Red River Ancestry
Home | Ancestor Index | History | Forum |

 

GARY NORMAN STILL (1939-2018)
ELDRED MERLE (FIDLER) THOMAS (1943-1997)

A MEMOIR

© 2008 - 2018 Gary N. Still

(Last Updated: April 02, 2018) 


Scotch & German Ancestors

 

My known paternal lineage goes back to Alexander STILL who was born around 1735 in Aberdeen, Scotland.

** MORE ABOUT ANCIENT STILL ANCESTORS in SCOTLAND

 

I have traced my maternal CONROD ancestors back to Johann Lorentz CONRAD (1701-1762) who was born in Kleinheubach, Bavaria (Germany). ** MORE ABOUT JOHANN LORENTZ CONRAD

 

I, Gary Norman STILL, was born on Dec 22, 1939 in Selkirk, Manitoba, the second youngest child of Bessie CONROD & Thomas James (Jim) STILL (1894-1980). ** MORE ABOUT BESSIE & JIM STILL

 

THE WAR YEARS
1939-1945

 

On Sep 10, 1939, World War II began when a special session of Parliament approved a request by Prime Minister Mackenzie KING (1874-1950) that Canada join the war in Europe. The decision, seen by most Canadians as inevitable, came exactly one week after England and France declared war on Nazi Germany. It was the first time that Canadians made their own declaration of war as a sovereign nation.

 

I was born just three months after the War was declared. Canada had only begun to recover from the Great Depression (the ‘Dirty Thirties’). In later years, Mom told me they almost gave me up for dead when I was a baby - "turned blue and almost died". At that time the STILL family had their home on Sunnyside Road just south of the Manitoba Rolling Mills (MRM) and the Town of Selkirk.

 

On Feb 10, 1943 Eldred Merle THOMAS was born in Selkirk. She was the first child of the marriage of Irene “Tina” (nee DICKENSON-MOORE) ZALISCO & Ventrice (FIDLER) THOMAS (1893-1985).

** MORE ABOUT VENTRICE THOMAS

 

On Nov 24, 1943, when I was four years old my Dad (Jim) joined the Veteran Guards of Canada (VGC) at the Fort Osborne Barracks in Winnipeg.

 

That scar on my cheek?  I don't even remember it happening, but I was told that I was just a toddler at the time.  Our mud driveway had been filled with 'slag' from the Mill, a very course metallic waste material with many sharp edges that was often used as ‘fill’.  Apparently, I had been playing  in the driveway with our dog, Bruce. When Bruce jumped up for some reason and I fell on the slag - quite a few stitches were required.

 

Gary Still in 1943Ventrice Thomas & Eldred

Left: Gary Still – Right: Ventrice Thomas and his daughter Eldred
These photos were taken in the mid 1940’s

 

One of my first vague memories of childhood that registered was the birth of my little brother, Kenny on Dec 7, 1943.  This is also my first remembrances of my father, I remember the family gathered around to see the new baby; I remember Dad reaching into his kit-bag and handing me an O’Henry chocolate bar, a very special rare treat in those days. The stranger, who was my Dad, soon disappeared again to work in Prisoner of War (POW) Camps until he was discharged. 

 

A Five year old Bandit: I remember before I went to school (I was probably only five years old) I was tagging along with the ELKOW boys (Metro and Walter) when Metro masterminded a break-in at the COLLIN house on Calder Road. The owners were away at the time and we crawled through an unlocked basement window. The loot consisted mostly of food-snacks (cookies etc); Walter stole what he thought was a chocolate bar - it was X-Lax!  I remember him having to shit every few yards along the railroad tracks during our escape.

 

MAPLETON SCHOOL – MY PRE-TEEN YEARS
1945

 

I started school in 1945, six years old. Brother Denis walked me to school on the first day. My main fears were that the teacher would strap me, and that other kids were going to fight me (the only things that I had heard happening at school). Of course, Denis managed to allay these tribulations. Mapleton was a one-room school at that time, with grades form 1 to 8 all in the same room, with Mrs SMITH as teacher.

 

Gary Still 1953 School PictureMapleton School

 

** MORE ABOUT MAPLETON SCHOOL

 

1953

 

Boozin' by the Outhouse 1953

Boozin’ at the Still place in the summer of 1953

 

Who’s boozin’ in the picture you ask? At the back with his bottle tipped up is Dad (Jim). He was having a hard time finding a job at that time. This was the first time I had ever seen him get tipsy from drinking. Mom & Dad (Bessie & Jim) hardly ever imbibed.  Bessie only occasionally had a late night ‘Hot Toddy’ in those days. Also at the back next to dad with bottle raised is Yvonne, married to Ernie (front left of the picture). Yvonne had only recently given birth to a child (Paul). Next to Ernie is probably John and to the right of him is Gordon. That’s me (Gary) at the bottom right (about 14 years old). Next to me are Uncle Wilson CONROD and his son, Cousin David CONROD with his hand on his father’s shoulder.

