We Have Lost A Legend 

It is hard to find the words that might adequately describe the deep sense of loss and utter sadness that Ellen and I feel today.

We learned early this morning that our dear friend and Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame member Johnny Burke passed away.


Johnny Burke performing at The Loft in Newcastle, Ontario

I first met Johnny at a surprise birthday party for my wife Ellen. I am the self-described poster boy for introverts. Ellen is almost the polar opposite. I found myself in a house filled with people who by and large I did not know so I found a comfortable spot on a piano bench from which I could quietly survey the partying. Before long I was joined by a man who like me found himself in a room full of strangers. We introduced ourselves over a handshake. “Hi, I’m Johnny.” Simple, quiet and easy. We watched the party play out before us. I think we exchanged some small talk but not a lot. As it turned out there would be lots of conversations with Johnny over the many following years.

HADDEN Ian with Ellen Johnny and Teresa Burke April 2000

Ellen (far left) at her birthday party with Teresa and Johnny Burke along with yours truly

Over the years Ellen and I have enjoyed the company of Johnny and his wife Teresa through many special occasions, especially Johnny’s many concerts. We would visit Johnny and Teresa at their home in Newcastle, Ontario where Johnny had built a home ‘concert hall’ called The Loft. There Johnny would perform sometimes in a solo concert but usually with a notable friend from the country music scene. It was there that we met and spent time with notables George Hamilton IV from the Grand Ole Opry and Larry Mercey, a Canadian Country Music Hall of Famer as a member of the Mercey Brothers group. We spent one particularly memorable weekend at their home in Haliburton, Ontario where we enjoyed meals and a concert by Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame members the Good Brothers (Bruce, Brian and Larry). There wasn’t anyone in country music that didn’t know and admire Johnny Burke. He played with them all in a career dating back to about 1960 when he left his native New Brunswick and headed off to Nashville.

Through the late 1960s and early 1970s, Johnny lead the Caribou Showband and hosted the television series At The Caribou. Johnny and his band evolved into the still ever popular Johnny Burke and Eastwind. In 1977, they recorded Wild Honey, Johnny’s signature song which became a gold record and one of the most played country records in Canada through the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Well deserved recognition soon followed for Johnny and in 2005 he was inducted into the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame. Ellen and I decided early on that we needed to be there to bear witness to our friend being inducted into a Hall of Fame so, we made the drive to Moncton where I was honoured to be part of the ceremony by presenting a tribute to Johnny on behalf of the Province of Ontario signed by then-Premier Dalton McGuinty. Johnny of course made the most of the trip by performing at some of the towns around Moncton and as I was there, he put me to work as a roadie. When we last saw Johnny and Teresa, just a short while ago, we were still chuckling about that ‘tour.’

HADDEN Ian as Johnny Burke NB hall of fame roadie 2005

Yours Truly, the roadie

In 2010, just days after Ellen and I attended a special concert marking Johnny’s 50th anniversary in country music, when I ended up in the hospital paralyzed by GBS, Johnny and Teresa were at my bedside to ensure I was okay and lend support to Ellen. When Johnny informed us in 2012 that he had received the call informing him that he was to be inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Ellen and I again quickly decided that we needed to be there to witness that special honour as well.

Where Johnny was able to facilitate our attendance at his induction in New Brunswick fairly easily (I think), getting into the Canadian Hall of Fame induction ceremony was much more challenging. It is not a public event, rather it is closed to country music industry members only. It is a really big show. Somehow I was able to convince the Canadian Country Music Association that in addition to being a good friend of Johnny’s, I was a music consultant. My rationale was simple: Johnny and I had discussed his music, his songs. Therefore, he had consulted with me. It worked and so we made the drive to Saskatoon to join Johnny and become members of his posse.


Johnny Burke (centre wearing the brown hat) with his posse at his Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame induction, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, September 2012



Ellen Hadden with Johnny Burke, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 2012

IMG_0208 - Copy

Johnny Burke with fellow Canadian Country Music Hall of Famer Michelle Wright, induction ceremony reception, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 2012

BOURQUE Johnny and Teresa at Hall of Hame Induction Saskatoon SK Sept 2012

Johnny Burke with his wife Teresa, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 2012

Johnny experienced serious health problems over the last number of months of his life but he remained as popular as ever to his fans and admirers. Even when he was showing signs of serious illness, Johnny somehow was able to muster the strength and expend the stamina, beaming his trademark smile, to put on a show for hundreds who would come to hear him perform.

