Seven months and 26 stories later, the ‘Meet Your Neighbour’ series has finished. Thank you to all of our neighbours who participated in the project and everyone who took the time to read their weekly stories!
Meet Your Neighbour Stories
Meet Your Neighbour: Aaron Dellah
Tech savvy, community volunteer extraordinaire
If you like fun, you’ll like Aaron Dellah.
The self proclaimed ‘professional father’ moonlights as a ‘professional volunteer.’
Aaron runs Moovie (not a typo) Night at the Old Town Hall Theatre and Friday Night Roller Skate at the Chesterville Arena. In his spare time, he helps out anyone who asks and is always ready to swoop in and save the day with his tech skills.
Aaron moved to Winchester 20 years ago and instantly fell in love with the community. He is a mechanical engineer by trade and stay-at-home dad at heart.
“In 2001 - the year my first son was born - I took off one year for parental leave,” Aaron explains. “While on leave, the company I worked for closed up shop and I’ve been a stay-at-home dad ever since.
“That’s how I ended up unemployed in Winchester,” he jokes.
Aaron met his future wife at summer camp when they were teenagers - sometime in the early ‘90s (he was a tad fuzzy on the exact year). He is married to Dr. Patricia Moussette, head of anesthesia at the Winchester District Memorial Hospital, and together they have three children.
Once the kids - who are now 19, 17 and 14-years-old respectively - headed off to school, Dellah went on the hunt for local volunteer gigs.
He ended up at Community Food Share in Winchester and also pitched in with the Dundas County Players, offering up his services to do the sound and lighting for the theatre group.
Aaron says volunteering is a great way to immerse yourself in the community and get to know people around town.
“If you ever need help, you can find it,” he notes. “People in North Dundas are there for each other. When I grew up in the suburbs of Montreal, I didn’t know my neighbours. Now I know them all by name and their kids.”
Aaron says he’s seen a lot of changes in Winchester over the past two decades, including the loss of some staple businesses downtown.
“We had a general store and a video rental place,” he explains. “I think it’s important to revitalize the downtown.”
Aaron would also like to see Dairyfest revived in the near future.
He says there are many hidden gems in North Dundas, including the Old Town Hall.
“It’s a beautiful, very well-maintained, theatre space that can be used for anything,” Aaron notes. “Movies, conferences, birthday parties...I’ve run sporting events on the big screen. When the Tragically Hip did their last concert in Kingston, I put that up on the big screen. It’s a wonderful community resource that really isn’t used very often.”
He says another local facility that may not get the usage it deserves is the disc golf course in South Mountain.
“It’s been there for 10 years or so and people just don’t know about it,” Aaron notes.
He says there are all kinds of things to discover in North Dundas and encourages people to get out there and experience all the community has to offer.
When it comes to the future of North Dundas, Aaron says change is good, but it’s important to keep the community-feel that the township is known for.
“Everybody is friendly...everybody is helpful. If your kids do something wrong on the other side of town, you know about it before they get home. Just wonderful people in general. Much better than living in a big city.”
Meet Your Neighbour: Shirley Fawcett
Adventurous world traveller, fountain of knowledge
If you need to know something about Winchester, go ask Shirley Fawcett.
Her historical prowess is unrivalled, having lived in the community for 88 years. Shirley was born at home in Winchester back in 1933, though she doesn’t look a day over 60.
“I grew up here” she explains. “My dad was the town police officer and fire chief.”
Shirley says growing up in Winchester was a wonderful experience at a time when the whole town was your playground.
“We didn’t have any rich friends back then. We did a lot of pretending and you knew when the streetlights came on, it was time to go home.”
She says they used to have movies once a week at the Old Town Hall and when they built the theatre, which used to be across from where the old high school was, she got hired on to run the candy bar and watched movies for free.
“Growing up, there wasn’t a whole lot going on in town,” she notes. “When we turned 13 or so, we’d go from house to house and have little parties where we learned to dance…nothing but music.”
The melodies of Bing Crosby were popular amongst Winchester youth of the late ‘40s.
After finishing school, she went to work for Bell as a telephone operator. Somewhere along the way, Shirley fell in love with a watchmaker named Roy. The pair were married 67 years and had four children – one daughter and three sons - together.
“I’ve had a wonderful life,” she smiles. “I lost Roy three-and-a-half years ago, just before his 90th birthday. I miss him a lot. He never told me there was anything I couldn’t do. When he passed away, we asked for donations to the Winchester Hospital in lieu of flowers and 77 people donated.”
Roy owned a jewellery store, in the same location where Shirley now runs ‘Embracing the Arts,’ for 60 years. Roy also sold organs and pianos and the couple travelled to China to see the factories where the parts were coming from, to make sure the workers were being treated fairly.
Shirley shows off a photo of her atop a camel when they visited The Great Wall.
“I saw the camel and I just had to give it a try,” she laughs. “We travelled all over the world together. I was very lucky to find someone like Roy.”
Shirley says that Roy built their house, at Horse Corner in Winchester (unofficial address), which she has called home for 53 years.
The biggest event she can recall ever happening in Winchester was the town’s centennial in 1988.
“We had eight days of celebrations. It was so much fun…there were dances and dinners. A lot of it was getting people together, especially those who hadn’t seen each other in a long time.”
Shirley explains that one thing people may not know about Winchester is that the train conductors who used to come through town called it the ‘Holy City.’
“Because we had five churches,” she explains.
Shirley also remembers when the Old Town Hall was the fire hall and they used to hang the hoses from the tower so they could dry.
“Living in a small town, you have more friends than you know,” she smiles. “People help each other here. Once in a while, I get a new person that comes in to my store and I tell them to come see me if they have any questions about where to go for certain things. That’s what we’re here for.”
Meet Your Neighbour: Abby Zersch
Animal lover, thrift shop connoisseur
Abby Zersch is a cool cat who loves cats.
Her beloved Mr. Marbles, a handsome grey tabby with piercing eyes, is her main squeeze.
“I love animals, especially my cat and my dog,” Abby explains. “I also love helping people, which is why I liked working at the House of Lazarus (HOL) because I got to help all the customers who came in.”
Abby spent three years working in the clothing department at the HOL, while studying to become a Social Service Worker.
“My favourite thing about working there was all the treasures that came through the door from other people’s homes,” she notes. “North Dundas is such a generous community.”
Abby said you can find high quality clothes, including vintage pieces, for a fraction of the price.
“I love shopping at the House of Lazarus because you always find different things…very unique items, for any kind of style. When I shop with my sister – our styles are very different – but we always come home with two bags each.”
The 20-year-old is now lighting up lives with her sunny disposition as a Resident Aid for Dundas Manor.
“I help the residents out with their daily tasks, like going to activities, running errands for them…those kinds of things,” Abby explains. “It’s been an amazing experience getting to know all the people who call Dundas Manor home.”
She said growing up just outside of South Mountain provided the perfect setting for a happy childhood.
“I loved growing up here,” Abby says. “Since we live on the outskirts of town, it’s nice and quiet, but not too far from anything.
“My friends and I would go to King’s pizza and get ice-cream…we used to bike there all the time. Or we’d go to Rick’s to get candy. It was nice having those places to go when you’re young.”
She says North Dundas has a wide variety of local eateries and shops.
“And they’re all in different towns too, not just Winchester. There’s lots of places to check out.”
Abby explains she’s a thrift shop girl by nature and loves chasing after the next big ‘score’ hidden in the racks.
“I like to shop at thrift stores because I like to get more for my money…I’m pretty frugal,” she smirks. “You can find way more variety in thrift shops, which you can’t get at the big malls where it’s a lot of the same thing. The cool pieces are at thrift shops.”
Abby lists off the local second-hand stores she hits up on a regular basis, including the Lions Thrift Store.
“I would call my style casual, but cool,” she notes. “I like to wear something simple and dress it up with a few pieces of jewellery.”
Abby knows that North Dundas has all kinds of treasures to discover and wants to spread the word.
“If you’ve never been, you’re missing out.”
Meet Your Neighbour: Glenn Smirle
Bee keeper, humble farmer
There’s a buzz in the air about Smirlholm Farms.
Glenn Smirle and his millions of bees are working in harmony to produce honey that is hard to keep kid’s fingers out of (literally).
So how did the Morewood man go from a dairy farmer to bee keeper? Well that’s an interesting story.
Glenn knew he wanted to be a farmer since he was knee-high and chasing after his grandpa in the fields. The over 300 acres he calls home was purchased back in 1940.
“My grandparents bought the original 100 acres with the barn – which still stands today – and the house for $8,000,” explains Glenn. “They told me at different times that it was a lot of money back then, but they paid for everything within two years.”
His grandparents had four children – three daughters and one son (Bill, Glenn’s dad) – but none of the kids wanted to take over the farm. Bill committed his working life to education, first as a teacher and then principal.
“I grew up right over there,” Glenn notes, pointing to the house a stone’s throw from the farm. “I was at the farm all the time and knew from early on that farming was what I wanted to do with my life.”
He was 15-years-old when his grandpa passed away and a hired man was brought in to keep the farm going until Glenn was old enough to take over. He went off to university and came home in 1991 to get started with the dairy operation, launching a 30-year farming career with no end in sight.
In the fall of 2016, Glenn decided it was time for a change and sold off his 40 head of cattle to start a new venture – apiary management.
“It was a difficult day,” says Glenn, when describing the auction. “I’ve always been good with animals and livestock…I like the crops, but working with the animals is what I love.”