 

The picture prominently features the original precious old outhouse perched atop of a dugout pit. Every few years when the pit became too full with excrement, a new pit had to be dug and the outhouse relocated. In the earlier years there was no toilet paper. Instead, old newspapers, magazines and Sears catalogues provided ass-wipe. There was no plumbing; a drilled well and pump provided drinking water. At the back corner of the house you can see the barrel that gathered rainwater from the roof of the house in the summertime. That water was used for washing clothes and bath water. To bath one had to heat a tub of water on the wood stove. This was an old galvanized tin tub barely large enough for one to submerge their backside in. In the winter time washing and bathing water was obtained by gathering snow which was melted and heated on the wood stove.

 

Previous to the time the above photo was taken, there was a large woodpile located at the same spot where the outhouse is shown. The fact that the woodpile is no longer there indicates that the picture was taken after an oil burning stove had been installed in the living room. The window is on Myrna’s room. Being the only girl in the family she had her very own room.

 

This is an excellent backdrop on which to describe the situation of the rest of the family as it was around 1953. Not in the picture are Everet, Myrna, Billy and Kenny. Everet was then only recently married (to Pat WAKEFIELD) and was living in Trenton, Ontario. Myrna was then 21 years old and still single. Billy (age 24) would marry that fall to Sessly DOLL. Denis (age 20) was still single, and Kenny was about 10 years old.

=========================== // ===========================

 

Selkirk Collegiate
Temporary High School in the St Clements Church Hall
1954-56

 

On February 3, 1954, we got our first telephone at home. At that time I was attending Grade 9 at the Selkirk Collegiate.

 

In the 1955-56 school term, due to overcrowded classes, rural students were not allowed to enroll in Selkirk. As a result, our St Clements Anglican Church Hall was converted into a temporary high school for students from Mapleton, Lockport and St Peters. It was there that I spent my last year of schooling (Grade 10).

 

When school was out, the only job I could find was at Stephanson's Fisheries in Selkirk as a Fish Scaler. That involved standing at a table loaded with fish (pickerel, saugers, perch, jackfish, etc) and using a hand held revolving scaler to remove their scales. At the end of the work day I would walk through town on the way home to Mapleton emitting a fishy stench that could be smelled a block away. But it was a job, and I was independent and had money in my pocket. As soon as I turned 16 I bought an old 1931 Chevrolet for $90 and was the envy of my peers. The body was in beautiful shape but it was crank-started and it used more oil than gas. My older brother (Johnny) only had a 1928 Model T Ford, so I had a step up.

 

A YOUNG HBC FUR TRADER – WINISK POST
1956-1957

 

I hated school; I hated authority; I hated a hum-drum existence (I was a typical rebellious teenager). No more school for me! I wanted adventure, and travel to far-off places; perhaps the first of many 'bad choices' I would make in my life.

 

It was in the fall of 1956, at the age of 16 (I turned 17 that winter) that I was accepted for a clerking position with the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), Fur Trade Division, assigned to their post at Winisk on Hudson Bay. I left home on Dec 10, 1956 and was flown from Winnipeg (via Val D'Or, Quebec) to the Winisk Mid-Canada Line Radar Station airstrip. From there I experience my first trip by dogsled to the remote post at Winisk (also known as Peawanuck), in the land of the northern Cree Indians.

 

Hudson Bay Forts

 

Me, Ernie Hunter and two kidsEd. Me and Tim Nichols

Left: Me, Ernie Hunter and two kids (one is Billy Bird at back)

Right: Ed, me and Tim Nichols (Game Warden)

 

For more information about Winisk, here are a couple of links:

The Omushkegowak of Winisk River

A Preliminary Study of Acculturation Among the Cree Indians of Winisk, Ontario

 

Post Manager on my arrival: Albert MORRICO; Fellow Clerk: Ed MIKOLASH

Game Warden who stayed with us: Tim NICHOLS

Our Cook: Mary GULL

 

This was just the kind of adventure I wanted. I learned to speak a little Cree and was introduced to native culture. It was like stepping back into history. Their life-style wasn't much different then than it had been for centuries. Many of them still lived in teepees, and they hunted, trapped and fished for a living. I befriended an unforgettable deaf-mute Indian (Ernie HUNTER) who accompanied me on several memorable hikes into the outbacks. The Indians called me OOKI-MASIS ('Little Boss').

 

Another friend: Louis BIRD

 

Christmas was celebrated with Father GAGNON or Father MORAN & Brother BILEDEAU (Caribous steak, wild rice, etc).

 

 

Feb 17:  New Post Manager: Mike PASCO

 

I was only at Winisk for about six months, but I could write a novel about the experiences I had while I was there. However, the pay was poor. By the time I was deducted for room & board there was very little left to buy myself some clothes, etc.; the rest I gambled away at the Mid Canada Early Warning System camp (similar to the DEW Line).

 

It didn't take long for me to realize that this was not going to be a career for me. If I was going to amount to anything in my life, I needed to get some more education. Disillusioned and homesick, I quit and returned home in June of '57.

