My last blog post concluded with a reference to the Canada versus USA gold medal hockey game at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. I cannot deny that as a Canadian ‘kid’ who breathed ‘hockey, hockey, hockey’ growing up, I was cheering on the home side to their dramatic overtime win – a win that resulted in a explosion of patriotic joy across the country. But I also have an American connection that lies just below the surface as my mother was born in Detroit, Michigan.
Like many family events, my maternal grandparents, J. Graham and Gertrude (Foley) O’Neill moved to Detroit in 1929 as there was a job waiting for Graham at the Kelvin Cooling Company, manufacturers of the Kelvinator refrigerator. The Great Depression was gripping their world and work was not something you turned down. The 1930 US Census records show the family on April 3rd, 1930 living in a home at 5205 Linsdale Street in Detroit. In addition to Graham and Gertrude was their son, Edwin, who was born in Toronto, Ontario, the year before the family move.
In October 1930, a daughter, Anne Margaret O’Neill, my mother, joined the family. Another son, William Emmett would join them in 1935. Life for my mother and her parental family in Detroit ended however in 1937 when Graham’s mother, Margaret (Graham) O’Neill passed away in Toronto, Ontario. Graham, as his parent’s only son, returned to Toronto immediately to take care of the arrangements for his mother’s funeral and estate. Graham inherited the family home at 189 Pickering Street and moved his family from Detroit to their ‘new’ home in Toronto’s east end.
With the strong Irish Catholic influences of a Foley maternal line and O’Neill paternal line, my mother attended the local Catholic elementary school and eventually, the neighbouring all-girls Notre Dame Catholic High School. Following high school graduation, Anne enrolled in the nursing program at St. Michael’s Hospital in downtown Toronto, graduating as a registered nurse in 1952. The following year, Anne married my father, Lewis, who was one of the neighbourhood boys before they started dating when they were 16 years old.
Following the births of her children, Anne returned to the practise of nursing at St. Michael’s Hospital. Later, she would ‘transfer’ to a hospital closer to home where she would conclude her professional career as a nursing manager. As kids, my brother, sister, and I would marvel at our mother’s ability and expertise in treating and caring for others, especially when our injuries were typically somehow minimized and treated with the ‘magic’ tensor bandage (later in life, I discovered I had broken bones that had been treated with the ‘magic’ tensor bandage – though apparently, not that successfully).
Anne doted on her eight grandchildren and believed, I think firmly, that it was her “God given right” to spoil them any way she saw fit. Eventually, Anne became a Canadian citizen though she never felt there was a need for such a process in her case. Although diagnosed with cancer around 1984 and undergoing chemotherapy, she still enjoyed life through travel and shopping – lots of shopping. Her battle with cancer concluded in January 1994, leaving us with many memories of her eventual love of hockey, especially her beloved Toronto Maple Leafs whose games she watched in the comfort of her ‘nest’ as her TV room was appropriately dubbed.