Bees have become a new and growing passion of Glenn’s, since establishing his first hives in 2017.
“Bees are fascinating creatures,” he notes. “Pollinators in general are so important.”
From one hive, he grew his honey business into two bee yards and millions upon millions of honey bees gracing his land with their magical ability to produce food and the sweetest nectar known to man.
“Every day, I am learning more about bees – like how many different types of bees there are in this area,” says Glenn, pointing out a rusty bumblebee on a nearby sunflower.
He explains that bees navigate using the sun and dance to communicate with each other. Glenn also touches on the unique roles that form the social structures of the hive: from the drones who do nothing but mate and eat, to the queen who is the center of the hive’s universe, and the workers who risk their lives to go collect the pollen to make the honey.
“I could watch the bees all day, but I’m too busy working,” he jokes.
Glenn has gone above and beyond to give his bees the best life possible, including planting wildflower plots that are breathtaking in the summer, and lining his fields with sunflowers.
But he isn’t stopping there. Glenn has big plans in the works and hopes people from throughout North Dundas will take the time to come check out the Smirlholm Farms Honey operation.
Meet Your Neighbour: Helen Holmes
Vivaciously funny, incredibly kind
Time is of no consequence to those who appreciate every minute.
Helen Holmes celebrated her 101st birthday on July 8. The centenarian refers to herself as “just an old lady,” but her quick wits and sense of humour tell a different story.
Her secret to a long and healthy life?
“Live the best life you know how and be kind. It’s a difficult question…it’s their business how other people live.”
Helen was born near Chesterville, in the Maple Ridge area on Ball Road.
“I always loved school,” she explains. “Maybe that’s why my oldest son is a teacher.”
In April of 1938, she married Robert (Bob) Holmes, launching a love story that spanned nearly 73 years.
Together, they had four children – two sons and two daughters. Tragically, their youngest son Allan – a volunteer firefighter for Iroquois – was one of five men struck and killed by a train while responding to a call in 1981.
“He’s been gone 40 years,” notes Helen. “Everybody has their heartbreaks once in a while. Allan was a very good man.”
Bob was born in Winchester Springs and that’s where the couple lived for the first year of their marriage, before purchasing their own farm on Holmes Road, now County Road 38, where they raised Holsteins.
“We could see the trains go by and it was only a little ways to drive into town. We went with horse for a long time, before we could afford a car.”
The family also lived without electricity until 1948.
“We got it on my birthday that year,” she says. “Back in those days, we had blinds on all the windows - dark green – I went all over the house and pulled the blinds down and it was quite a thrill, turning the lights on.”
Helen says they always had everything they needed, even if doing the washing was a bit more difficult back then.
“Our families were very good to us. If there was something I needed, I got it. My mother-in-law, and my own mother for that matter, were lovely women.”
The couple planted 14 apple trees during their first year on the farm.
“We always had more than we needed, so we’d walk down the road and give them to our neighbours.”
Bob passed away, at the age of 100, the day before Christmas in 2010.
“I couldn’t have found a better husband and friend…we loved each other very much. He was a good man – very kind.
“The children were daddy’s girls and daddy’s boys too,” she smiles.
The couple’s legacy includes: 5 granddaughters, 4 grandsons, 7 great-grandsons, 7 great-granddaughters, 1 great-great grandson and 4 great-great granddaughters.
“One hundred years is a long time, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, because I can knit and sew and do things for myself. I’ve made hundreds of quilts by hand…baby blankets and bigger quilts for wedding gifts.”
Helen recalls when the Winchester District Memorial Hospital was built.
“We made pillows for the beds…everybody made food – pickles, apple sauce, jellies – we washed, painted, hung curtains…anything to help the hospital.”
Helen moved to the Garden Villa in Chesterville in 2011. She says it’s a nice place to live and the staff are wonderful.
“The people who bought our farm house from us still live there,” she notes. “They brought me a beautiful bouquet of peonies from the garden.”
Meet Your Neighbour: Kim Merkley
Wears her heart on her sleeve, loves to laugh
Kim Merkley is a friend when you’re in need.
For nearly 20 years, she has run the food bank at the House of Lazarus. Her door is always open and she’s never too busy to lend a hand when you’ve stumbled across hard times.
“I love my job,” she explains. “It gives you a sense of helping your community and being there for people.”
Kim grew up in Inkerman and now calls Winchester home. She says the old rink in Inkerman was a staple of her childhood.
“It was wonderful growing up there,” Kim notes. “We were always at the rink in the winter – kids hung out there all the time.”
Her father worked at Nestlé and her mother worked at Foodland for many years.
“My mother worked there under three owners,” she explains, “so when Dan (Pettigrew) took over, we made the joke that mother was in the contract.”
Kim says her mom loved people and Foodland was the perfect place to bump into old friends and chat with neighbours.
Kim is the very proud mother of two daughters and boasts shamelessly about her two adorable granddaughters. She says her kids always come first, no matter what.
“I cleaned houses for years,” she notes, “and I used to volunteer at the House of Lazarus when it was here in South Mountain. The position for the food bank came up and the director at the time approached me and asked if I’d be interested. I told her I hadn’t thought about it and wasn’t sure if I could…so I went home and prayed about it.”
Kim put together a list of three or four things, like not being able to start until a certain time and wanting to be home for her girls when they got off the bus.
“I never thought they’d go for it, but after I expressed my concerns, she said ‘when can you start?’”
The part-time gig turned into full-time as her girls got older and Kim never looked back.
“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” she says. “Just last week, I was out doing deliveries for Operation Backpack: basically you drop off the food, ring the doorbell and leave. Before I could get out of the driveway, I see these two little boys come out…they were all smiles and thumbs up – just so excited about this box of food that it made my day.
“Some days can be stressful and you think why am I doing this? Then you have those moment when it’s like God saying ‘this is why.’”
Kim has no plans to retire and hopes to be like her mother, working into her 70’s.
She says there have been many changes over the years at the food bank.
“When I first started, there wasn’t a lot of meat or fresh produce for our clients,” she explains. “You basically had your canned goods and boxed food, so we’ve incorporated a lot more meat, dairy and produce.”
Kim is currently focusing on the Christmas Adoption program, which pairs people in need with generous community members willing to adopt them for the holidays. People seeking to adopt a local family, senior, individual or couple for Christmas can contact Kim now by calling 613-989-3830.
Kim serves hundreds of clients on a monthly basis through the food bank and that number continues to grow.
“We live in a phenomenal community…if we’re out of something at the food bank, I can post it on Facebook and within two days, we have more than we need,” she explains. “It doesn’t matter what it is – the community always pulls through for us.”
Meet Your Neighbour: Const. Tylor Copeland
Every day hero, humble hockey dad
Const. Tylor Copeland may not wear a cape, but he’s a hero to many in North Dundas.
His biggest fans are his two kids and wife, followed by the community he has served for the past 15 years.
Tylor was born and raised in Winchester and now calls South Mountain home.
“Growing up here was a very positive experience…a lot of great friends and close family,” he says.
A hockey player through and through, Tylor got his first taste of the game with the North Dundas Minor Hockey League, where he quickly moved through the ranks up to Junior B with the Hawks and then on to Cornwall to play Junior A.
“It was a lot of fun,” he explains. “After I finished playing, I coached the Hawks for four years.”
Tylor passed on his love of hockey to his son, whose team he coaches between chasing down bad guys and mitigating crime through education.
Const. Copeland wears many hats: Seaway Valley Crime Stoppers Coordinator, OPP Media Relations Officer and Community Safety Officer. He’s also a volunteer firefighter with the South Mountain station.
“I like the comradery with the guys,” he notes. “Being a volunteer firefighter involves a lot of the elements of my personal work, without any of the paperwork.”
Tylor says he’s always enjoyed helping people and that’s what drove him in the direction of policing, after working with children in the mental health field.
“I like helping…it doesn’t matter what aspect of my life; I just like helping people out.”
Tylor says he’s a small town guy, who loves working as a police officer in Winchester.
“These are my roots…these are the people I want to work with.”
He explains that North Dundas has supplied him with lifelong friends, a fulfilling career and home for his family.
“It’s a close-knit community…people look out for each other. I’ve done several fundraising events for crime stoppers and this community supports like no other.”
Tylor says North Dundas has changed in some ways, but a lot has stayed the same.
“I remember that nothing was open on Sundays when I was growing up. The arenas were closed, so you couldn’t play hockey. The stores were only open until about noon on Saturday, so there was a lot less traffic. You could bike down the middle of the street with your buds…go down the big hill trying not to crash.”
He notes that growth is necessary to keep the community going.
“Growth creates jobs for local kids,” Tylor says. “If you don’t have those businesses, the teenagers don’t have anywhere to work. I like how North Dundas is moving forward.”
He explains that what makes North Dundas great is the people, who are always willing to jump right in and lend a hand.
“I think the township is going to expand, but at a comfortable rate. It will stay a farming community because of every generation that stays here and grows – I don’t see that ever changing, but there will definitely be growth.”
Meet Your Neighbour: Karen Parker
Business savvy, true confidant
Karen Parker is a strong woman, with a welcoming smile.
She’s survived and thrived in the business world for 30 years and earned her place in the Hall of Women Warriors (not real but it should be).
Karen is a Chesterville girl: born, raised and never left. Her dad worked at Nestlé and her mom worked at the dental office in town.
“Chesterville is home,” she notes. “It has everything you could ever need.”
Karen says nothing runs straight in Chesterville.
