Recently, I found some pics stored in the cloud on OneDrive. I had long forgotten them. Gosh, the memories returned in a flood as if they happened just yesterday!
Yes, it was graduation from High School. Beside me is Judith Anne Davis, my first girlfriend, who became a fine physiotherapist. She made a lasting impression on me but we parted ways in 1971. She married Dr. Craig Appleyard, mothered 4 children and raised them to have families of their own. In 2003, she married Lloyd (Bud) Mervyn of Owen Sound.
This picture of me was taken in 1973. It was taken by a photographer in Peterborough (not likely still there) who expressed the thought that I should become a male model but I had other aspirations. I spent two years in broadcasting for a small radio station in Stratford, CJCS, an 800-watt wonder that has been bought and sold a couple of times since those heady days doing the news. I enjoyed broadcasting but I knew then that just a few of the thousands who pursue a broadcasting career make more than minimum wage.
When I changed careers, I moved to Whitby Ontario, a small town just east of Toronto. These days, it has become a bedroom community for thousands of people who work in downtown Toronto.
Vera is sitting at the piano (K.Kawai) in the living room of our first house. I had completed the first year of job training. We were introduced by a friend at the office whose wife had been at university with Vera. It was a classic ‘set up’ for which I am eternally grateful. (Thank you, Urs.)
Sometimes I think there was a hand of God in this because through 3 years of university and 2 years working in broadcasting I had not found anyone suitable for a permanent relationship. Vera was the next woman for me following Anne.
Vera was awesome! We dated every day that summer (1976) and married in September the following year. She understood me and her family accepted me from first introduction which proved to be a wonderful experience. Her mother trusted her daughter to choose a man of her own volition; it seemed like Heaven to me.
Our first date was dinner and dancing at the Old Mill Restaurant in Toronto. Dinner was Chateaubriand with Baked Alaska for desert. We danced to closing with a live orchestra. I have never been a good dancer, even with lessons, but Vera made me feel as though I was the best stepper on the floor.
The wedding was the best party ever! Polish and Ukrainian people know how to throw weddings, a hundred and fifty guests, lots to eat, and dancing to a live band.
This picture with mum and dad is taken following the Christening of our first son, Colin. Both Colin and Jason were Christened in the Anglican Church.
Though I had been Christened in the Anglican Church as an infant, I did not become Christian until the age of 31, when we were expecting Colin. I had been rather undecided about becoming Christian, and the idea that I should resolve this ambivalence before the birth of my son seemed important; I felt responsible for setting an example for him. That prompted my spiritual journey that continues today.
Vera, born of Ukrainian and Polish parents, was raised in the Eastern Orthodox Church. She joined the Anglican Church with me.
This is Vera and her late brother Peter holding Colin. Peter fell victim to MS (Multiple Sclerosis) at the age of 42. He was first diagnosed at 14, a fact not easily accepted by most people yet Peter was a thoughtful, kind, independent, and generous person to the end.
Vera is holding Colin in front of the flower bed of our first house. It was a small 900 square foot bungalow with a wet basement but it gave us a start on the property ladder. Our dog is a tri-colour Pembroke Welsh Corgi named ‘Caldy.’ I have always loved dogs. I trained two German Shepherds in my youth; both dogs acquired Hip Dysplasia and were put down. Caldy was trained to ‘utility level,’ which means he could receive all commands by signal, including circuit jumping.
Vera’s smile lights up her face. It radiates warmth. Mum made the point, soon after meeting Vera, that “she is the only woman whom you let laugh at you.” It’s a hearty laugh that resonates well in any movie theatre. It should be pointed out, affectionately of course, that Mum liked Anne instantly because they shared a career interest in physiotherapy. However, mum enjoyed music and was a pianist so she soon warmed to Vera’s affectionate nature.
Vera is an extraordinary pianist. She practised 8 hours a day during her university years. She can conceive and compose symphonies as easily as some people write. She inherited her mother’s soprano voice. She loves sewing, can draw, and her calligraphy is outstanding too. All of these skills shaped her teaching. Her students feel ‘the love’ in her smile, her laugh, and her approach to them; many grew to have families of their own and Vera taught their children, often at a parent’s insistence.
This is Vera Brittan in 1982, in her classroom. She taught even the most difficult child to sing and play a musical instrument. Even the delinquents in her class grew to acknowledge her contribution to their lives. You can find Vera on Facebook and read the accolades yourself.
I have a tendency to mention Vera even as I mention myself; we are intrinsically connected by shared experience raising a family, working at careers, and holding onto each other during tragic events that inevitably shaped our relationship. This year, 2017, marks our 40th wedding anniversary; a moment denied many couples these days.
This is one of the earliest pictures in our married collection. Vera’s brother Peter is situated in the centre, with Vera on the left, and brother John on the right. We don’t know for certain who took this picture. It was taken in late 1977 after we married, or 1978 or 1979. Peter was diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) at 14 and lived to the age of 42. He never complained about his illness but he raged often about wheelchair access in public and commercial buildings. When the three of them were together, laughter filled the room. I was always made to feel welcome and, as years passed, I became part of the Shepel family.
This is Aniela (Czechowska) Shepel, my mother-in-law, who treated me as well as her sons. She lived a difficult life in Poland during the War Years and witnessed atrocities under German occupation but she never lost her sense of humour or her love for music which she imparted to her sons and daughter. There was always a pot of homemade soup, or something cooking in the oven. One couldn’t leave her kitchen without gaining a pound or two. She loved to bake and often sent cookies to the neighbours. She was a kind, generous person.
Ivan and Aniela were always present but never intrusive. That was a remarkable balance to achieve. Vera and I had busy careers. They helped us, every day, raise our children. They never cancelled a call for help. It was a truly remarkable commitment for which Vera and I will always be grateful. This picture was taken on our wedding day, September 3rd, 1977. The service was held at St.George’s Anglican Church in Oshawa with Rev. Aaron Zull presiding. It was an emotional day for them and they managed to keep their composure through it all.