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.

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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.

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The Last Christmas Card From J. Graham O’Neill

We all have memories and stories to share about our family members and ancestors.

Some of these, over time, get embellished and grow to mythical proportion.

For me, however, I didn’t really need embellishment nor mythology to view my grandfather John Graham O’Neill as legend.

My grandfather was known throughout his life as Graham. As a child, I knew the initial of his first name was ‘J.’ It was ever present as he signed things off ‘J. Graham O’Neill.’

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John Graham O’Neill a.k.a. J. Graham O’Neill

I wondered how awful a name that ‘J’ must have stood for that he would consider ‘Graham’ the better choice to be known by.

I called him ‘Granddad.’ He was my mother’s father and in my earliest years, he and my grandmother, his wife Gertrude Ellen Foley, lived just two doors away from my family home.

Granddad was born June 26, 1895 in Toronto, Ontario. He married my grandmother ‘Nanna’ in 1926. Together, they would have five children, four boys and one girl. The eldest and youngest sons, John William and Michael did not survive infancy, dying from hydrocephalus, the same condition that took the lives of my brothers a generation later. The only girl in the family was my mother.

I did a lot with Granddad. He and I shared a love of sports. So we frequently attended Toronto Maple Leaf baseball games (a ‘AAA’ International League team that operated prior to a major league franchised starting play in Toronto). I watched Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night in Granddad’s living room because my parents were not hockey fans so not interested in having the game on the television at our house. He would shout the scores of day games in progress as I played road hockey in front of his house with my friends.

Most of the time, I just listened to Granddad and the stories he told. He was a master storyteller, though sometimes he was dismissed as having too active an imagination. My subsequent research has provided evidence that everything he told me was true.

On December 3, 1979, my late wife Karen and I found out that we were going to be parents for the first time. Our excitement at the prospect of having a baby was palpable. When should we tell our families? How should we tell them? And, what names for the baby should we be considering?

I wanted to call Granddad and let him know that he was going to be a great grandfather. I had heard the names of my great grandfathers but they had all died many years before I was born. But my child was going to know his great grandfather.

Then, on December 10th, 1979, just a week later and 36 years ago today, I got a call from my mother. Granddad had died that morning. He died suddenly. The people my grandfather lived with heard his alarm clock come on, they heard the alarm clock being turned off, and then … silence.

I’m not ashamed to recount that I shed many tears that cold December day.

In the days that followed, we gathered for Granddad’s funeral; we laughed at how somehow appropriate it was that the hearse bearing his body got lost and left the funeral procession enroute from the church to the cemetery. Another great story he would love to tell.

HADDEN Ian last Christmas card from grandfath J Graham O'Neill

When I returned home from the funeral and checked the mail, there was his last message to me. “Best wishes for a Joyous Christmas and a wonderful New Year.”

Granddad’s Christmas card had arrived (a card I have kept safely stored ever since it’s arrival).

The following summer, Karen and I welcomed our son into our family, the great grandson that Granddad would never meet. His great grandson John Graham Hadden.

 

Sentimental Saturday – My Sister’s Christening

I am posting photos each week from my collection and offering an explanation of what I know about the picture.

Well, my sister is having a birthday in the upcoming week so I thought I would share a photo from a (much) earlier time in her life.

Yours Truly with my parents Anne (O'Neill) and Lewis Hadden and my sister Lou-Anne on the day of Lou-Anne's christening

Yours Truly with my parents Anne (O’Neill) and Lewis Hadden and my sister Lou-Anne on the day of Lou-Anne’s christening

This photo is from the day of my sister Lou-Anne’s christening but I don’t know if it was taken before or after the trip to the church. The gown she was wearing gives away the occasion and it was the christening gown we all wore.

In the photo, Yours Truly is seated, and smiling, beside my parents Anne (O’Neill) and Lewis Hadden. My mother is holding my sister Lou-Anne, who doesn’t seem to be having a good time. The photo was taken by an unknown person in the living room of our family home at 189 Pickering Street in Toronto, Ontario.

It was a happy occasion for my parents who had experienced the death of a son, my brother Brian, the year before Lou-Anne was born. My brother Stephen died when Lou-Anne was just three months old and he is not in the family photo. I suspect that Stephen may have been too ill to be included. Based on those observations, I think this photo was taken in late November or early December 1958.

In the large mirror behind us, on the right, you can see image of a guest smiling. The person’s face is partially blocked by a decidedly 1950s lampshade but I think it is my aunt Mary (Raponi) O’Neill who was married to my mother’s brother.

I like this photo as it shows just how 1950s our house decor was and because I can’t stop thinking about how valuable some of the furnishing might be today, cherished by decorators looking for that retro look.