“My grandfather used to say that the river runs one way and the railroad runs another,” she laughs.
After graduating from high school, and a sharp shove towards becoming an Educational Assistant, Karen found her passion: hairdressing.
“I went to school in Cornwall at the time and we had an hour lunch break, so I walked around town and went past the Art & Technique Hairstyling School and decided to apply.”
Her ramble resulted in a 30-year career with no end in sight.
Karen graduated from Art & Tech with perfect attendance, driving through some wicked snow storms to get to class and often beating the teachers in.
With a trade in the bag, Karen started off at a salon in Morrisburg before opening her own business in her parent’s garage.
But building a business takes long days and thick skin.
“I remember one week, haircuts were $5 and my accountant had told me that it doesn’t matter how much you make, just pick a day once a week to go to the bank and deposit your money,” explains Karen. “I set the date for Friday and I remember walking in with just a $5 bill because all week I’d only had one haircut.”
But that was then and this is now and not even a pandemic can dampen Karen’s determination. She’s built four shops in Chesterville and still has a smile on her face, despite the financial hardship of the past two years.
Karen says her success is thanks to hard work and education. She keeps up with the latest trends and is constantly taking online courses to learn new things.
“My dad used to love watching me work,” she notes. “He passed away five years ago – he’d sit right there and he didn’t interrupt…just sat and watched me work. He used to say that people walked in looking like they’d just rolled out of bed and walked out looking like a million dollars.”
Karen says being a hairdresser has filled her with purpose.
“People confide in you, it’s like a friendship,” she explains “I don’t turn people away. I’m always, always taking new clients.”
When it comes to hair, Karen can do it all. She’s also a firm believer in keeping it local and supporting your own community as much as possible.
“When your kids are in hockey or bowling, it’s not going to be the big box stores that sponsor them – it’s the local businesses that step up to help people out.”
Karen says she saw the best of the community through Covid, when people stopped by her house and dropped off gift certificates to keep her going while her business was shut down.
“People here are friendly, kind, giving and supportive.”
Karen says she loves where she lives, referring to her home as being business in the front (facing houses, town) and party in the back (open fields, country view).
“My dog got loose this morning and I had three people out there helping me,” she notes. “This community is just incredible. North Dundas is a great place to live and raise a family.”
Meet Your Neighbour: Carrie Paquin
Warmhearted, animal whisperer
Carrie Paquin doesn’t do things by halves.
If she’s jumping in, both feet are getting wet and the splash will ripple for miles.
Carrie moved to Winchester in 2012, where she later met her partner Trevor. Their blended family includes five kids – two girls and three boys – between the ages of 20 and six.
“We say we have 18 kids because sometimes it feels like that,” she jokes.
In March of last year, Carrie and Trevor started down a path that would change their lives forever: hobby farming.
“Trevor said he wanted to get chickens, so he picked up nine baby chicks from a friend and built the chicken coop,” explains Carrie. “Then I wanted to get ducks, so we got ducks, and after that came the geese…”
Their animal empire snowballed and now includes: 30 ducks, 30 turkeys, 3 geese, 2 steers, 2 bull calves, 12 pigs, 9 goats and countless chickens.
And there’s no end in sight. The couple has big plans in the works for Porch View Hobby Farm, which currently sells eggs, turkeys, chickens and pork.
“I’m really into providing for my family,” explains Carrie. “Last weekend, I made dinner and it was one of our chickens, served with potatoes, onions and corn from our garden...so every single thing on our plates was from right here. The next morning, we had our bacon, our eggs and our home fries. It feels so good because I know what went into these animals.”
Carrie says she had no idea how much she was going to love pigs.
“They have the best personality,” she notes, “they’re like dogs – really sweet and loving.”
Carrie says people often ask her why she gives names to the animals that wind up coming to dinner, without a seat at the table.
“The first thing I do is love the hell out of them. I give them the best life because that’s what they deserve. We love all of our animals.”
She explains that the best part of their agricultural adventure has been the people she’s met along the way, including the farmers who’ve offered up years of wisdom for the cost of a smile.
“I don’t know what I would do without Dundas Vet,” notes Carrie, “They’re amazing – I call and they come right over. When Maple (mama pig) was dying, I had Dr. Pasmanter here three days in a row and when we had to put Maple down, she cried as hard as I did. That’s the type of vet that everybody should have because they care. They are part of the success of my farm.”
In between caring for dozens of animals and raising five kids, Carrie works full-time and runs the ‘What’s Up, Winchester?’ Facebook page.
The idea for the group came from her hometown, which has a ‘What’s Up, Arnprior’ page that Carrie follows to keep up with her old stomping grounds.
“I love this town so much and the people who live here,” she explains. “The purpose is community connection…bringing everyone together in a positive, friendly way.”
The group launched in August of 2017 and now boasts 7,100 members.
“I’m really big on local businesses,” notes Carrie. “Businesses can promote themselves as much as they want on the page. It’s such a great vehicle for getting information out there.”
She explains that ‘What’s Up, Winchester’ brings out the best in people.
“This town just rallies around people in need and the love and support I see on that page is surreal.”
Meet Your Neighbour: Brian (Bud) Raistrick
Lifelong friend, caretaker of history
Brian (Bud) Raistrick is a man who never stops.
He’s been working in the printing business since 1957, starting out at the very bottom as a delivery boy for the Winchester Press and working his way up to owner of Winchester Print.
Bud was born in Winchester back in 1937, growing up on Fred Street and attending public school, then high school in the village.
“It was enjoyable,” he notes. “We did a bit of tobogganing the odd time when the snow drifts were high and we’d make a slide.”
It was in school that Bud met Ian Graham, now a doctor who lives in British Columbia. Ian moved away from Winchester in 1946, when his father accepted a job in Orillia.
“Every year at Christmas, I email Ian and he emails me,” explains Bud. “We used to write our letters by hand. We’ve kept in touch for 75 years and we’re still good friends today.”
Bud’s lifelong career would be decided before he even finished school. Reg and Ron Workman, who took over the Winchester Press after their father passed away, approached Bud about a job. They told Bud it had been their father Fern’s intention to ask him if he’d like to be a printer.
“So I started out delivering newspapers, just part-time at first,” says Bud.
He worked 9 hours per week – one hour each day after school and four hours on Saturday mornings – earning $10 each week. Reg and Ron would often be around and showed Bud where the type was because everything was hand set back then.
“I got to learn the type case. On Saturdays, I would take the page apart, take that type and throw it back in the right type cases, so when they started next week’s paper, it was all ready for them.”
Earning the big bucks as a working man meant Bud could invest in the finer things in life.
“My first car was a 1936 Dodge,” he explains. “The total cost was $150 and I had saved about $50…that was all the money I had. I went to Boyd’s…Max and Ed Boyd, they were kind of running it, and they knew me - I was a pretty good lad. So I bought the car and gave them $50 down and then $5 every week until it was paid for. And that was simply on a handshake.”
Everything was going quite well, according to Bud, and when September rolled around, it was time to make a choice: continue on with school or stay working.
“I guess I stayed working,” he laughs
And he never stopped, even at the age of 84. He is still ‘on call’ for Winchester Print – heading into work whenever he’s needed. Life has come full circle for Bud, who is back doing deliveries.
When Reg and Ron decided to retire in 1981, Bud took the plunge and became his own boss, along with his business partner Maxine Baldwin. She retired in 1989, selling her share of the business to Bud, who in turn handed the keys over to his two sons – Kent and Kreg.
For the past 40 years, Bud’s family has grown Winchester Print into the still thriving business it is today.
“We pride ourselves on quality,” says Bud. “If I wouldn’t pay for it, I wouldn’t expect you to pay for it.”
Winchester Print offers a myriad of services, from flyers to newspapers, and calendars to yearbooks.
His wife Heather still works five days a week, doing accounting for the business.
“We’ve had a good life,” he notes. “We’ve done what we wanted to do – been to the East Coast three times and the West Coast three times…never been to Florida.”
Bud proudly shows off photos of his three grandchildren, which adorn the walls of his home in South Mountain. He takes a stroll outside to the shed he built with his own two hands, which is filled with trinkets and machines from the past, including his 1968 Case lawn mower that still runs today.
Bud is a staple of North Dundas, giving back through his unsung volunteerism and ability to make people feel welcome when they step in off the street.
Meet Your Neighbour: Chris Power
Rural roots, enjoys the little things
Chris Power has a name befitting a superhero and the background to support that theory.
But whether you suspect him of ducking into telephone booths (relics from the pre-cellphone era) or not, one thing is certain – he put his life on the line for his country.
Chris served 16 years with the Armed Forces, first as a student, then military police officer. He’s been all around the world, including Afghanistan, Kuwait, Germany, Poland and Ukraine.
But life for Chris started out simple. He grew up in Newfoundland and only left The Rock after graduating from high school.
“When my grandfather was a kid, lobster was used for fertilizer and people who ate lobster were poor,” he notes. “Fish were what rich people ate and lobsters were the bottom of the barrel.”
Chris says his East Coast upbringing put an emphasis on family and community.
He moved to Nova Scotia to attend university and, running low on funds, decided to enlist at the age of 20. The Armed Forces sent him on his way to Kingston, where he continued his education in politics, with a minor in military psychology and leadership.
“The military changes the way you see life,” explains Chris. “Days are long and intense, with lots of opportunities to challenge yourself.”
In 2017, Chris was diagnosed with operational stress injury and retired from the military.
