The Rink

Every school has a Custodian. However, in the 1970s and 1980s, Echo Bay School had a special Custodian.  He kept the school clean and spotless but also cared for the students, teachers, and parents.  This Custodian often undertook many tasks and projects for his school that were far removed from the realm of his job description. One of his projects that stands out is “The Rink”. 

Because of Ross Hurley, Echo Bay School had the biggest and best outdoor Ice Rink any school had ever seen.  Hoses and various fittings were acquired and best not to say from where.  We did not draw ire from the Reeve for wasting municipal water as the school was still mysteriously connected to a deep well.

The Rink started out small, much like any backyard rink.  Each year it grew bigger.  There were no boards and it was not a hockey rink, just a skating surface.

A rink shack was not necessary as thick rubber mats were laid out inside  the back door of the school.   Skates were put on inside and students could take a few steps outside right onto the ice.  Ross made a small Zamboni to harden the ice. In latter years a jam can curling rink was added to one side. The rink was used at noon, for gym classes, the winter carnival, after school and by the community in the evenings.

All the flooding and snow blowing took place in early morning and after regular work hours. Over the years Ross worked literally hundreds of hours on The Rink for his students and teachers.  Many senior students were always willing to help, especially if they could miss a few minutes of class.

On behalf of many, Thank you Ross!

Allen Prodan

Our thanks to Denise Watson of “The Sentinel” 

 Jack Wheeler is a giant of a man

NoteJack Wheeler turned 100! on August 9, 2020!
Happy Birthday, JACK!

Letter to the Editor

 Dear Editor:

            I would greatly appreciate it if you would publish the enclosed article.  Mr. Jack Wheeler had a great influence on my young life and, indeed, my adult years have been affected as well.

            Mr. Wheeler probably never knew the effect he had on young people over the years, and I think it is high time he did.

                                                                                                                        Ray Rivard, Copper Cliff

 The Land of the Giants
  By Ray Rivard

        I am the proud grandfather over twenty-three-month-old, blond-haired, blue-eyed boy who, needless to say, is my heart’s delight. With great anticipation, I look forward to the many questions he will, no doubt, be asking.

When little “Bucky” (my nickname for him) asks, “Grandpa, are there really such things as giants? “, I will tell him, “Yes, little Bucky, there are. I know, because I was raised in Blind River, Ontario, the land of the giants.“  I will surely tell him that giants come in all sizes, both male and female.

I attended St. Mary’s school, across from what used to be the old St. Joseph’s Hospital. We could boasts, then, of the newest and most modern school in town. Our classrooms contained the most modern desks and school equipment that would make any school marm proud.

We even had one of those fancy blackboards that doubled as a wall. If there was a special event that required a large room, the teachers simply opened two doors on the end, and the great blackboard could be rolled out into the hall, leaving one big auditorium-type room. Yes sir, we sure had a lot to boast about, but the public school had one up on us. They had the giant!

On my way to school each day, I would have to pass by the public school and I always looked, with great anticipation, to see if I could catch a glimpse of their giant.

There was something pretty special about that giant that kind of made my heart soar. He wasn’t a big old scary type of giant, that gave you goosebumps or nightmares. No, he was refreshingly different. He didn’t wear any armor. In fact, he wore a white shirt and a suit or sports jacket. His weapon of choice was a pen or pencil, and his battleground, so to speak, was his school and schoolgrounds.

The giant’s very presence radiated confidence, assurance and strength. I couldn’t help but feel safe in his presence. It just goes to show how, often times, people can have an everlasting effect on each other, without having to say a lot.

I never really had what one would call a conversation with the giant, but I knew others who had, and they never spoke ill of him. In fact, they respected him.

Growing up, I guess one could say that I was a troubled fellow, and a simple “Good Morning “from the giant made my day. Something about his manner let me know that everything would be all right. The giant just had that way about him.

I remember seeing him in action. A couple of boys got into a fight, one day, in front of the Palace Theatre. There was no doubt in my mind that someone could have been seriously injured. Both boys were noted fighters and they had started to spar off when the giant arrived. The giant didn’t grab the two boys by the scruff of the neck and shake the dickens out of them. He didn’t call them down or humiliate them, as I had seen others do.

No, the giant merely stood between the two boys and told them to go to his office. The boys were given some kind of detention, but what impressed me the most was the fact that it appeared to bother the boys more, thinking that they may have disappointed the big giant.

That giant, Mr. Jack Wheeler, had a positive and lasting effect on many lives.

I look forward to telling Bucky of other giants who lived in Blind River, that I had the privilege of knowing.

Yes, little Bucky, Giants do exist. 

