exactly what makes the community what it is. Individuals and families who believe in a shared generosity and the values of family life keep it that way. We’re pretty sure Frank Ault, the patriarch of his Matilda Township family for so many years, will be smiling over Brinston Memorial Park for some time. Especially when he hears the roar of the crowd as a fastball smacks off a bat. The same park where his three grand-daughters (Chelsea, Nikki and Emily) played. And where his three great grand-children (Sadira, Azalea and Lex) will visit and play in the park, in the community he loved.
Warm sunshine and squeals of laughter can mean only one thing . . . summer is here forthe visitors to the Earl Baker Park. The youngsters and families were enjoying a picnic on Sunday afternoon . . .
McDonell charges overcrowding . . .
During Question Period, MPP Jim McDonell demanded the Minister of Health account for the continued overcrowding situation at Cornwall Community Hospital, where occupancy rates have been as high as 138% with patients accommodated in hallways and any space the staff could find.
“This government spent more than a decade giving with one hand and taking away with the other” MPP Jim McDonell stated. “To be clear, our Cornwall Community Hospital budget has not kept pace with inflation for nine years. When our residents are most vulnerable and most in need, they deserve to feel secure and well cared for. Overcrowding makes that impossible. When overcrowding issues arise, all the Ministry can say is that the hospital should count the patients at midnight. For patients to be in hallways and cubbyholes is unacceptable at any time of the day or night. There are no excuses – the Minister must take all action to help Cornwall Community Hospital deliver the services its staff and administrators know our residents need and deserve.”
A high incidence of Alternative Level of Care patients awaiting placements in long-term care facilities compounds the problem.
“Year-long waits for placement are unacceptable,” MPP McDonell commented. “In 2012 the Auditor General reported that our region had the longest wait times in Ontario for a long term care bed, but our CCAC reported that we had an over-supply beyond 2030, even though by then our seniors’ population over 75 would double. The facts don`t lie. It is time for the Minister of Health to leave the fantasy land painted by his Ministry’s figures and see the reality of a scarcity of long-term care beds in our region.”
Eight South Dundas students from St. Mary St. Cecilia Separate School in Morrisburg boarded a Via Rail train at Brockville on Monday of this week and travelled to Toronto. The excursion was at the expense of the provincial Ministry of Education and is included in a program to bring students into the decision making process concerning education.
The local group had attended a 3-day camp, “Students As Researchers”, in the Fall of 2016 at Orillia, On., with school representative groups from all over the province, where they learned about the “Student Voice” program, how to conduct research and how to make change. Students As Researchers is actually designed to encourage and empower students to speak up.
Following their three-day camp of learning and staged presentations at Orillia, the St. Mary St. Cecilia team was selected from the many teams all across Ontario to travel to Toronto and make a presentation to Ministry of Education officials and representatives of numerous Ontario communities. And that’s where Aodhan Lowson, Marin Morrow, Olivia MacDonald, Megan McDonell, Spencer Barclay, Rhiannon Beckstead, Camrin Connors and Sierran King come in.
The students plan to present their research and solution in their “voice to make change” around the dire needs in their own school yard. And their research may astound many.
“The research our students compiled was through a survey in which they involved every student attending the St. Mary St. Cecilia school,” points out Grade seven teacher Blair Fitzsimons, who along with fellow teacher Dana MacDonald is accompany the team of eight to Toronto. “These students have compiled positive research that pretty much proves that if students do not have fun at school (particularly in and around their yard/playground), then learning can become compromised.” Fitzsimons adds.
“Play is how the brain develops to its surroundings and relationships, muscle control, and, most important, imagination . . .” taken from the student research paper, “There are four things that all kids need; physical needs, emotional needs, cognitive needs and social needs.”
The eight student team came up with a survey to include all of their 103 student population (JK through Grade eight), tabulated the information into a graph chart and learned that although male students prefer sports based activity in the school yard, the female population does not find that idea nearly as entertaining. Thus, some students are left out. The survey further proves that the female student population prefers activities that allows them to converse with their peers, music, dance and gymnastics.
Although the present schoolyard available to these students as an unusable quagmire throughout most of the school year, schoolyards may well never be the same following the St. Mary St. Cecilia delivery of a student voice in Toronto.
In closing their presentation to the Ministry of Education, the group pointed out, “After surveying our school, the data confirmed that the problems were not isolated to one age group or gender. There is a shared sentiment that our schoolyard lacks a gathering area for students to socialize, and individual space to accommodate artistic and self-expression. Finally, our school would benefit from an ecological and experimental area that incorporates both traditional and non-traditional sport activities and challenges.