“In those 16 years, I went away too much and did too much…I didn’t take care of myself,” he explains. “I just kept going until my body gave out.”
He took some time to recover and get his bearings. Chris retrained as a certified life coach and personal trainer. He also went on a trip to Everest Base Camp and summitted Lobuche, a 20,000 ft mountain next to Everest, with the True Patriot Love Foundation.
“That experience was out of this world,” says Chris. “Leaving the military is very difficult…all your achievements, everything you’re proud of, is through the military – and then, when you’re outside of that, the question becomes ‘who are you?’”
He explains that there were moments when he didn’t think he get to the top of that mountain.
“Every step was just the worst step ever…it was one of the greatest tests of my willingness to keep going.”
Chris married his wife Elisé in 2017 and the couple welcomed their son Victor last year.
They were living in Toronto 6 months ago and decided it was time to get back to their rural roots.
“We just came to the realization ‘is this life?’ Do we want to live like this?”
Chris and Elisé found their dream home in Inkerman, on Guy Road. The property is breathtaking, complete with a tongue and groove barn and wooden silo, overgrown and wild with weeds.
They knew nothing about North Dundas before moving here, but have quickly embraced the small town feel and friendly vibes.
“My wife goes to the flea market weekly…we spend a lot of time at BMR and Peavey Mart,” he notes. “What’s we’ve noticed going out in different communities around the area is that people are really nice and open to conversation and although we’re not connected to people here, we’re starting to realize all the connections between people.”
Chris says his challenge has been getting out in the community.
“When I’m not working, I’m pretty busy here just trying to get the grass cut – I’ve never had so much grass in my life.”
He decided to start his own photography business, as a way to meet new people and become more involved in the community. Chris Power Photography focuses on family shots, with a candid angle – less stiff and posed, more fun and real.
“We plan on being here forever. My son gets to grow up running around in the backyard, playing with neighbours, learning about the community…everything we do is for him.”
Meet Your Neighbour: Orian Steele
Avid reader, euchre enthusiast
Orian Steele was a Christmas gift to her family.
She was born on the morning of December 25, 1931, in Winchester Springs. After six boys, the arrival of a baby girl was a welcome diversion. Dr. McKendry - who also had a son that became a doctor - was on hand to deliver Orian into the world.
“He was a very good doctor,” she notes. “He helped people from all around Winchester.”
Orian says there was never a dull moment growing up in North Dundas.
“I had six brothers and they were all wonderful. My dad was a seasoned cheese and butter maker, so there was always a job for me to do.”
She explains that her brothers knew how to work and farmers were always looking to hire them on because of their good reputations.
Orian married Eric Steele in 1953. Together, they had six children. She lists the years they were born, starting in 1960.
“I didn’t know what went on in the world in the ‘60s,” she jokes.
Orian explains there were two Eric Steele’s living in the area back then and in order to keep from confusing the two men, one was called ‘Big Eric’ and the other ‘Little Eric.’ Orian’s husband stood 6’8” and landed the former nickname.
She saw ‘Big Eric’ for the first time when she was visiting her grandma in Winchester.
“He used to come around - driving a horse and buggy - to deliver milk,” Orian explains.
While in high school, Eric worked at the pharmacy in Winchester, which led him to pursue a career in the field.
The couple also bought a 100-acre farm on Gypsy Lane, from Don Edgerton, who was known as the ‘Blind Farmer.’
“We had cows. My husband and our boys built the barn on that property. The Steele’s were always working with wood.”
She notes that Joel Steele – the namesake of the local arena – is of no relation, but she did know his mother Madeline.
Orian says North Dundas is a wonderful place to grow up and start a family of your own.
“Back in those days, we were all neighbours…we helped one another. If someone was sick, we helped them. Whatever you did, you did it with your neighbours.”
She explains that euchre was a popular game that everyone played.
“We used to have euchre parties with our neighbours,” she explains.
In 2007, Orian moved to the Garden Villa in Chesterville. She says it’s a comfortable place, where she indulges in her favourite pastime: reading.
“As long as I have a book, I’m happy,” she smiles.
Orian says North Dundas is her home and always will be.
“The community is like one big family.”
Meet Your Neighbour: Charlie Graham
Storyteller, computer pioneer
Charlie Graham is a Chesterville classic.
If you’ve never bumped into him while out walking around the village, then you’re missing out – he’s a natural born storyteller with a heart of gold.
Charlie grew up on a farm down Finch Road and went to Chesterville Public School.
“My dad was a farmer,” he explains. “He graduated from McGill in 1935 – he was in ROTC then and my grandmother didn’t think he should be flying, so she offered to give him his dowry early.
“That’s how I ended up on the farm,” he continues, “then he bought some property in town and we moved back and forth.”
In 1955, Charlie’s dad started teaching at Chesterville High School (a gig that would ultimately change the rest of his son’s life), leaving Charlie to look after the farm.
“It was two prongs – cash crop and dairy cattle,” he notes, “we had sponsored some Dutch families in the early ‘50s and they were ensconced in the one farm, milking and so on.”
After graduating from high school, Charlie went on to Carleton, where he earned a degree in math and physics.
With a push in the right direction from his father, Charlie started teaching at Maxville High School in 1965. His dad had moved on to North Dundas District High School, where he met a nice young woman named Karen who would eventually become his daughter-in-law.
“She taught at North Dundas with my dad,” says Charlie, “Karen lived in one of our apartments and my mother used to have all the tenants over for dinner once a year and that’s how I met her.”
They got married in 1969 and raised five children together: David, Heather, Maggie, Robert (Robbie) and Jake. They’re efforts were rewarded with nine grandchildren.
“She’s pretty and she’s a good cook,” he says about Karen.
In addition to teaching, Charlie paved driveways in the summers, starting in the early ‘70s. He taught for 33 years before retiring in 1998, but continued on with the paving business for another decade.
“Teaching country kids from farms was great,” Charlie notes. “They were self starters. I taught math and one thing I really enjoyed was when computers came along, nobody else was ready to jump in, so I took courses and became a computer teacher as well.”
The computer consisted of what was then called a Dec (pronounced DECK) 8, he explains, and you had cards filled in with little bubbles.
“It was pretty archaic,” he laughs. “I remember our superintendent wanted to have a workshop with all the computer teachers in SDG, so the teacher from Western University loaded up a bunch of Commodores in a van and came down on a Saturday to give us a workshop. No better way to learn than a hands-on experience.”
Nowadays Charlie looks after the 20 or so apartments that he owns in Chesterville, which he calls a great town with too many stories to tell.
“I go back to Beamish Store,” he says, “they were like Walmart – you could get toys and clothes there.”
Charlie explains the place to hang out back in the good old days was Kilby’s restaurant, which was located where the drugstore is now before it burnt down.
“There were stools along a big long counter and booths and one of those coin operated record players, like a jukebox. At one point, my dad thought I was spending too much time down there with the crew, so the next year we moved back to the farm.”
Charlie says his grandfather on his mother’s side worked at Nestlé for years, making baby food.
“I went with my grandfather Graham to unload the milk cans,” he explains. “We had the old-style cans that weighed 100lbs – 80lbs of milk and 20lbs of steel – and we pushed them along on rollers.”
This was in 1949 and Charlie was eight. He recalls the farmers all lining up to unload their milk, some coming by horse and wagon.
Charlie says that every day at 12 noon, the whistle would blow at Nestlé, signalling lunchtime.
“There are certain things that you remember in life, like JFK getting shot and 9/11…things like that,” he notes. “I remember when the war ended in 1945. I was four-years-old at the time. I remember where I was – walking back to my grandfather’s – and the whistle blew, horns were honking.”
Charlie reminisces about times spent on the Rideau River, in what’s known as ‘Little Chesterville,’ from McGahey Lane up as far as Lannin Lane.
“We built our cottage in ‘48…it was a dirt road then.”
Charlie says he enjoys the free and easy way of boating, but mostly the time spent with family.
“All my kids turned out pretty good. It’s like drag racing – keep them straight out of the hole and then after that, it’s up to them.”
If you do bump into Charlie while out walking, make sure to ask him about the last thing left standing at the old Chesterville Hotel.
Meet Your Neighbour: James Clark
Homesteader at heart, travelling man by trade
The land speaks to James Clark. Whether fate brought him to North Dundas or luck, he’s glad to call this agricultural haven home.
James grew up in Southern Quebec, passing countless happy hours on his grandparent’s dairy farm in Lacolle.
“It’s right on the border of the United States,” he explains. “We used to jump back and forth.”
James was 12 when the family farm was sold and his dad began preaching a clean break from agriculture.
After high school, and unsure what to do his life, James decided to join the army in 2010.
But - as the saying goes - you can take a boy out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy.
In 2012, he applied to McGill University, where he studied Farm Management and Technology.
“After my three years there, I had to make a choice, so I left the army after five years.”
In 2015, he moved to Belleville to work at wineries over the summer – doing tours, tastings and learning the broad strokes of wine making.
“I’m a nomad…well I used to be until I met my wife.”
Cassandra was studying to be a vet tech at St. Lawrence in Kingston when they met at a party. They got married three years ago and welcomed their son Declàn in 2020.
Right after their honeymoon, they got down to the business of buying a house.
“We saw six houses in one day and this was the place for us,” notes James, as he sits at the dining table in his old farm house just outside of Winchester.
James says his neighbours are amazing and North Dundas is a great place to start a family.
“My neighbours stop by to chat all the time,” he says. “They told me the history of the property – how the barn came from the St. Lawrence seaway before it was flooded, that is was dismantled and rebuilt here.