          The Authors Among Us:  Lea Springer

We are delighted to highlight the work of RTOERO member, Lea Springer, who edited a book about her father, Toivo Waske, and wrote a children’s book, The Yuletide Knight (both available through Amazon).

Lea writes the following about her father and the book she edited titled Crossing Borders: From Refugee to Freedom Fighter and Beyond, My Life Story by Toivo Waske, Edited and Annotated by Lea Springer:  “My first memory is of living in the attic of a country house with my parents and grandparents, a direct result of the ethnic cleansing instituted by Josef Stalin in Russia. That may sound somewhat extreme as this was in Sweden, but his cruel regime led my father to leave his
home and family at the tender age of 15. The events that precipitated my birth in Sweden (and being documented at birth as a Russian citizen) begin with my father’s early life in a little-known part of the world known as Inkeri/Ingria.

When a man begins a story with the words, ‘When the old Czar died,…’ you know that he was born during a remarkable period of history. Those were my father’s words as he began to relate part of his early life in Ingria.  It is a tale that begins in an area that was fought over for centuries by Sweden and Novgorod (later to become Russia) at the time when Finland was under Swedish
rule. It is an area that is now on the Soviet side of the border and, at the time of my father’s birth, was populated by ethnic Lutheran Finns, descended from earlier migrant families who had filtered into the area from other parts of Finland. The border between Russia and Finland had yet to be solidly established.

My father’s memoirs describe his early years in Ingria during Stalin’s reign of terror, the realities of collectivization and the ethnic cleansing of Finnish-Ingrian villages, all which precipitated his escape to Finland. During the WWII era (known in Finland as The Winter and Continuation Wars, both resulting from unprovoked attacks by Russia), he was engaged with a specialized Finnish battalion that sent small patrols deep into enemy territory.  At war’s end, he was forced to flee from Finland to Sweden to escape the Soviet Union’s demands to send back Soviet citizens as his promised Finnish citizenship had not yet been granted. Seven years later, conditions in post-war Sweden led to yet another move, this time to Canada in search of better opportunities for his young family.

I have added background information for those unfamiliar with the history of the era and the tenuous and troublesome political tensions of the times. I should also add that my father received the Finnish Cross of Merit of the Order of the Lion Medal several months before his death.”

Along with a number of other very positive reviews, Reijo Viitala of the Finnish War Veteran’s Association of Canada wrote: “I truly enjoyed your book, the best tribute one can make to one’s father and his legacy. Your book is multi-faceted with the family history woven into the wartime happenings as well as the immigrant’s tale of postwar survival.”


      The Yuletide Knight by Lea Springer, illustrated by Marlena Temporao



A story told in rhyme that tells of a surly young knight whose castle is visited in the depths of winter by the “Yuletide Spirit” who brings light to his castle and changes his life.

It is beautifully illustrated by a young artist from Sault Ste. Marie. This is the first, of hopefully many, children’s books that Marlena will illustrate. She accepts commissions and may be contacted at Amethyst Artistry on Facebook and

Positive reviews include:
Amazing! My kids absolutely loved it! The illustrations are amazing and it was such a fun story.

The Yuletide Knight is beautifully written! A must-read!  The illustrations are fabulous!

A delightful book to read aloud to children of all ages, beautifully illustrated.

This is the second in a series of articles on The Authors Among Us, focusing on retired Algoma District educators, RTOERO members, who are writers of poetry, fiction, non-fiction…. If you
would like to be featured in this series, or if you know someone who should be, please contact Gayle Manley at 705.949.4614.

Retirees and the Pension Conundrum

Ontario educators have benefitted handsomely from the heavily invested fossil fuel pension portfolio. We have relied on financial advisors and expected that the climate crisis was propelling change towards decarbonised portfolios.

In June 2020 OTPP made one of its biggest investments but not in climate solutions such as clean technology, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, health care or public transit. Instead, it was in the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) of the United Arab Emirates.  An investment of this kind is not only shocking, it is immoral.

As educators, we put students first. We share in their learning and in the shaping of their leadership potential. We watch with admiration their courage in taking bold action with Fridays For Future and in assembling in the thousands across Canada for the Global Climate Strike. As pensioned educators, we are putting their futures at grave risk.

The moral reasons for managing climate risk and shifting investments away from fossil fuels are obvious. 

This summer Canada’s arctic experienced the collapse of its last remaining 4000 year old Milne ice shelf. Mauritius is dealing with a tanker oil spill in the area of two of its environmentally protected marine ecosystems. Siberia’s tundra experienced temperatures of 38*C, thawing permafrost and igniting major fires. No doubt, continued investments in fossil fuel further locks in carbon pollution, ensuring the failure of achieving the Paris Accord goal of limiting temperatures to 1.5*C. 