“This is the first step by students for students,” Blair Fitzsimons said, “and we’re certainly hoping it isn’t the last.”
Hundreds of well wishers dropped in to the Legion in Morrisburg on Sunday afternoon where life-long Morrisburg resident Ruthie Rice was celebrating her 90th birthday with family and friends. And Ruthie boasts a large family with deep roots in the community.
Ruthie is widely recognized for her years of active service with the Legion, she is a Life Member, and was celebrated recently on her 55 years with the organization.
Married to John Rice on May 24th, 1947, the happy couple were active in many aspects of the community outside the Legion, including John's many years of involvement in local and area hockey circles, a time during which Ruthie was the keeper of the calendar. Ruthie and John raised three children (in the above photo) Kathy (Gurnhill - the eldest), Richard (the youngest), and Susan (McPherson).
Today Ruthie remains as active as her health allows, and steals moments when she can with her grand children and great grand children.
Our sincere very best to Ruthie on this wonderful occasion, with wishes for continued health and celebration, and a deep respect for her many years of community service and personal friendship to many. In our mind, one of South Dundas' true "First Ladies . . . "
We Day students from St. Mary St. Cecilia visited the residents at Park Lane Villa onMonday morning, sharing a coffee (juice) and stories as part of their Me to We Day program. Grade six students Alexis Grenkie, above left, and Jenna Casselman, sit with Gerry Backes for a morning break and refreshment, and as is obvious, bring smiles to many faces. More than a dozen students from St. Mary St. Cecilia who had attended We day have taken part in a number of events intended to make their world a better place. Many have supported Food Drives, taken part in the annual Terry Fox Run and Hats for Haiti drive, and many have joined in the effort to pick-up garbage along our roadways.
"We Day was an amazing experience," Alexis said, "The program included dancers and singers and T-Shirts that provide profits to help people who don't have things."
"Today we came to spend some time with the seniors," Hanna Gibbons added, "And after we listened to people talking about changing the world at We Day we are trying to make sure everyone has food and clean water."
A group of residents at Park Lane Villa in Williamsburg who spend countless hours creating and fabricating crafts to sell in the adjacent J. W. MacIntosh Seniors’ Support Centre have spend Thursday afternoons and more over the past six months on a very timely labor of love.
The Park Lane Crafters, as this group is known, (average age unmentionable) have completed their latest quilt, “Maple Leaf Parade”, in celebration of Canada’s 150th year. The quilt has been purchased by the Upper Canada Playhouse and is scheduled to be the top prize in the theatre’s annual raffle.
“We hope to have tickets by the end of the week,” Playhouse spokesperson Rosanne Kelly told us on Friday morning, “And the tickets are available to anyone hoping to own this beautiful quilt.” Kelly said the tickets for the quilt raffle will be available only at the theatre office and she is expecting brisk sales.
“This is a real piece of Canadiana,” Donnie Bowes said when he accepted the quilt from the crafters lead seamstress, Sheila Crowder, “I can see this attracting a lot of attention and it’s perfect in timing!”
Crowder said “The piecing of the quilt initially required between 45 and 50 hours, then eight of our ladies worked more than six months on the hand stitching.”
“We’ll be making the draw for the winning ticket at the final show of the 2017 season, Mistletoe Magic, on Sunday afternoon, December 17th” Bowes added, “But I’m sure people will know tickets for this one are going to be popular and should be purchased early. Otherwise, with the limited number of tickets being printed, they'll be out of luck.”
The 1st Williamsburg BPSC scouts were the fortunate recipients of some surprise support last week when Grenville Mutual Insurance in celebrating their 125 years in the community turned over a cheque for $1,025. All Grenville staff members had been asked to select recipients for a community donation and fortunately for the local scouters, employee Ruth Speer selected local. Ruth Speer is the daughter of long time South Dundas resident and community supporter Earl Baker.
Historically, Grenville Mutual has enhanced lives and opportunities in communities where they do business, continually promoting the “spirit of neighbor helping neighbor” community.
“I’m so excited that this organization came to my mind at this time,” Speer said, “I believe it’s the perfect choice for what Grenville is working to achieve in celebrating 125 years in Eastern Ontario.”
Sharing Ruth Speers view, Grenville Mutual’s President and CEO Ross Lincoln said, “A large part of the community work the company undertakes is planned and coordinated at the grass roots level.” Lincoln added, “What better way to appreciate our people , and to provide a rare and exciting opportunity for them to give back to a cause that means the most to them.”
“Thank you Grenville Mutual Insurance!” echoes the 1st Williamsburg BPSC scouts . . .