“One of my neighbours made these overalls for Declàn,” James continues, showing off the super cute tractor ensemble.
He even joined the curling club and is now more Canadian than maple syrup.
“My wife says ‘you have stuff to do at home…sorry I’m curling,’” he laughs.
He’s got big plans for his two acres out on River Road and has forged ahead with his homesteading by building a Victorian garden and putting his barn to use by getting a sheep, goat and cow.
“I love everything to do with agriculture,” he notes.
James works as Territory Manager for Gallagher Animal Management, handling the entire province of Quebec for the company that invented the electric fence back in 1938.
James is on the road from Tuesday to Friday each week, juggling sales, accounting, marketing and customer service.
“I always joke that there’s no job security like ‘people got to eat.’”
The best part of travelling around? Coming back home, according to James.
Declàn changed his whole outlook on life.
“Being a dad is the greatest thing I’ve ever done…the greatest thing I’ll probably ever do. He brings so much joy to my life. My survival instincts went out the window.”
James says he’s so happy that Declàn gets to grow up in North Dundas, with its city amenities (top-notch hospital, great shops) and country feel.
“I love that he that he gets to grow up here…that he can go fishing in that river across the road.”
James wants to get more involved with the community by sponsoring local sports teams and athletes through his company.
“We plan on being here forever, so I want to do everything I can to help people out.”
Update: sadly, Edith passed away on Monday, March 14, 2022. She was a wonderful neighbour, who will be dearly missed.Image
Meet Your Neighbour: Edith Baker
Knitting master, lifelong nurse
Edith Baker knows the true meaning of hard work.
She’s a retired nurse, who raised four kids and ran a small farm alongside her late husband, Gordon.
The 96-year-old says nothing went to waste back then.
“I made all my kids clothes,” she explains. “I canned everything. We had a big garden on the farm. I can remember getting one load through the canner and then I’d have to put the next load in, have a nap, and then wake up and take them out when they were finished.”
Edith has been knitting for 90 years, beginning at the age of six.
“I’m on dish cloths right now,” she notes. “During my lifetime, I’ve done everything, from hats and scarves to afghans.”
Edith was born in Orrville, a small village 16 miles from Parry Sound. She started training to become a nurse just before her 19th birthday.
“I was going to be a nurse since the time I learned to talk, just like my Aunt Alice.”
After marrying Gordon in 1947, the couple moved to Morewood, where his family lived.
“I came down here and worked at the Winchester Hospital,” she explains. “I worked there until I retired and then I went back the very next day to volunteer in the day care unit, taking care of patients. I did that for about eight years because I liked what I was doing.”
While Edith took care of people in the community - first on the maternity ward and then in the operating room - Gordon was busy farming their 50-acre parcel of land.
“We were very happy,” she says. “Later on, we moved into the village of Morewood because our son was living on the farm.”
Edith notes that the people in North Dundas are what make it such a great place to live. She could always rely on her neighbours and vice versa.
She was living at the Garden Villa in Chesterville, but has since moved to Dundas Manor.
Edith says life continues to treat her well.
“I do jigsaw puzzles and I’m knitting all the time.”
The days of going to Russell to attend dances are now just memories, but Edith trucks on with her knitting, unceasingly devoted to meaningful work.
In her eyes, North Dundas hasn’t changed that much over the years – maybe a few more houses and businesses – but still the same great place she’s called home for over seven decades.
“It’s a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family.”
Meet Your Neighbour: Sean Donovan
Man behind the uniform, dedicated volunteer
Sean Donovan is dedicated to serving his community and country.
He put on his first uniform at the age of 13 and though the clothing has changed, he’s never veered away from his true calling: keeping people safe.
Sean is originally from Kingston, but since he never hung out with the Tragically Hip, we’ll jump forward a few years. At the age of 17, he joined the reserves – his eyes set on a military career. In 1987, he moved to Ottawa to study computer engineering and transferred reserve units.
“I always knew I wanted to be in the military,” Sean says. “I joined the cadets at 13 and the moment I put on that uniform, I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life.”
Back in those days, there was a waiting list to get on with the regular forces, so Sean stuck in out with the reserves – doing call outs and running basic training for his unit.
“That’s where I met my wife,” he explains. “She’s a manager for a healthcare clinic and one of the hardest workers I’ve ever know.”
They have three kids – two daughters and one son – and one granddaughter, age 8. The family lives in Chesterville.
“Our neighbours are great,” he notes. “There’s some retired military people like myself…a mix of younger couples and older couples. It’s a great place to live and everyone has been very welcoming.”
Sean has travelled all over the world with the military, including the Arctic and Europe.
“I’ve got all my continents covered,” he says. “I was stationed in San Diego for three years and had the opportunity to deploy.”
By deploy, he means spending 8 months at sea on what they call a big deck, otherwise known as an amphibious warship.
“It’s interesting…definitely a culture shock,” he says of the experience. “The food was very bad.”
Also not ideal was sharing a bathroom with hundreds of people, but Sean survived by working a lot and relying on care packages from home.
The ship stopped at ports in Hawaii, Guam, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Australia, which afforded breaks on land and sight-seeing opportunities.
When he got back, his family was waiting for him on the pier.
“It was a long trip and I was very glad to be back.”
The family returned to Canada in 2005, settling in Russell for 15 years before making their final move to Chesterville.
Sean retired from the military in 2012, after nearly 25 years of service. His “retirement” consists of working full-time for the federal public service and signing on as a volunteer firefighter for North Dundas.
“I retired from the military on a Friday and started work on the Monday,” he laughs. “My wife is bugging me to retire-retire, but I don’t think I’ll ever do that. I need to do something to stay sane.”
He joined up with the Morewood Fire Station in 2019 and stayed with them until transferring to the Chesterville Fire Station.
“After leaving the military, I was missing something,” Sean explains. “One day I was driving by and I saw that they were looking for firefighters, so I stopped in to say hello.”
Right now, he’s working on expanding the fire prevention side of things and growing community involvement. While the rest of the world was hoarding toilet paper, Sean was going to school online to add to his credentials with a certificate in emergency management.
“I did all that in the hopes of giving back more to the department,” he notes. “North Dundas has a very strong, dedicated group of people here.”
Meet Your Neighbour: Shannon Horsburgh
Dancer, heroic healer
'Ain’t No Mountain High Enough' for Shannon Horsburgh.
Shannon (nee Simms) grew up in Mountain, on the street that bears her family’s name.
“I danced at the Joanne Whittaker School of Dance,” she explains. “I was a dance instructor there.”
Shannon dipped her talented toes in everything, from ballet to tap and jazz to point.
“I love the freedom of being able to move and express yourself in your own way.”
She worked at Loughlin’s Country Store in Hallville for 15 years, starting out as a teenager and staying on at the local haunt all the way through school. Shannon says the owners, Marg and Gerald, treated her like family and taught her the secret of making the world’s best butter tarts.
After graduating from North Dundas District High School, Shannon spread her wings and flew to nursing
School at the University of Ottawa. The four-year program was challenging, but she stuck with it to the very end.
“I did my last placement in Winchester because I was hoping to work here,” Shannon notes. “I was fortunate enough to get a job here right out of school.”
She started in the Emergency Department at Winchester District Memorial Hospital in 2012 and this year marks a decade of caring for the people of North Dundas.
“I went from a part-time Registered Nurse in the ED to full-time, then on to Team Leader for five years and now I’ve taken on a new role as Interim Clinical Manager.”
Shannon says she always wanted to work in the community that she lives in.
“It’s that personal touch,” she explains. “It’s so much better coming into work and caring for people that you know, like a friend of a family member. You have that connection with them when you have something in common.”
Shannon notes that the motto at the Winchester Hospital is providing care close to home – something she lives and breathes every day. She says the staff set the rural hospital apart, through their values and team approach.
“No matter what you need, you can go to one of your colleagues and they’re always willing to help.”
Shannon explains treating patients the same way you want to be treated goes a long way.
“We all just care for our patients as though they’re our own family members,” she notes. “That’s how it is throughout the entire hospital…whether you’re getting an ultrasound done or staying with us for a few days on the in-patient side, everyone here just goes above and beyond for their patients.”
A year and a half ago, Shannon saw things from the other side of the curtain. She delivered her son, whom she and her husband named Landon, at the Winchester Hospital.
“He was born right in the middle of the pandemic,” Shannon says. “I made jokes when I went off on maternity leave that I wasn’t coming back until Covid was over, but then my year was up and it was still going.”
She said the experience of being a patient in her own hospital really opened her eyes to just how amazing the whole team is.
“Everyone was so great and I truly believe that I was cared for in the same way the OB team would care for anyone else.”
Shannon says nursing – and motherhood – are about keeping an open mind because you learn something new every day.
“It’s great working in a team environment like this and having people to bounce ideas off of,” she explains. “We can really lean on each other for support.”
Shannon considers herself lucky to be a part of such a remarkable team.
“They’re all so dedicated…they eat, breathe and love Winchester just as much as the rest of us do.”
On top of healing people at work, Shannon also flexes her heroic muscles when she’s off the clock. While visiting her father Paul Simms one day after work, they heard a neighbour calling for help. The man was trapped under a tractor and Shannon and her dad, a retired firefighter, helped save his life.
The dynamic duo were presented with the first ever Mayor’s Award in 2019 in recognition of their efforts.
“It’s pretty crazy how the stars aligned that day.”
Shannon says North Dundas is a wonderful place to live and she looks forward to raising her son here.