Meanwhile, financial scrutiny for a sector that is in structural decline is occurring at banks, insurance companies and financial institutions as they align their corporate structures to meet the obligations of the Paris Agreement. Zurich Insurance recently declined renewal of the Trans Mountain pipeline (TMX).

The domino effect of this is stark. As many of the oil and gas companies fail, so too will our underachieving fossil fuel portfolios. The possibility of their worthlessness is on the horizon. At the same time, they are being outperformed by renewable and clean technology investments. 

Many international pension funds such as Pension-Danmark, Swedish Folksam and Dutch Pension PGGM are shifting to low carbon portfolios. Sweden divested from 80 companies deemed high climate and financial risk.  Quebec’s FTQ Fonds ceased financing all coal, oil and gas exploration and extraction and acquired 200,000 hectares of forest. Its Caisse des Depots (CDPQ) is one of the 28 founding partners in the 5 trillion dollar investors of the UN Net Zero Owner Alliance.

In July an OTPP Financial Advisor and Investment Manager promised to provide a response to my climate risk investment questions.

OTPP’s 200 billion dollar portfolio has made modest changes but still holds vast investments in Chevron, ExxonMobil, Imperial Oil and at least forty others. But the recent 20 billion ADNOC investment suggests that OTPP may fail for not being environmentally and socially conscious and for not pivoting soon enough to sustainable investments. 

A young Australian is suing his REST pension plan for failing to protect his retirement savings from the devastation of climate change. International ripples may occur.

So, should we as retired educators and pensioners be concerned? Can we do something about it?

Rosanne Iland
OTPP pensioner
former AETFO

Investments in time of climate change horizon:

Quebec funds shift emphasis:

Clean tech outperforms fossil fuels:

Milne ice shelf: 

Siberian fires:

Fossil fuel investments may be stranded:

Australian litigant:

FAITH and HOPE — during the Pandemic, by Bill Purnis

As most of you are aware, Florence and I set sail from Buenos Aires on March 7th on a 30-day cruise around South America and through the Panama Canal.

    After a week of sightseeing and exploring Buenos Aires, Montevideo, the Falkland Islands and Punta Arenas in Chile (March 14th), our plans changed drastically from touring the busy port of Ushuaia (Argentina) then rounding the tip of South America to head homeward along the picturesque coast of Chile to a humanitarian rescue mission.

The following sequence of events takes us from believing our ship to be safely contained in a bubble at sea and  isolated from the spread of COVID-19. We were unaware that the Zaandam had already been contaminated with the virus.


Won’t someone please take us!!!!!!!
  • March 15th…Sunday…our captain of the Zaandam cancelled our cruise and decides to head toward Panama…since the Chilean government refuses to allow docking.

There will be wine (NOT CHILEAN) with dinner tonight.

  • March 15-19 sailed up the Chilean coast toward Santiago.
  • March 20 bypassed Santiago as they refused to help us … so moved on to Valparaiso.
  • March 20-21 anchored in the harbour in Valparaiso to refuel and restock our cupboards …would have been so much easier if allowed to dock.
  • March 22…many crew and passengers have reported to the infirmary … ALL PASSENGERS MUST RETURN TO THEIR CABINS for an indefinite period. All meals will be delivered to the cabins … and our cabin has no windows.    
  • March 23 medical supplies…flown from California … SMUGGLED aboard the Zaandam during the night … along the coast of Peru.
  • March 24…outside.

    Enjoying our 30 minutes of fresh air and sunshine during our only outing after being sent to our cabin.


  • March 25…Zaandam and the rescue ship Rotterdam arrive in the Bay of Panama … the captain announces that 4 passengers have passed away.
  • March 27… because we are healthy, Florence and I are among the first of 800 passengers transferred to the Rotterdam.


  • March 29…ALL LIGHTS OUT as we traverse the Panama Canal during the night … ”if they can’t see us then we aren’t there” to satisfy the Panama civilians living along the canal.
  • March 30-April 2 … Panama to Fort Lauderdale.
  • April 2 … finally allowed to dock at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.
  • April 3 … allowed to disembark and with a 24-motorcycle escort travel to the Fort Lauderdale airport for transport to TORONTO. 
  • April 3-5 … in quarantine in Toronto since Air Canada cancelled flights to the Sault on April 2nd.
  • April 5 … Air Canada to Sudbury no problem as we had our Health Canada papers…but then Bearskin Airlines refused to let us on the Sudbury-Sault flight.
  • Son Andrew and daughter-in-law Lorri picked us up in Sudbury … TWO CARS of course.
  • April 17 … mandatory quarantine ended!!!!!!

From March22nd until April 5th, FAITH, HOPE and our POSITIVE ATTITUDE
helped keep us focused on survival.