South Dundas' young environmentalists were hard at work on Earth Day 2017. Left to right Sawyer, Daymon and Kinley toured the neighbourhood picking up garbage during a walk around town with Sawyer and Kinley's parents.
Local Catholic separate school St. Mary St. Cecilia chose to take a positive approach to the Catholic School Board’s Defeat Depression Campaign, setting aside a “Rainbow Day” and providing initiatives for the students to present a class theme. Each class decorated their classroom doorway in their chosen theme and theme colors, and students were encourage to dress in the theme color they worked on. Doorways were covered with slogans and messages, all upbeat, such as Be Amazing!, and Let Your Smile Change The World!
An in-school campaign adopted a Jump for Joy to Defeat Depression skipping rope event during recess and lunch time and monies were collected to support the Rob Nash Foundation; the widely received and award-winning Robb Nash Project is an initiative that engages young people through the power of music and storytelling to inspire hope and encourage positive life choices.
St. Mary St. Cecilia’s Grade-7 classroom door theme was “Shine Like The Stars”, colored blue and covered in star-shaped cutouts backing the students portrait photos. Grade-3 chose lime green and a theme of “It’s Lime to Defeat Depression!”
The MEP classroom door carried the theme “You Never Know How You Can Fly Until You Spread Your Wings!” and Grade-6’s “Think Pink - Be Positive!” theme was widely supported in dress.
Grade-6 students chose blue and a musical theme with the slogan Rhythm & Blues and the Grade-5 students went orange. Grade-1’s door was covered in turqouise and covered in paper plates, each with a different I Am (ex: 'Positive') theme, while a green Grade-2 built their theme around a frog that slightly resembled Kermit and a theme of Hoppy Thoughts!
A second Grade-1 class chose the theme “When Life Gives You Lemons Make Lemonade!” Kindergarten A built on a green over red door and “We Love Green” theme, and Kindergarten B, using purple as a base, themed their door “We Are A Grape Bunch of Kids!”
Enjoy the photos . . .
It can be tough to explain what so intrigues us with these sunflowers. We especially love their days of closing the growing and blooming seasons and spreading seeds in the fall. With the sun providing the highlights and the unbelievable number of shapes these beautiful plants create, they make a perfect subject for several months of the year. And we have several takes of the photo below. The morning sunrise was perfect in both color and complexity, the water like glass and the temperature variance of the air and water provided the perfect mist. Even the seagull standing on the top of the boat was into it.
If you are interested in relocating to South Dundas, Tracey Veinotte, John Morrow and Donna Forget from the Royal LePage Red Door Team will take care of your interests. Robert Jordan Construction is available to build you the perfect nest for viewing the beauty of our area.
If you have an event coming up, a fund raiser, a membership drive, or a community booster, let us know. We can help you bring it to a successful reality.
We hope you enjoy the photos. . . www.southdundasinbox.com
Canadian Club unveils 2016/17 line-up of guest speakers . . .
Canadian Club Dinner Meetings are offered at $30 per person and include a social hour, dinner, and a speaker. The meeting scheduled for October 19th is the Annual "Bring A Friend Night" and is being offered for $25 per plate. Meals are provided by the staff of the Morrisburg Legion's Ladies Auxiliary (always delicious). Seats can be purchased by calling (613) 543-2922
May 17, 2017 @7:00pm
(Roast Beef Diner)
Dr. Monica Mazigh (author, academic, human rights advocate) - Muslim Women Between Fiction and Reality
Author and Human Rights Advocate, Dr. Monia Mazigh speaks about the challenges facing Muslim women in Canada.
Monia Mazigh was born and raised in Tunisia and immigrated to Canada in 1991. She was catapulted onto the public stage in 2002 when her husband Maher Arar was deported to Syria, tortured, and held without charge for over a year. During that time, Mazigh campaigned vigorously for Arar’s release and later fought to re-establish his reputation. She is widely attributed with bringing the US policy of “extraordinary rendition” into international public view.
Arar’s ordeal was later the subject of a full judicial commission, which found that he had no connections whatsoever with terrorism. Prime Minister Stephen Harper formally apologized to Arar on behalf of the Canadian government, as did the Judiciary Committee of the US Senate.
Mazigh then wrote a memoir entitled Hope and Despair, about her own ordeal after her husband was arrested. She has also written two novels: Mirrors and Mirages, which tells the stories of four Muslim women living in Canada; and Du pain et du jasmine, about the events of the Arab Spring.
Mazigh is the National Coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group. She holds a Ph.D. in finance from McGill University and has worked at the Universities of Ottawa and Thompson Rivers.
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