Now and Then by Petra Wall

Margaret and William Robert (Bud) Dearing

The natural beauty of the Dearing home on Maple Point Road near Kagawong presents a stunning display as the writer pulls into the driveway. The back yard features an immaculate lawn with stately trees providing shade and shelter for the numerous birds, deer, chipmunks and foxes in the area. An inviting sauna, boasting detailed craftsmanship, adds to the ambience. A large garage filled with numerous ‘toys’ used to maintain the appeal of this destination lies to the side. “It was love at first sight when we inspected this home. It was perfect and we bought it right away.”

A chipmunk peeks through the railing as we settle outside. He is joined by a hummingbird sipping nectar from a deck flower. “We really spend most of the day here. We love to be out with nature,” Margaret offers. “We bought this home two years ago, when we came back to Manitoulin from Beamsville, Ontario.”

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The story begins: “I don’t remember too much from my paternal grandfather, Bill Dearing. He died before my first birthday,” Bud offers. “I remember my grandmother Mary Ellen (Ellie). She was a typical, wonderful grandmother.” Bud shares that Ice Lake has always been and continues to be a pivotal part of his life. The Dearing ancestors originally came from Ireland in the 1840s. Maternal grandparents were Bob and Evelyn Brown from Ice Lake. Evelyn was born in Stoney Creek. She was also a delightful, cheery grandparent, and a good cook.”

“I was born in Ice Lake on February 23, 1944 to Jim and Lizzie (nee Brown) Dearing. My brother called me his ‘buddy’ and eventually that was shortened to ‘Bud.’ I was always the ‘baby’ in the family, named after my grandfathers, Bill and Robert who just liked the names.” Bud had two brothers, Gary and Danny.

“I spent much of my life in Ice Lake, despite moving to Toronto with my parents at one year of age, so dad could join the army during World War II. He was part of the military police that served in England. Meanwhile, mother sold Avon and looked after her three sons in Toronto.” When dad got back from the war, he began his own taxi business located at Hwy 401 and Victoria Park Avenue.

“I remember swimming in the Don River and fishing in the Rouge River. I didn’t like school all that much and it wasn’t much of a surprise to my parents when I played hooky. I didn’t have a good reason to skip school and getting the strap didn’t seem to slow down the urge to break the rules.” When Bud had a spare quarter, he would head for the local theatre and watch the show for 15 cents. That left enough for the bus to get home. If he had spent his dime on popcorn and ice cream instead, he walked home with his two older brothers, Gary and Danny.

“By the time I celebrated my tenth birthday in 1954, we were back on the Island, living on the 6th Line, or Nelson Road today. In 1957 I was attending the Pleasant Valley Public School and it was my job to light the fire in the morning.” Bud jokingly adds that he was at the top of his grade, which consisted of four persons in this one-room school. “I played for the Ice Lake Muskrats and we won the championship once. We beat Meldrum Bay and Gore Bay.”

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Margaret was born on April 1, 1946 to Margaret and Clifford Sanders. She had four siblings, Clayton, Leona, Betty and Sharon. Leona and Betty live in Sudbury and both Clayton and Sharon have died. Clifford drove trucks for the City of Sudbury for 38 years while Margaret made dresses and took in boarders.

“I used to say that Col Sanders of Kentucky Chicken fame was our grandfather, and our claim to fame, but it wasn’t true,” Margaret claims, with a smile. “We lived in the west end where I went to Elm St. Public School and later Sheridan Technical High School.” Favourite subjects were English, music and typing.

Margaret, whom Bud charmingly refers to as ‘the boss,’ first came to visit the Island when she was seven-years-old. “Bud and I have known each other most of our lives. Bud’s uncle Clarence Brown boarded with our family and eventually he invited us to his home on Manitoulin.”

In the summer, the family would also visit their older son Clayton who worked in Thunder Bay. “One of my earliest memories is dad claiming we were going out west to see my brother who was 18 years older than me. I thought we were heading for the west coast.” On road trips, Clifford would “spoil” his children by buying them ice cream and pop, treats most often denied at home. “On holidays, the sky was the limit.”

During high school, Kresge’s employed the young teen on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays for 65 cents an hour. She enjoyed working with people in the Sudbury department store. High School saw Margaret join the Blue Saints Marching Band, where she was part of the ‘colour guard,’ entitled to hold the flag at the front of the procession. She joined the Glee Club, participated in the girls’ athletic association and played on the volleyball team.

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“I was fortunate that my aunt Sadie gave me her black 1950 Austin that boasted a nifty brown leather interior and a stick shift. The Austin became my perfect ride to school at 16, in Grade 10.” When she was feeling generous, Margaret would permit one of her sisters drive the car.