I will miss his phone calls early on each of my birthdays. I will miss that wry smile and wink he so freely shared. I will miss his attempts to teach me how to play the bass guitar (not as much as he won’t miss my frustration at not getting it!). But most of all, I will miss a very good friend and the world will miss a LEGEND!

Rest In Peace, Johnny.


Johnny Burke, Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, inductee, 2012




The 2017 Merner Family Reunion

Not only are we celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation this year, but the descendants of Jacob Emanuel Merner and his wife Susanna Schluchter are holding the 65th annual Merner Family Reunion.

19592-muernerjacobe                         ee9c0-mernermuenersusannaschluchter

Jacob and Susanna are my wife Ellen’s 3X great grandparents. We have attended the reunion and it is great fun especially meeting so many of Ellen’s cousins that we had not had a chance to meet before.

This year’s reunion event is being held on Saturday, July 8th, and like last year, the reunion will be held at Larry and Louise Merner’s farm in Zurich, Ontario. The festivities begin with registration at 2:00 p.m. followed by games, activities, swimming and a potluck dinner.

All those wishing to attend are asked to bring your own lawn chairs, potluck dishes and refreshments (drinks). Celebratory cake and ice cream is being provided. Free cake and ice cream is hard to turn down!

Finding Father Boland

Father Frank Boland. Legend or myth?

Growing up, my mother frequently implored me to follow the wisdom of Frank Boland and his tips on effective academic study habits. I, of course, did my part and nodded unconvincingly and ignored the said study habits.

But I always wondered about this Frank Boland person whose wisdom was being force fed to me. Somehow he was connected to my family, specifically my mother’s O’Neill-Foley relations. To my recollection, his connection was not explained to me and the few older relatives that I have spoken to about him were unable to provide details on my relationship to him.

It took some sleuthing but finally I have come to know my first cousin, twice removed Father Francis John ‘Frank’ Boland, CSB, Ph.D.


Fr. Frank Boland – 1938 University of Toronto (St. Michael’s College) graduation photo

Francis John Boland was born 30 June 1916, the second son of John Boland and Alice Caroline Fitzgerald. The couple’s first son, whom they named John Lewis Boland, had been stillborn four years earlier. No doubt, the birth a healthy baby was a delight for John and Alice. They had married when both were in their mid-30s and finally with both of them in their early-40s, they were a family.

John Boland, a printer, had been born in Ireland and immigrated with his parents when he was in his early teens. Alice however had been born into an Irish Catholic family in Toronto, the youngest of nine children born to Lewis Fitzgerald and his wife Ellen Daley. One of Alice’s older sisters was Mary Jane Fitzgerald who had married John Foley and was the mother of my maternal grandmother Gertrude Ellen Foley. Finally, the family connection was making some sense. Even though my maternal grandmother was about eighteen years older than him, Frank Boland was her first cousin.

But why I wondered was Frank Boland presented to me as some sort of ‘study guru’?

While my mother knew that I seemed to have an easy aptitude for math and sciences, I really loved history. Although she never said so, she called on the name of Father Boland, our cousin, because he was an historian.

Frank Boland graduated from St. Michael’s College School (a Toronto high school under the direction of the Basilian order) and then in 1938 from St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. Following university graduation, Frank entered St. Basil’s Seminary for theological studies and was ordained to the priesthood on 15 August 1942 as a Basilian.

In 1941, Frank received a specialist’s certificate in history from the Ontario College of Education. He was subsequently assigned to teach high school history in Houston, Texas, Calgary, Alberta and at his high school alma mater St. Mike’s in Toronto. In 1948, Frank received his Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Detroit before heading back home to St. Mike’s high school where the 1949 yearbook records that he was Head of the History department.