“I guarantee you that anyone here would give you the clothes off their back if you needed them,” she notes. “Everyone is willing to lend a helping hand.”
Meet Your Neighbour: Doug MacGregor
Sixth-generation dairy farmer, straight talker
Doug MacGregor calls it like he sees it.
The sixth-generation dairy farmer grew up on his family farm in Morewood.
“The first MacGregors were here in 1882,” explains Doug, “and we’ve been here ever since.”
Doug now runs the farm alongside his parents, Janet and Tom, with help from his wife, Margaret.
“My dad still works seven days a week,” he notes. “With the automated milkers and feed system, he says farming has become fun now.”
Doug and Margaret have two kids, a seven-year-old son and three-year-old daughter.
“My daughter is a tomboy,” says Doug, “but everything has to be pink.”
He says the kids like coming to the barn, where they can ride their bikes and scooters down the feed alley while Doug gets on with the chores.
He says growing up on a farm was ‘work.’ Every morning before school, he’d head out to the barn and do his chores, then go inside for breakfast before leaving for school.
There was a brief time when Doug considered becoming a mechanic instead of a farmer.
“In high school, I worked at a garage in Chesterville,” he explains. “I did my co-op there in grade 11 and 12 and I really enjoyed it. Then one day I was doing an oil change on a car and I had salt running down my arm dripping into my mouth…and there was this moment where I thought I’d rather be in the barn.”
Doug says his life is pretty much farming. He’s also been a volunteer firefighter in Morewood for going on 19 years, having signed up right out of high school.
“My dad was a firefighter for many years and Morewood used to have bingos every second Saturday. Dad used to help out with that and I’d go up with him and help out at the canteen, just to spend time with him. It’s a great group here in Morewood.”
Doug says what he likes about farming is the variety.
“The thing I love most about farming is that one day to the next is never the same,” he explains. “Today it could be some field work, tomorrow working in the shop and the next day doing something with the cows.”
Doug and Tom spent eight years designing their state-of-the-art dairy barn.
He says milk production has steadily climbed since upgrading the equipment, even though the number of cows being milked has stayed the same.
“Robots have changed everything,” Doug notes. “We don’t need to be here at 5am and 5pm every day – it makes farming more flexible.”
He’s been using some of his free time to learn how to skate and swim. He even built a 36ft by 60ft rink inside his machine shed.
“I never really skated or swam much as a kid, so the last couple of years I’ve been teaching myself how so I can keep up with my kids.”
Doug says his son is a better skater than him because he’s not afraid to fall.
“I don’t skate without a hockey stick in my hand,” he laughs.
Doug would like to see a seventh-generation at Glen Haven, but whether his kids become farmers is entirely up to them. Right now, his son wants to be a ‘police officer/firefighter,’ but that could change 10 years down the road.
“We’ll see how it goes…hopefully one of them takes over – I’m not picky.”
Doug says farming is a job that if you don’t love it, don’t do it.
No matter what you do to earn a living, Doug says North Dundas is a great place to hang your hat.
“The community and the people make it what it is,” he notes. “I don’t know any different, but Morewood has always been a great town. I remember the carnivals we had in the winter time and then in the summer, we used to have a Sun Fun Day. At the RA, they would have a water slide set up in the back and we used to take a cow the odd time for Bossy Bingo (cow plops instead of plastic markers, painted grass instead of a number card).
“Stuff you’d never see growing up in a city.”
Meet Your Neighbour: Casandra Spruit
Curling connoisseur, team player
Casandra Spruit’s life has been shaped by rocks bumping into each other.
She is a curling champ, with an unrivalled passion for the game.
It all started with getting dragged around from arena to arena because her brother played hockey.
“My mom said I had to find something to do,” Casandra explains. “I tried everything – swimming, dance, soccer – but nothing stuck. I didn’t like any of it.”
At the age of 12, she caught her first glimpse of curling on TV, when her mom tuned in to the Canadian curling championships.
“I said ‘hey, I want to do that,’ so she signed me up for the Manotick Curling Club. I was hooked right away – we put a team together and started going to competitions.”
Casandra fell in love with the game and jumped in with both feet (more like slid – much safer on ice). She enjoys the individual dynamic of curling, which requires you to excel at your role, as well as the team dynamic, where everybody has to bring their skills together cohesively.
“It’s like a game of chess,” smiles Casandra, “you have to call your own game, but you also have to try to figure out what your opponent is going to do and then you have to react to that. It’s very, very exciting. So there’s a physical component to curling, but there’s also a mental component and that’s what I really fell in love with.”
Casandra also fell in love with something else she found on the curling sheet - her husband Geoff.
They met at the Huntley Curling Club in Carp and never looked back. They moved onto his family farm on Spruit Road 10 years ago and have since welcomed two kids into the fold, 7-year-old Owen and 8-year-old Isabelle.
“They’re fun,” laughs Casandra. “We like them…we’ve decided to keep them.”
Guess what Geoff and Casandra’s kids like to do for fun? Bonspiel is in their bones!
They’ve been bit by the curling bug, thanks to the Little Rocks program at the Winchester Curling Club, geared towards kids aged six and up.
Good thing they’ve got an ‘in’ with the volunteer board – Casandra just so happens to be Club President.
“When I first started curling, I curled all over the city and province,” she explains. “I had to stop curling competitively when I had my kids, but I never actually stopped curling. My daughter was born in October of 2013 and I was back curling in January of 2014. I never took more than a few months off. I can’t get away from it – I love it.”
Now Casandra plays once a week and her love of the game has shifted away from winning to having a good time with friends.
“I’ve met some of my best friends through curling.”
That’s even how she met her future mother-in-law, Kathy Spruit, without knowing their mutual connection to Geoff.
“I had just finished curling and Geoff was curling next, so I stayed to watch,” notes Casandra. “I was just chatting with the lady behind me and we had a great two-hour conversation. Then we said goodbye and nice to meet you.”
When Geoff invited Casandra over to meet his family, the two women quickly realized they had already met.
“I was on the couch when she walked in and I said hello again,” she grins recalling the memory.
Geoff and Casandra got married in August of 2016, with their two kids by their side. They’re now the third generation of Spruits to live on the family farm in Mountain.
Casandra says if you’ve never curled before, now is the time to give it a try. The Winchester Curling Club runs a ‘Learn to Curl’ program for adults every fall.
In addition to being president, Casandra is also a League Convener and runs the Thursday night fixed league at the club. She says the club is run entirely by volunteers, who come together to help curling thrive in Winchester.
“We’re always encouraging people to come out and give curling a try,” notes Casandra. “Curling is a real community thing…you get all kinds who curl. That’s one of the things that I love about it – how accessible it is. You get people who are super competitive and then there’s people who are just there for the social aspect of the game.”
She says anyone can curl and that Winchester boasts club members ranging in age from six to 94.
“That’s one of the things that I love about curling – I know I can do this for the rest of my life.”
When she’s not on the ice, you can find Casandra rocking out with her band, crafting at her kitchen table or playing board games with her family.
Meet Your Neighbour: Tom and Amanda Schoch
Foodies, Sustainability advocates
Tom and Amanda Schoch are dedicated to diversity. They’re passionate about the environment and are working hard to make their little slice of North Dundas a haven for growth.
The couple lives in an old farm house, situated on 21 acres, just outside of the village. They have two young sons, named Preston and Eden.
Tom grew up on a dairy farm just down the way on County Road 7, but this is Amanda’s first foray into farming. She teaches art at Académie Catholique Notre-Dame in Kemptville. “I’m using my position as an educator to teach the kids about the environment,” she notes.
The couple plans on planting 500 trees per year on their property. Last year, they somehow managed to get 1,500 saplings into the ground, including spruce, pine, birch, dogwood, willows and sugar maple.
“We gather our own oak seeds as well,” says Tom. “See those jars on the counter – we’re stratifying the seeds. Basically we have to emulate the natural process of the seed falling to the ground, freezing in the winter and then unfreezing in the spring. Some of the seeds we scarify – scratch them like a squirrel would.
“We are trying to plant as many varieties of trees as possible to create the most diverse piece of land in Chesterville,” he explains, “so that it could eventually become a permaculture, which is basically a food forest.”
Tom is a former radio broadcaster, who swore off farming after leaving for college. That is until he met Amanda, who has always wanted to live on a farm surrounded by animals. He was working as a Promotional Director at the time and ended up hiring her for a weekend gig.
“She walked in and the moment I saw her, I knew I was in trouble,” grins Tom.
She worked one shift, for which Tom never paid her, and they’ve been together ever since.
“Nine years later, here we are,” laughs Amanda.
They decided to move out of the city and back to North Dundas right after their first son was born.
“I absolutely wanted my kids to grow up in the country,” notes Amanda.
Being back out in North Dundas afforded them the opportunity to grow their own food and become more sustainable.
The couple started learning more about the food system after chatting one night and looking at the ingredients in a bag of flour. “We started asking, why is there more than just flour in this?” explains Amanda. “It made us ask questions about food.”
“The one thing that is the most determining factor in how we feel, think and live is what we put into our bodies,” says Tom.
That discussion inspired Gar-Eden Farms, which features a 10,000 square foot garden, along with chickens, goats and sometimes pigs (sometimes bacon).
“For us, it’s about just reaching people one by one – to get them to come here and put their hands in the dirt, go clean out a pig pen, collect eggs from a chicken while they’re still warm.” Tom says getting back to basics is an important step forward. He says getting back into gardening and raising animals is like going home. “It’s about balancing yourself – understanding that you’re part of the process and not above it.”