Bud left school and Ice Lake to join the Canadian army two days after his 17th birthday. “I spent three years in the army. The first six months from February 1961 to September that year, Bud delivered the Toronto Star to corner stores and newspaper boxes and until he could get into the army officially. “I always wanted to be a part of the Canadian military. My dad had been in the army, and although he never talked much about it, I wanted to follow in his footsteps.”

Basic training occurred north of London, Ontario at Camp Ipperwash. “In November of 1962 our regiment went to the Canadian base, Fort York outside of Soest, Germany. It was training for peace time.” One of the events Bud participated in was the Honour Guard at Vimy Ridge. “One hundred of us paraded beside the war monument that day, November 11, 1963. Standing before these magnificent structures and gazing at all the names on the plaques was very emotional.”

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Bud’s contingent also participated in the Niemagen Marche, which was held in Holland. Groups of 30 soldiers and civilians from all over the world strode 40 km a day for four days. These marches still go on today. “The Dutch loved the Canadians and we would occasionally be surprised with a bottle of beer or wine when we stopped for the day. One of my buddies from southern Ontario actually found his dad’s gravestone at the Canadian War Cemetery. That was a powerful moment for him and for me.”

“I attended the 50th reunion of the First Battalion of The Royal Canadian Regiment, one of about 100 people. I knew a few of the fellows.” Today, there is even a Facebook page, ‘Soest Army Brats’ dedicated to this group of soldiers.

When Bud returned from Germany, he began to work at INCO. Before long, wedding plans were made for Margaret and Bud. They had known each other for a long time and were ready to take the next step. They tied the knot before 150 guests on a hot sunny June 25, 1966 at the Berean Baptist Church, in the west end of Sudbury. “The preacher had not kept track of the time and was late for the ceremony. Bud’s grandmother was passing around her hanky to perspiring participants and the organist kept playing while waiting for the preacher.” There is a photo still enjoyed today of Margaret’s dad looking disdainfully at the tardy reverend.

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The nuptial dinner was held at St. Paul’s United Church on Regent St. and afterwards the bride’s parents invited all 150 guests to their home for finger foods. The honeymoon took the newlyweds to Sault Ste. Marie and Flint, Michigan. “We enjoyed just being together, eating out and shopping.”

Their apartment was on Larch St. so that Bud was close to his INCO job. “I earned $2.38 an hour as a miner and three weeks after the wedding, we were on strike,” Bud confirms. “Thankfully, that strike only lasted a few days. Three years later we were off five months. We had three kids by then and my strike pay was just $15 a week.”

Before the children, Margaret had been the manager at Paramount Discount, a financial institution that approved credit for individuals and organizations. “I found the work fulfilling.” Their first child, Robert, was born in May of 1967, just after the family had purchased a home in New Sudbury. Jane joined the family in May of 1969 and Bill was born in October of 1973. By then, Margaret had decided to stay home to raise her three children.

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During the long strike, Bud worked as a bricklayer with a company that was building an apartment complex. “I carried 10-inch blocks and pushed them up a ramp to the construction site to make extra money. My parents were farming and they kindly provided meat for our family. Our car rarely left the driveway, so we saved money on gas.” Margaret babysat for other families to augment the family income. Robert was in school and Jane was in Kindergarten. Just Bill was home all day.

In October of 1974, the couple decided to move close to the old Manitoulin homestead on Nelson Road. “We bought grandfather Robert Brown’s 200-acre farm in Ice Lake. This farm was just a mile and a half from the original homestead. Our house was a 1200 sq. ft. Halliday-type design, a bungalow with a finished basement that included a family room, three bedrooms and a big farm kitchen.”

Chester Wilson did the roofing and the siding. “Chester was one of the good ones. He was kind and possessed a great sense of humour. The children loved him and referred to him as Grandpa Chet. He liked to hide money in his chair and then announce to the kids that he ‘might have lost some coins in the chair.’ The kids loved to hunt for the hidden treasure.” Margaret adds. “Having healthy, happy kids and watching them grow, reaching milestones, was most enjoyable as a parent.”

After Jane started Grade 1 on the Island, Margaret got work as a health care aide at the Manitoulin Lodge in Gore Bay. Cambrian College sent out staff to train the aides on site. Later, Margaret became the activity coordinator for the Lodge. Bud continued to work on construction jobs.

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In 1984, the family took the kids to Wonderland in their Z-28 Chevrolet sports car. “The seating was a bit tight but Robert loved the car,” Margaret explains. “At Wonderland, I endured the death-defying ride on the triple loop but I passed out before we got back to home base. My son thought I had died. I was sick for three days. Prior to the ride, I had convinced myself that ‘I could do this,’ manage the terrible height and the speed, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.” Margaret was still sick when they had to squeeze into the car to return home.