Eventually, Frank Boland presented a dissertation on the ‘Early Basilian Fathers in America 1850-1860’ and was granted a doctorate in history from the University of Ottawa. Frank then joined the faculty of Assumption University in Windsor, Ontario where he founded the renowned Seminar on Canadian American Relations in 1959. Father Frank Boland held the rank of professor from 1967, just around the time my mother began urging that I follow his study tips.

In 1969, Father Boland was on sabbatical, working on his next project, a monograph of former Governor-General for Canada, Lord Stanley, and conducting research in The Netherlands. On 6 April 1969, Father Frank Boland suffered a stroke and died in Utrecht, The Netherlands at the young age of 52. His body was returned to Windsor, Ontario where a funeral mass was held on the 12th of April at Assumption Roman Catholic Church followed by internment in Assumption Cemetery.

Following his death, the December 1969 edition of the Canadian Historical Review published an obituary about Father Boland that stated “Though his contributions were many and on several levels, he always remained what he fundamentally was, an excellent teacher” who “… had a talent for making history live.”

I can only hope that I got some of those family genes.

Lest We Forget – The Hadden-Wagner Families Wall of Heroes

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we pause to reflect and remember those who went before us, bravely sacrificing their youth and in too many cases their lives, for our freedom.

The following is the list of those known brave ancestors, some from my family and some from Ellen’s, who gave so much. Each year this list is updated to include family members whom we have come to learn have served our country through their military service and sacrifice.

Today especially, we remember them. They shall not be forgotten.

World War I

GAMMIE, James (1895-1918), Private, Canadian Expeditionary Force, killed in action

GAMMIE, Peter (1893-1984), Private, Canadian Expeditionary Force (enlisted, not sent overseas)

GORDON, Alexander Garrow Duncan (1891-1917), Private, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, killed in action

MERNER, Albert Edward ‘Herbert’ (1897-1917), Canadian Expeditionary Force, killed in action

TRIGGS, James Little (1899-1916), Cabin Boy, Royal Navy, killed in action

TRIGGS, Phillip (1899-1967), Cabin Boy, Royal Navy

FINDLATER, William (1880-1918), British Army, died at home from wounds

FILKIN, Carl William (1897-1976), Canadian Expeditionary Force, lost left arm to shrapnel gun shot wound in France

SHAUGHNESSY, William D’Arcy, Sr. (1883-1953), Canadian Expeditionary Force, 123rd Battalion, Royal Grenadiers

World War II

SENATO, Nicola F. (1913-1945), U.S. Army, killed in action, Japan

NUSBICKEL, Thomas Raymond (1923-2002), U.S. Army

GAULL, George Leonard ‘Lenny’ (1920-2013), Canadian Armed Forces

MORGAN, Bruce Evan, M.D. (1924-2007), Navigator, Canadian Air Force

SHAUGHNESSY Wm Darcy war grave from mapleleaflegacyproject

SHAUGHNESSY, William D’Arcy, Jr. (1924-1945) Canadian Armed Forces, 6th Armoured Regiment, killed in action, The Netherlands

WAGNER, Carl Francis (1917-1993), Canadian Armed Forces

WAGNER, Gordon Gilbert Henry (1914-1994), Canadian Armed Forces

My Foley Cousin – A War Hero! (Part 2)

William D’Arcy Shaughnessy, Junior spent the first six months of his military career being trained, first at a base in Brampton, Ontario and then at the University of Toronto. The army let him spend Christmas 1943 at home on a week long furlough.

In January 1944, his military career accelerated a bit when he was sent to Camp Borden, near his father’s birthplace of Barrie, Ontario. At Camp Borden, D’Arcy was trained as a gunner operator. On 14 Jun 1944, D’Arcy’s were tested by Army Captain Bashaw, Captain Scott and Lieut. Davies. He passed, preparing him for the next leg of his adventure – joining the fight in Europe.

D’Arcy’s military service records tell us that he left Canada and arrived in the United Kingdom (presumably England) on 27 Jun 1944. There, he underwent further training and by mid-October 1944, he had completed his re-qualification as a Gunner Operator C meaning he was qualified as a tank operator. The winter of 1944-1945 was spent with various armoured units depending on where he needed most. Christmas 1944 was D’Arcy’s first away from his family.