Gar-Eden Farms offers fresh veggies in the summer, along with beef, pork and eggs. Tom and Amanda encourage people to drop by and see for themselves how the simple life can transform yours.
“If we could just encourage one person or one family to grow the food to sustain themselves just for the summer, then I think that it snowballs into empowering people to go further,” says Amanda. “This isn’t about selling food – we want to empower and educate.”
Meet Your Neighbour: Erin Hunter Kapcala
Morewood mom, healthcare advocate
Erin Hunter Kapcala knows how good she’s got it.
First off, her 13-year-old son still hangs out with her (no arm twisting required). Secondly, she lives in Morewood, surrounded by people who are willing to pick up a shovel or fire up the oven to help their neighbours out. And last but not least, Erin spends every day doing a job that benefits a place she holds dear to her heart: Winchester District Memorial Hospital (WDMH).
Erin grew up in South Dundas before moving to Ottawa, where she studied psychology at the University of Ottawa, followed by law clerk at Algonquin College. She met her husband Mark – an Ottawa Paramedic – while at school. She graduated in 2006 and they bought their first (and last) home in Morewood four months later.
“We stepped into our house and just loved it,” Erin explains. “My husband wanted to live in the country because he’s a bit of a city boy and I grew up in the country, so I wanted to live in a town.”
Morewood was the best of both worlds – rural, with a close-knit community feel.
“It felt like coming home,” notes Erin. “Morewood is such a wonderful place to live. We have neighbours who know that Mark does shift work and they’ll just show up and clear our driveway. A couple years ago, when my father passed away, we kept coming home and finding food on our porch…people just support each other here.”
Erin and Mark enjoy giving back to their community by volunteering. Erin was part of the Morewood RA, serving as Vice President and then President, and the Friends of the Morewood Library group. Mark is a volunteer firefighter with the Morewood Station.
When she first moved to Morewood, Erin was working as a legal assistant, but opened an at-home daycare when her son Austin was born. She refers to the kids she babysat in Morewood as her ‘little babies.’
“They still show up and act like this is their house,” she laughs. “They’re all Austin’s age and they’re all still good friends, so they come here and call it their second home. They come in, go to the cupboard and get food. I get home from work and there are all these bikes in my front yard. I love it – it’s great.”
After losing her father, Cecil, she wanted to find a way to do something for the hospital. When an opportunity opened up at the WDMH Foundation, Erin jumped at it. She is now the Manager of Major and Planned Giving and her role is to work with donors to educate and encourage people to give the most meaningful gift they can.
“My father passed away at the hospital and the staff treated him so well,” she says. “I was born at the hospital and so was my son…one of the reasons we wanted to live in North Dundas was because of the hospital. Being able to show others how they can give, how important donors are, and how donations benefit this community is so fulfilling.”
Erin says the community is fortunate to have such a well-equipped hospital right in its backyard.
“You never want to have to go to the hospital, but if you have to, you want to go to Winchester. Everyone is friendly and willing to help you.”
Erin says the Foundation is always raising funds to support the purchase of medical equipment, among other items the hospital needs to continue to provide care.
The WDMH will mark its 75th anniversary next year and it has come a long way since 1948.
“Listening to people talk about the hospital, it’s incredible to hear how much they appreciate it,” says Erin. “Having this level of care so close to home is amazing.”
When Erin isn’t busy volunteering in Morewood or drumming up donations for the hospital, you can usually find her at home with her family.
“We love playing board games and during Covid, we started doing Bob Ross paintings as a family. We’re very close and I know how lucky we are to be saying that.”
Meet Your Neighbour: Fred Bortolussi
Canadian history buff, Chesterville interloper
Fred Bortolussi is a Chesterville newbie. He’s only lived in the village for 30 years and still lacks the requisite nickname to be considered a true Chestervillian. “We’ll always be newbies,” he laughs, “our kids are Chestervillians though because they were born here.”
Fred is originally from Sudbury and his wife, Lisa, grew up in Peterborough. “When we got married and decided to start a family, we knew we wanted to move out to the country,” he explains. “We literally stuck a compass on the map, drew a 50-kilometer radius and looked all over the place. When we saw this house, it was the home we always dreamed about.”
Fred and Lisa moved to Chesterville in 1992 and started a family soon after, bolstering the local population by two. Finding care for their young sons was the first indication of just how special Chesterville is. It began with Martha and Donnie Wheeler, who lived across the street.
“Our boys were able to establish lifelong friendships with the other kids at the Wheeler’s,” notes Fred. Later, Betty and Ray Hall (Ray has since passed away) continued to show Fred and Lisa what village life is all about. “We ended up getting a real, real nice person coming to the house,” notes Fred. “She’s a sweetheart…her and her husband just took our boys into their lives and became like grandparents to them.”
Fred spent the first half of his career working in sports administration in Ottawa, handling the logistics of major national and provincial sporting events. “I was involved in sporting events with 120 teams from 15 different countries,” explains Fred. “When I first got out here, I joined the Recreation Association and the meeting came up for Canada Day. We were talking about all the stuff required for the event - like bouncy houses for the kids - but the big issue was the fireworks because it upsets the cows and they wouldn’t milk. Here I am coming from the city, with all kinds of wild logistics, and this was the main issue. That’s when I realized, as Dorothy says, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
During the Ice Storm of ’98, Fred got another rural reality check. “This place looked like a bomb went off and all of a sudden there’s people in our front yard – people we didn’t know – with chainsaws cutting up the big trees that had fallen down and clearing them away. “That’s when we realized this is more than just a place to live…this is a community that cares for each other and if something is needed, you don’t even have to ask for it.” Fred says the minute you fire up a power tool, everyone comes running. “Sure enough, if you’re short a 2x6, a tool or an idea, you’ve got it,” he notes.
Fred spent the second half of his career as a teacher, working at St. Michael Catholic High School in Kemptville for nearly 20 years. He taught Canadian History and World Religions and spearheaded culturally enriching trips for the students every other year. “We’ve taken kids all over the world on history trips – we’ve been to the 100th anniversary of Vimy, the 75th anniversary of D-Day, trucked them through Auschwitz, to the Berlin Wall and all through the British Isles.”
Fred was also the force behind the replica trenches at St. Mike’s, where the school holds its annual Remembrance Day ceremonies. “We started the trenches in 2006 or 2007,” he explains. “We just went out there one day with shovels and started digging…it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.”
Fred is a firm believer in hands-on learning. “It’s authentic, it’s real – we’ve slept out in the trenches and ate the food they would’ve had available at the time.”
He says his kids loved growing up in North Dundas. “My sons had the whole street and back 40,” notes Fred. “We could let them go and knew they were safe. The only thing we ever worried about was when the combines hit the corn that they’re not in the corn anymore. Other than that, it was total freedom.”
Fred and Lisa’s family jumped on the Chesterville bandwagon, with two sisters-in-law and one mother-in-law settling down on the same street. “They moved in from Peterborough, Toronto and Ottawa,” explains Fred. “They saw the lifestyle that we were living and wanted the same thing.”
So what do Chesterville people do for fun?
“There’s always a project involved – whether it’s fixing a toaster or building a shed – inevitably there’s that post project gathering, usually at The Bistro (Charlie Graham’s garage).”
Fred says he never plans on leaving Chesterville. “Unless they throw us out,” he laughs. “The concept of community as family is worth all the big box stores in the world.”
Meet Your Neighbour: Dawn Erickson
Compassionate caregiver, loves to be active
Dawn Erickson stumbled upon her passion when she took a fateful job. She was on the fence about what she wanted to do with her life when she ended up working at Dundas Manor. “The Director at the time told me that I would make an amazing nurse because I loved working with people,” explains Dawn. “I said ‘it doesn’t sound that exciting’ and she said ‘not everybody can be a nurse.’ I just fell in love with looking after people.”
Dawn went to St. Lawrence College in Cornwall to become a Registered Nurse and got hired on at the Winchester District Memorial Hospital in 1984. She retired last year, after 36 years of dedicated service to the hospital. “It was such a great place to work,” Dawn notes. “I loved working there and the people I worked with became my work family.”
She still gets together with her retired nursing friends, who are bound together by decades of memories. She spent the first 25 years of her career doing shift work in the ICU and the latter part as a team lead on the med-surg floor. Somewhere along the way she met her future husband, Mike, who was working at the arena in Winchester.
“I was figure skating and he was flooding the ice,” she smiles. “One day, I was at the gas station in town, filling up my dad’s car, and he was there with his dad. He turned to his dad and said, ‘see that girl? I’m going to marry her.’ The rest is history.” They have three children, two sons and a daughter, who have given them five grandkids so far. Dawn and Mike have lived in the same home in Winchester for 35 years.
She says North Dundas is a wonderful place to live, filled with many opportunities and amenities. “You’ll walk down the street in Winchester and people will say hello or strike up a conversation. It just stops you in your tracks…that friendliness.”
Dawn says working at a rural hospital was a very unique experience that she wouldn’t trade for the world. “We used to do our rounds every day to discuss our patients and their care,” she notes, “and I would say well that lady is my neighbour, that guy sits behind me at church and that man is my friend’s grandfather. The staff would laugh at me and ask if I knew everybody.”
Having those connections with her patients added a personal touch for Dawn. She says that’s what makes the Winchester Hospital so special. Dawn traded in her scrubs for sweats last year and now teaches yoga five times a week.