Sentimental Saturday – Happy Birthday, Mom!

I am sharing photos from my collection along with a brief explanation about when and where the photos were taken, if known.

Tomorrow, October 4th would have been my mother’s 85th birthday had not cancer interfered and cut her life off at the much younger age of 63.

Anna (Anne) Margaret (O’Neill) Hadden was on October 4, 1930 in Detroit, Michigan, United States. My mother’s parents, J. Graham O’Neill and Gertrude Ellen Foley with their first child Ed, had moved to Detroit from Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1929 as there was work available and waiting for my grandfather. My mother and her younger brother Bill as a result were both born in Detroit. The family moved back to Toronto in 1937 when my grandfather’s mother Margaret (Graham) O’Neill passed away.

My mother never did completely lose her ‘Michigan accent.’

Anne (O'Neill) Hadden with her granddaughter Lisa Hadden and her husband Lewis Hadden in 1991

Anne (O’Neill) Hadden with her granddaughter Lisa Hadden and her husband Lewis Hadden in 1991

The photo above was taken by Yours Truly following my daughter’s first communion. The photo was taken inside Holy Redeemer Church in Pickering, Ontario.

My mother never missed a milestone event in the lives of her grandchildren for whom, she once explained to me, she had the “God given right to spoil.”

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Sentimental Saturday – A Wedding Anniversary

I am sharing photos from my collection and offering a brief explanation about what I know about the photos.

Today, September 26th would have been my parents 62nd wedding anniversary. On Saturday, September 26, 1953, Anna (‘Anne’) O’Neill married Lewis Hadden in St. John’s Roman Catholic Church in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The photo below of my parents on their wedding day was taken at the wedding reception, which was held at the Guild Inn in Scarborough, Ontario. Strangely enough, The Guild Inn was the former estate home of my wife’s second cousin, twice removed Rosa (Breithaupt) Spencer. My parents were married for 40 years prior to my mother’s death in 1994.

Anna and Lewis Hadden on their wedding day, September 26, 1953

Anna (O’Neill) and Lewis Hadden on their wedding day, September 26, 1953

Sentimental Saturday – Happy 4th of July

I’m posting photos from my collection of family photographs on Saturdays with a brief explanation of what I know about each picture.

Ellen and I are both proudly Canadian. Ellen was born in London, Ontario and I was born in Toronto, Ontario.

But we both have family connections to the United States.

My mother, Anne Margaret (O’Neill) Hadden was born in Detroit, Michigan. Ellen’s maternal grandmother Mattie Diona (Knox) Latimer was born in California.

Ellen’s American roots go much deeper though. Her 7X great grandfather was Edmond Faulkner, one of the founders of Andover, Massachusetts around 1645. One of Edmund’s great grandsons Col. Francis Faulkner, Ellen’s second cousin, 6 times removed, fought at the Battles of Lexington and Concord Bridge, initiating the Revolutionary War (or, War of Independence depending on perspective).

Ellen (Wagner) Hadden at the grave of her 7X Great Grandfather Edmond Faulkner

Ellen (Wagner) Hadden at the grave of her 7X Great Grandfather Edmond Faulkner

In 2013, Ellen and I took a road trip that included travelling through Massachusetts and I couldn’t resist attempting to find Edmond Faulkner’s grave. It meant a number of wrong turns along the way but eventually we were successful in locating the Old North Parish Burying Ground in what is now North Andover, Essex County, Massachusetts.

I took the photo above showing Ellen at her ancestor’s grave. The current gravestone was erected by some descendants of Edmond Faulkner just over 100 years ago, replacing what was likely an original, and no doubt very weathered, slate gravestone.

So we wish a Happy 4th of July, Independence Day, to all of our numerous American family members and friends. Enjoy your holiday and please be safe.

Sentimental Saturday (A Day Late) – Gertrude Ellen (Foley) O’Neill

I’m posting photos from my collection of family photographs on Saturdays with a brief explanation of what I know about each picture. Today’s ‘edition’ is a day late because yesterday I was travelling back home from Ireland.

Gertrude Ellen (Foley) O’Neill was my maternal grandmother and I admit that as her first grandchild, who also lived just two houses away from her, she worked hard to try to spoil me rotten! In this photo, likely taken around June 1955 by my father, ‘Nana” as I called her is holding a very young ‘yours truly.’  The photo was taken in front of my maternal O’Neill grandparents’ home at 185 Pickering Street in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. My grandmother was 57 years old at the time and seemed happy to be a grandmother!

Gertrude Ellen Foley O'Neill with Ian June 1955