In March 1945, D’Arcy was assigned to the 6th Canadian Armoured Regiment and was with his unit as they began liberating Holland, part of the Allied Forces march to Berlin. D’Arcy’s war however was cut short. He would never see the end of the war. On April 14, 1945, just five weeks before Victory in Europe, D’Arcy’s tank was hit. D’Arcy was killed.

The Army routine of filling out forms immediately kicked into action. D’Arcy’s military file is filled with all and sundry of forms that were completed documenting his service and death in the military. There is the inventory of his personal effects: six pairs of socks, two packets of playing cards, a plastic crucifix, a postcard of Holland – I wonder if that was to be a souvenir or something he was going to use to write home.

The Army also began the gruesome steps involved in family notification.


It is hard to imagine the shock, pain, and grief that the Shaughnessy family would have experienced on the day the telegram arrived at their door. It is easier to understand why families dreaded the appearance of a telegram delivery person during those war years.

What is known is that William and Margaret placed a short obituary or death notice in the Toronto Star newspaper on 23 April 1945. As instructed, they did not include their son’s date of death nor the name of his unit, rather the notice simply stated that D’Arcy was the “beloved elder son of Mr. and Mrs. D’Arcy Shaughnessy, dear brother of Catherine and Louis.” A requiem mass was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday 24 April 1945 at St. Edward’s Roman Catholic Church.

The appearance of William D’Arcy Shaughnessy’s name on his parent’s gravestone is a memorial tribute. As was the case in the First World War, the bodies of fallen soldiers were typically not repatriated but interred in the area in which they had been killed. Such was the case for young D’Arcy. One month after the war’s end, on 23 Jun 1945, the Shaughnessy family was informed that D’Arcy “was buried with religious rites” in a temporary military cemetery near Deventer, Holland, his grave temporarily marked with a wooden cross.

Just as the Army had explained would happen to the family, D’Arcy’s remains were subsequently exhumed and he was re-buried at the Holten Canadian War Cemetery near Overijssel, Holland. Now a proper gravestone marks the place where D’Arcy rests in peace.

SHAUGHNESSY Wm Darcy war grave from mapleleaflegacyproject

Gravestone of Trooper William D’Arcy Shaughnessy, Junior, Holten Canadian War Cemetery, Overijssel, The Netherlands (Photo courtesy Maple Leaf Legacy Project – http://www.mapleleaflegacy.ca)

The Canadian Government maintains Books of Remembrance in the Peace Tower, the central architectural structure of the Canadian Parliament buildings in Ottawa, Canada. Each day a page of the book is turned so if you are in Ottawa on November 25th this year, page 563 of the Second World War Book of Remembrance will display the name of Trooper William D’Arcy Shaughnessy, a true Canadian hero!

SHAUGHNESSY Wm DArcy war dead commeroration book Parliament Hill Peace Tower p263

Second World War Book of Remembrance, Parliament Buildings, Ottawa, Ontario

(photo courtesy Veterans Affairs Canada –  http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/books)


My Foley Cousin – A War Hero! (Part 1)

As I grew up, my mother would regale me with stories about her Irish roots, family members and ancestors. There were of course the O’Neill’s and Foley’s, the Fitzgerald’s and Boland’s. But never was there a mention that I can recall of the name Shaughnessy.

You can imagine my surprise then when, as a result of researching the siblings of my great grandfather John Foley, that I discovered John Foley’s younger sister Catherine Foley had married a man named William Shaughnessy and that William and Catherine had a son whom they named William D’Arcy Shaughnessy, my first cousin twice removed.

I was even more surprised when I learned through my research that William D’Arcy Shaughnessy had married Margaret Beatrice O’Leary and that both of them were buried in an out-of-place little cemetery only about a mile and half from my home.

St. Francis de Sales Cemetery is located on Notion Road in Pickering, Ontario, at the intersection of two streets that terminate at the cemetery. It is in what is now a primarily industrial, almost forgotten part of the city. The cemetery appears to have been established as part of St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic Church (now a municipal community centre) which is located across Duffins Creek, just a few hundred yards away.