“I still wanted to help people after retiring,” she explains. “I feel really strongly that people need to keep moving to stay healthy, especially as they age. I really promote active lifestyles.” When she’s not finding her center, Dawn is often out biking, kayaking or taking in the local trails. “We have so much here for people to enjoy and I really encourage people to take advantage of everything North Dundas has to offer.”
In between working full-time, raising three kids and staying active, Dawn always managed to find time for her volunteer work. She’s been involved with the figure skating club and minor hockey, coached baseball and soccer, and spent many years on the school council. “When my kids got to high school, my son said ‘I think we’re good on our own now…please don’t volunteer at the high school,’” she laughs.
Meet Your Neighbour: Dan Gasser
Martial arts master, stellar smile
Dan Gasser is a fierce volunteer. He’s got a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu, but his heart is pure gold. Dan says that martial arts has shaped his entire life. “When I talk about who I am, that’s the highlight,” he notes. “It teaches you so much about commitment, discipline and respect.”
Dan’s neighbour, Norm Beauchamp, was the spark that lit the fire by inviting Dan to try Jiu-Jitsu. “And so, 30 years later we’re still doing it,” he explains. “When Norm brought me in, he was training at the high school gym and then in 2000, he opened up a dojo at the old legion in Chesterville and that’s where I got my black belt at the age of 16. Norm is a legend in the martial arts world and won the World Championship in sport Jiu-Jitsu in 2000 in Vienna.”
Dan, in partnership with Norm and his wife Carol, owns Therien Martial Arts in Winchester, which specializes in Can-Ryu Jiu-Jitsu. They also run Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing and fitness programs. “I love it and it all comes down to the people that you meet,” he notes. “A black belt is nice to have, but there’s an old saying that all it’s doing is holding up your pants and keeping your Gi closed.”
Dan says growing up in Chesterville was a wonderful experience, thanks to his incredible teachers and the friends he’s held on to for three decades and counting. He left the village after high school to study commerce at Carleton University, with a concentration in accounting, but switched to a concentration in marketing along the way.
“My friends said I can’t believe you’re leaving the program and I said well, creative marketing makes you rich and creative accounting lands you in jail, so which ones sounds more fun?”
Dan moved back to Chesterville after finishing university to be close to his family and friends. In addition to working full-time as a business analyst with the Federal Government and being devoted to the dojo, Dan also makes time for volunteering. His parents were always involved with the Chesterville Fair, so Dan joined the Board as a Junior Director as a teenager. He spent 15 years helping out with the fair and even served as President of the Chesterville & District Agricultural Society from 2010 to 2012.
“Working with the Fair Board was a blast. I always preferred enjoying the fair that way, rather than just attending it,” Dan explains. He says organizing the fair is a true group effort that leads to infamous moments, like the smash-up derby featuring combines. “The video of that still exists on YouTube somewhere,” laughs Dan.
After many years with the Fair Board, Dan started looking around for something else to do to stay involved in the community. That’s how he wound up volunteering for Community Food Share in 2016. They were rebranding at the time, so he helped with that and with building their website and social media presence.
A year later, Dan was invited to join the Board of Directors and became the Treasurer in 2019. He now serves as Chair of the Board. Dan says that one of the main things people should remember about the Community Food Share is that it’s for everyone. Community Food Share supplies people with five to seven days’ worth of groceries, once per month, to give that relief to catch up on other bills. “We have a kids’ program as well, that provides lunch snacks,” notes Dan, “and we run an income tax clinic, to help people get their taxes filed.”
Community Food Share, which operates in Winchester, Morrisburg, Williamsburg and Finch, serves approximately 200 families throughout Dundas and Stormont Counties each month. “Our number one goal is to make sure that people are not going hungry in our community,” he explains. “We’ve had the conversation that it’s nearly impossible to eliminate hunger…something can always happen to change your circumstances. In fact, that’s one of my main motivations for volunteering with Community Food Share – you never know what’s going to happen and one day I might fall on hard times.”
Dan says Community Food Share is a welcoming place, with resources available to help people get back on their feet. “Don’t hesitate to give us a call and find out how we can help,” he notes, “All of our staff and volunteers are so committed and they really care about people.”
Meet Your Neighbour: Ruth Vanderlaan
Farmer Ruth, chief of chores
Ruth Vanderlaan likes to keep busy. She knows all about chores, being the owner of a petting zoo in Winchester Springs. Just how many animals does Farmer Ruth take care of?
“I always say, it’s like asking how much money is in my bank account...you don’t ask someone how many animals they have. We just feed them all.”
From cows to ponies, chickens to guinea pigs, goats to sheep (and dogs that look like sheep), Vanderlaand The Barnyard Zoo has a little bit of everything. Ruth has names for most of her animals, who are more like children than actual pets. She refers to them as ‘professionals,’ who know how to pull on people’s heartstrings shamelessly.
“This is what my animals do,” smiles Ruth. “People love our animals and they’re always happy to see you.” There’s Stan, the Komondor, and Sassy, the African Grey Congo Parrot (who likes to nip at unsuspecting dogs from behind), and Bumper, the big old sheep. An entire barnyard full of characters, each more interesting than the last.
So how did Ruth wind up running a petting zoo? It just sort of happened, according to Ruth, who raised five kids with her husband Tony. “When they were young, my kids started collecting animals and then my girls started breeding rabbits and guinea pigs,” explains Ruth. “People would come here to buy the animals and they didn’t want to leave.”
She says her kids loved the idea of opening a petting zoo and it became a regular conversation around the dinner table. Ruth decided to switch gears from running a home daycare to a new kind of zoo. “My joke is that if I would’ve known that we were going to have a petting zoo, I would’ve had more kids because they were the best helpers.”
Even though her kids have flown the coop, Ruth says they’re all just a phone call away when she’s shorthanded on the farm. She’s even got two new crew members in training: her grandsons. “I love that our kids got to grow up here and I’m so happy that our grandkids get to experience this.”
Ruth says North Dundas has always felt like home. “When we moved here, Winchester Springs was totally welcoming…you couldn’t drive down the road without getting a wave or a nod,” she notes.
Ruth says it’s been a wild ride, as her and Tony mark 34 years of marriage and 23 years in Winchester Springs. They started out with only a few beef cows, a couple chickens and two goats. Now you might trip on that many animals just trying to walk through the barn.
When asked what she does for fun, Ruth laughs and replies “sleep I guess.” From morning to night, Ruth is doing chores and it makes her happier than a pig in…well, mud. She says the community has rallied around the farm and local support has made a world of difference. “The best part is the people you meet along the way.”
Ruth enjoys chatting with visitors about farm life and sharing her agricultural knowledge, spanning a lifetime spent working with animals. Watching Ruth with her animals is akin to seeing water flow through a river – symbiotic and beautiful. The animals gravitate towards her, like a magnet pulling you home.
Meet Your Neighbour: Barb and Tom Savary
Gentle souls, golden retriever fans
The only argument you’ll hear between Barb and Tom Savary is which one is luckier to have the other. They’ve been married for 57 years and counting. Barb and Tom met at church, where they both sang in the choir.
Soon after being married, the pair went to visit friends near Morewood and after dinner, they all went to look at an old farm house that was for sale in the village. “We bought it just like that,” notes Barb happily. “There was no plumbing and only two small gas heaters. Nothing has ever appealed to us more than living here.”
Over five decades later, Barb and Tom are still in the same house. Soon after moving in, they planted a maple tree in the front yard – as the years passed by and more memories were made, the maple grew alongside the family, and is now strong and steady.
Barb and Tom have three sons, whom they describe as ‘wonderful kids,’ and now get to enjoy the best part of being a parent, known as GRAND–parenting. Their grandson and three granddaughters like to come visit.
Exploring an outbuilding on their property soon after moving in, Tom and Barb discovered the original town bandstand, long ago moved to the property where it had been covered and used as a farm building. It used to be at the corner where the Cenotaph now stands and still has initials that were carved into it in the early 1900s. Once uncovered, it became the ‘neighbourhood sandbox’ where kids would get together to play. Their boys still remember the fun times when they would have pickup games of hockey at the community rink and baseball over at the school. It’s part of what made their childhood so special.
The late Claude Cousineau, long-time North Dundas Mayor, ran his upholstery business next door. Barb says he had his horse Buckshot there with him on the property and when her kids were very young, they took carrots over to feed ‘Bucky.’
Tom spent many years as a teacher and administrator, first in Ottawa, then Morewood, Inkerman and Avonmore. Back then, Morewood Road was not built up and along with snow days, there were flood days when part of the road was blocked by water. “My career was filled with wonderful teachers and students and I have fond memories of those years.”
In addition to raising a family, Barb and Tom bred and raised golden retrievers. “Our first Golden was Tessa” she explains. “I started going to dog shows and learning... I wanted to do it right.”
Barb became a well-known local dog breeder. “People still phone us,” she says. “Our dogs were healthy and had long lives.” They were also trained therapy dogs and for many years made weekly visits to Winchester District Memorial Hospital.
Barb and Tom say Morewood is a great place to live. They reminisced about when their house was nearly destroyed by fire in 1974. “We were in London visiting my parents when it happened,” Tom explains.
The newly formed fire department saved the house and the neighbours all around rescued the contents, moving everything into the school to protect it. When Tom and Barb returned, they were offered the use of the house across the street while their own home was being repaired. “Although most today would not remember this, we will forever,” he explains. “Communities change, but one thing never has in Morewood…the community spirit is strong.”