Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Family Members We Lost in 2014

As 2014 winds down to a close, I thought it worthwhile to reflect back on those connected to my family that we lost this year.

They are people who we were part of our family circle and who made a difference in our lives, however large or small. They are relatives that we won't forget, who will live on in our memories, and who will be in our thoughts as the New Year unfolds.

Gregory Phillip Francis Donovan

'Greg' was my son-in-law Phil's father. Born in Montreal, Quebec, Greg was die-hard Toronto Maple leafs fan. Perhaps unusual given the long rivalry between Toronto and Montreal, but true. His quiet demeanour could quickly be enlivened when a conversation turned to hockey. His love of his family, especially his two sons, Phil and Jason, as well as his grandchildren was always evident. Greg passed way on November 21, 2014 in Oshawa, Ontario.

Susan Ann (Kamula) Benedetto

Susan was my sister-in-law; the wife of my late wife's brother Anthony. Susan was a scientist who taught for many years in high schools in Cambridge and Kitchener, Ontario. She was also a devoted mother to her son Nicholas and daughter Catherine. Sadly, she was stricken by a still unidentified illness that rendered her immobile and hospitalized. She passed away on May 16, 2014 while enjoying a family weekend away at a cottage in Muskoka, Ontario.

Howard Works

Howard was the father of our son Chris' partner Matt. Born in England, Howard never lost his love for '60's music and the original vinyl recordings that he played non-stop. A true family man, Howard loved having family and friends with him at his Haliburton lakeside retreat. A skilled butcher, he passed away suddenly while at work on October 20, 2014.

John Gerald Foley

John, or 'Johnny' as he was known, was my first cousin, once removed. He was the son of Gerald Foley (born Lewis Fitzgerald Foley), after whom both John and I received our middle names. Johnny was a fun loving family man who passed away on December 1, 2014.

William David Armstrong

David was my wife Ellen's step-cousin. David lived, as he wanted, a full and independent life until the frailties of age took him from us on September 15, 2014 in the former city of North York (Toronto), Ontario.

This list would not be complete without finally mentioning ...

Ivy 'Hadden'

Ivy was our daughter Jenna's best friend and constant companion. Ivy was Jenna's birthday present in 2003. For more than eleven years, Ivy shared both happy and sad times with Jenna, providing the unconditional love that dog owners know so well. After enjoying a weekend of camping and running in the surf of Lake Erie, quite suddenly Ivy became very sick, passing away peacefully on August 28, 2014 in Guelph, Ontario, with Jenna by her side. 

I truly hope that I haven't inadvertently forgotten anybody and I hope even more that I don't have a list to share at the end of 2015.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas And Happy New Year From Our Family To Yours!

Ellen and I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!

Recently, Ellen's family gathered at a 'secret' Orangeville, Ontario location to celebrate Christmas. Just before a wonderful dinner was served, we heard the familiar sound of jingle bells from the back deck of the house. We received a surprise visit for Santa Claus himself, to the delight of young and old. Fortunately, the location was far enough north that there was sufficient snow on the ground and rooftop to allow Santa's reindeer to make a perfect landing on the roof.

Even 'Chef', our nephew Andrew's newest family addition was joyous and excited to meet Santa.

After each of the children had a turn to sit on Santa's lap and speak with him, Santa invited them to reach into a small red bag that he carried. Inside the bag were candy canes and as one of the kids found out, a photo envelope that Santa quickly tucked away back into the bag. With the kids quizzically looking at Santa, he relented and admitted that he always traveled with a photo of his 'Sweetie.' 

Santa slowly pulled the envelope out of the tiny sack and allowed the oldest of Carl and Tess Wagner's great grandchildren present to open the envelope. Seven-year old Eva stared in amazement at the photo of Mrs. Claus and quickly explained to her young cousins that she knew it was Mrs. Claus because she had seen the same picture when her Grammie had 'googled' Mrs. Claus a few days earlier. Santa graciously allowed Eva to keep the photo which Eva showed willingly to all present but never let out of her possession.

We hope that your Christmas is filled with the magic, wonder, family and joy that we have shared!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Zion Evangelical Church Follow-up And Church Records I Didn't Expect To Find

In my last post, I recounted my wife Ellen's family connection to Zion Evangelical Church, now Zion United Church, located in Kitchener, Ontario. Ellen's paternal great grandfather, Rev. Louis Henry Wagner, and paternal great-great grandfather, Rev. Jacob Wagner, were both pastors of the church.

At the time of our visit to the church in late October, the church was closed and we learned that the church building had been sold to a Kitchener developer, the sale to be finalized in June 2015. One month later, we returned to Kitchener and visiting the church was on our priority list of things to do. Really, what we wanted was just a chance to take a photo of the church sanctuary and pulpit used by Ellen's great grandfather. We were seeking a family keepsake; what we got was so much more!

Ellen (Wagner) Hadden standing in front of the sanctuary and pulpit where her great grandfather, Rev. Louis Henry Wagner, held Sunday services and preached at Zion Evangelical Church (now Zion United Church) in Kitchener, Ontario

We were greeted by the current church Pastor, secretary, and treasurer. After a warm welcome, we explained our interest in their church and they immediately pointed us to a collage they maintain of all the pastors in the church's more than 170-year history. The collage (seen below) is located in a display case and includes photos of both of Ellen's ancestors.

Collage of Ministers who have served Zion Evangelical/United Church in Kitchener, Ontario. Rev. Jacob Wagner is top row, fourth from the left, and Rev. Louis Wagner third row, fourth from the left (my apologies for the glare from a fluorescent ceiling fixture that partly obscures the top row of photos).

Unexpectedly, we were provided by the church treasurer with a private tour of every part of the church building, including an accounting of some of the church's history.

As an added bonus, when our tour was wrapping up, we were shown a display of some church artifacts that had been found as the church begins it's decommissioning. The church will be sending it's records and artifacts to the United Church of Canada Archives and so what we were shown were some of the duplicate copies of church records from 1914-1915. 

Copies of the church's annual reports listed all members of the congregation and the amounts of their financial contributions to the church and it's missionary endeavours. The church congregation list, complete with the addresses of all the church's members. Special church service programs such as that used in September 1954 to mark the centennial of Kitchener, complete with a church history and photos compiled by Ellen's first cousin, three times removed Albert Liborius Breithaupt.

The cover of the Zion Evangelical Church service program celebrating 
the Centennial of the City of Kitchener in 1954

When we think of church records there is a tendency to restrict ourselves to baptisms, marriages, and funerals or burials. The records I saw, a couple of which I now possess, thanks to the good folks at Zion United Church, show the opportunity to have a different view into the church life experienced by our ancestors. What great finds!

Sadly, the final church service at Zion United Church will take place on June 7, 2015. We intend to be there.