The Royal Winter Fair turned out to be a more relaxing trip. “The kids loved seeing the animals, the cows, sheep, goats and much more. It is such a big successful fair, even then. We stayed downtown in the Chelsea Inn and had a great time.” The family had a bigger car and nausea was not part of the action.

In 1985, the Dearing family moved to Beamsville in southern Ontario to be near the kids attending high school at Great Lakes Christian College. They bought an older, traditional home on the ‘mountain,’ as the higher part of the Niagara Escarpment is referred to in that area.

Margaret got a job at Bethesda. This company provided support to developmental and handicapped individuals in the Niagara area. “I recall taking Bethesda clients to the top of the CN tower. Since I don’t like heights, the glass floor at the top was challenging. I was proud that I got through it without passing out.” Margaret did fundraising for the group and earned an exciting trip. “I saw Fiddler on the Roof, live, in New York where it has been playing for 60 years.”

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Bud spent the next two decades working for Maple Lodge Farms, managing their chicken production. In 2014, the couple returned to Manitoulin and purchased their present home. “We love living here. We are the third owner of this perfect home in an idyllic location. Margaret Wilson, who referred us to you (this writer), was our neighbour in Ice Lake,” Bud adds. “Today, brother Gary lives on Ice Lake. Brother Danny lived on Union Road before his death four years ago.”

Associations the couple have been members of include The Niagara Victims Services and the Policing Committee. Bud helped to set up roadside displays for drivers that showed them the speed they were going with the hope that people would slow down in school zones. Money was raised for helmets for kids on bikes. Food drives were also held for the community.

Margaret has always been very hospitable, a people person. “I love having company. I love to cook and bake bread too.” She makes it from scratch and she doesn’t buy bread. In December, she makes festive pudding and the family’s 50-year-old recipe for dark Christmas cake, loaded with fruit.

Bud is certainly a ‘jack of all trades.’ “I have just enough Scot in me to succeed at most tasks,” he claims. “Yesterday, I helped make three batches of crab-apple jelly.” Margaret adds, “he also knows how to clean and vacuum. Last year when I had knee surgery, he looked after me perfectly, here at home.”

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“If we have the chance, we would like to go back to Ireland. We were there 10 years ago for two weeks. It was so charming. The countryside was marvelous, and so green. There must have been at least 50 shades of green,” she includes, smiling. “The people were abundantly friendly and they seemed to like Canadian tourists. They would take us to a location rather than trying to explain how to get there. We stayed at Bed and Breakfasts, stopping at four each afternoon. We were just lucky to find good places. A rented car got us through Northern Ireland. It was fun driving on the wrong side of the car in the wrong lane, but we got used to it and even managed the familiar roundabouts that confused many of its entrants.”

“We go to the Church of Christ in Ice Lake. My faith has always been important to me,” Margaret shares. “We will stay here permanently now. No more moving. There are lots of friends in this area and our family visits often. We love all the seasons; each is special in its own way. Bud loves his baseball and hockey.” Speaking of hockey, Bud adds, “Two years ago at the fish fry in Silver Water, I heard ‘Hey Muskrat’ called out by Randy Noble. I hadn’t heard that since our high school years. I was thrilled that he remembered.”

“Things have changed on the Island. Forty years ago, everybody had their name on a mailbox on the road and we all knew each other. Today there is more anonymity and people aren’t always familiar with their neighbours. We are lucky because we know all ours. There is not a lot of traffic here. In the winter, a typical day would see three cars go by. There are more in the summer but the trees block the road from view.”

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“This last June was our 50th wedding anniversary. We love to celebrate holidays with the family, our three children and eight grandchildren aged nine to 18 years. I have no regrets apart from having wanting to be an RN, but I am fine with that now. Happiness feeds from contentment. I can knit or read and be happy just to be here. The chickadees land on my shoulder and eat from my hand. Other birds come to the feeder and the deer come for their rations as well. I now realize what is really important in life. Life is glorious.”

“In Beamsville, if you said hello to a stranger they would think you are a nut. Manitoulin offers a different way of life. People wave to each other driving and walking, waiting for folks to reach them. They would even cross the street to talk to an acquaintance. In the winter, if you hear a tractor at two in the morning, you know someone is in the ditch. They would leave their car and the keys in it and head home on the tractor. That’s the way life is here. It’s quiet and laid back, peaceful and serene. Nobody’s in a hurry. That’s what makes this island so special for both of us.”