I don’t know if William D’Arcy Shaughnessy was aware that his grandfather William Foley had been a founding member of St. Francis Church when the Foley family farmed in the area of what is now Ajax, Ontario. So I also don’t know why they chose to be interred at St. Francis; maybe William did know the connection or maybe it was because Margaret was born in Pickering, Ontario and the little cemetery represented for her the only Catholic cemetery in her hometown.

Several days ago, I paid a visit to the cemetery and found their grave marked by a very nice monument.

SHAUGHNESSY William DArcy Catherine and son gravestone St Francis Cemetery Ajax

Gravestone of William D’Arcy Shaughnessy, Senior and his wife Margaret Beatrice (O’Leary) Shaughnessy, St. Francis de Sales Cemetery, Pickering, Ontario (Photo by Ian Hadden, 2016)

Immediately on seeing the gravestone, I noted the name of their son “Tpr. [Trooper] D’Arcy” listed on the stone as being killed in Holland on 13 April 1945. That suggested only one thing to me, Trooper D’Arcy Shaughnessy, my second cousin once removed, died a war hero in World War 2. I was a bit incredulous as I had certainly never heard any stories about any family members having fought and given their lives in either of the 20th century World Wars.

The records uncovered to date however tell the heartbreaking story of this Shaughnessy family.

William D’Arcy Shaughnessy was born on 21 Dec 1883 in Barrie, Ontario, the son of William Shaughnessy and Catherine ‘Kate’ Foley. As you can see, the current Royal Family is not the first to lay claim to having a William and Kate and my family’s William and Kate added a bit to talk about given that they had been married only a month before the birth of their son.

Margaret Beatrice O’Leary on the other hand was born a little over four months prior to her future husband on 15 Aug 1883 in Pickering, Ontario, the daughter of Louis O’Leary and Catherine Cassidy.

The Shaughnessy family moved to Toronto by 1887 and William began working as a teamster, likely with or at least in association with his brother-in-law John Foley. While it is not yet known how William and Margaret met, it is known that William enlisted for service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force going to battle in World War I. At the time of his enlistment in 1915, William listed his occupation as bookkeeper. William and Margaret were married in Toronto, Ontario on 12 Oct 1921.

Two and one half years later, on 13 May 1924, William and Margaret welcomed their first child, a son, into their family. This son was named William D’Arcy Shaughnessy, Junior after his father.

In the 1940s, the Shaughnessy family could be found living at 9 Bales Avenue in Lansing, Ontario, a small community in the vicinity of Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue for those familiar with the city of Toronto (Lansing was eventually assumed by Willowdale, then North York, and finally as it is currently, the city of Toronto).

It was from this address that 19-year old D’Arcy headed out and enlisted in the Canadian Army. He had completed high school and had plans to go to university but those plans would have to wait until after he had served King and country. D’Arcy’s military service file records that he was five feet, seven inches tall and was a Roman Catholic office clerk who, as fate would have it, held two life insurance policies for a total amount of $3,000.

The 2016 Merner Family Reunion

All descendants of Jacob Emanuel Merner and his wife Susannah Schluchter are invited to the 64th annual family reunion being held on Saturday, July 9th. The reunion is being held at Merhaven Farms, home of cousins Larry and Louise Merner, located at 38315 Rodgerville Road in Zurich, Ontario.

The festivities begin at 1:30 p.m. and will include games for the kids (young cousins) and this year promises to include some special surprise activities for all.

Jacob and Susannah Merner were natives of Switzerland who immigrated to Upper Canada (now Ontario) in the early 1800’s with 10 of their 12 known children. The family settled in New Hamburg, Ontario and from there the family has spread, primarily west throughout all of southwestern Ontario and throughout the U.S. mid-west, especially Illinois and Iowa.

Jacob and Susannah Merner are Ellen’s 3X great grandparents so Ellen and I have attended the reunion in past and I can guarantee that you will have a great time hanging out with the Merner clan. Meeting and connecting with cousins is always a good time.

This year’s reunion will feature a good, old fashioned pot-luck dinner so bring your favourite food, some lawn chairs and personal beverages. It’s time to re-connect with cousins and have a lot of fun.