 

THE ADVENTURER RETURNS HOME
1957

 

The STILL Family in 1957

This is the STILL Family in 1957 (Missing is George Everett)

A Welcome Home Gathering for the Wandering Boy from Winisk

The sleepy looking guy front and center is me. The sleepy looking guy next to me is my brother John

(We were both slightly inebriated)

 

It would finally dawn on me that if I was going to amount to anything in life, I would have to choose a profession or trade of some kind. A University profession was out; no, I didn't have the patience to spend the years of training for some silly desk job. Perhaps a trade would be better. I obtained a booklet outlining various courses available but none of them caught my fancy. About the closest thing I could find was a Radio Operating course. I envisioned myself in this occupation aboard a ship. I could travel to the remote corners of the world, adventure would abound.

 

Radio Operator

Winnipeg and Saskatoon

1958-1960

 

During the school season of 1958-59 I attended the Manitoba Technical Institute where I trained as a Radio Operator. A big part of the program was electronics and learning to send and receive Morse code (25 words per minute was achieved). I managed to pass the course and receive a Radio Operator’s Class II Certificate. Everyone in the class was immediately recruited by the Manitoba Department of Transport at various locations across the country. No ship positions were available and Morse code was rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

 

After six week Meteorology training in Weather Observation at the Winnipeg Airport, I was posted to the Aeradio Station in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I was worked the graveyard shift there, broadcasting the weather and runway conditions; taking position reports from aircraft and doing maintenance on our equipment. However, working all night and sleeping most of the day wasn’t exactly conducive to a happy existence.

 

Probably the first major bad decision I made in life was quitting that job. Had I not been so naïve and impatient, I would have realized I was turning down an excellent future; excellent pay with many opportunities for advancement. However, six months into the job I decided this was too boring for me.

 

Making a lot of money never did motivate me. It was more important to me to be doing something I enjoyed doing, and this wasn’t it. I was after all a country boy at heart; the city life was not for me. I felt insecure, lonely and bored in world that was unfamiliar to me.

 

I turned in my resignation, bought an old car, packed up my bags and headed home once more where I could get reoriented and choose another path.

 

Meter Reader, Electrical Maintenance Aide, Manitoba Hydro
1960-1962

 

Fire Ranger
1962

 

Bird Lake Tower

Me and my Bird Lake Fire Tower

 

Surveyor
1962-1963

 

Surveying Crew

Surveying Crew at a base camp near Cedar Lake, SE of The Pas

 

Brush-hook Bill - Tony - GaryGary at Camp

Left: Brush-hook Bill, Tony and Me - Right: Me

 

Marriage to Eldred THOMAS
1971-1997

 

My Weddiing

 

Cutting the cake

 

On April 17, 1971 I married at the old St Clements Church in Mapleton (MB) to Eldred Merle THOMAS, daughter of Irene (DICKINSON) MOORE and Ventrice (FIDLER) THOMAS (1893-1985). ** MORE ABOUT VENTRICE THOMAS

 

On June 25, 1972 son Adam was born and on June 3, 1974 Christian (Chris)was born, both in Selkirk, while our home was in Edmonton.

 

Number-One-SonNumber-two-son

Two sons: Adam (L) and Christian (R)

 

CANADIAN FORESTRY SERVICE (FORESTRY CANADA)

Research Technician (Bug Ranger), Forest Insect & Tree Disease Surveys

1963-1991

 

Dec 28, 1963 First day of a 28 -year career with Canadian Forestry Service (CFS), Insect & Disease Survey Unit in Winnipeg. Their offices were on the University of Manitoba campus.

 

My job-description was a long complicated one, so I will try to condense it as much as possible. In the spring I would departed for an assigned district in a region that extended from Manitoba all the way to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories, including Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Yukon Territory.

 

El and Kids with my CFS Camper

El and the kids and my CFS camper in parts unknown

 

I usually drove a station wagon, and for a few years a truck with camper. Nights were usually spent in hotels and motels along the way. In brief, the job was to collect forest insects and tree diseases, and to determine the extent and severity of their damage in my district.
Aerial surveys were often conducted in order to sketch-map the extent of damage, usually in cooperation with provincial forestry personnel. The aircraft were usually bush-planes, but on many occasions we used helicopters along the mountain slopes in Alberta.
One special and memorable trip was by jet-boat down the Nahanni River in the NWT.

 

Gary in Lab Coat

During the winter we technicians usually wore a lab coat

 

During the winter the main job was to prepare an annual report of the summer’s findings, and assist various scientists in their research. I often got special assignments that included the following:
Artwork
My artwork appears on countless Forestry publications that were produced during my years of service.
I often created caricatures for people who retired which were framed and presented to them upon their retirement (such as the one shown below).
Photography
For several years I had a special assignment to photograph insects and diseases in the field. Many of my photos are included in major publications such as Tree and Shrub Insects of the Prairie Provinces (Info Rept. NOR-X-292) and Forest Tree Diseases of the Prairie Provinces (Info Report NOR-X-286).
Research
During the winter months I assisted various research scientists in their research projects. I even did the field research for and was the senior author of the following research paper about a new species of leaf-miner that I discovered.
LIFE HISTORY AND HABITS OF A LEAF MINER, CAMERARIA MACROCARPAE, ON BUR OAK IN MANITOBA

 

Forestry-Gang

 

Another hobby I developed after I joined CFS was that of drawing caricatures. The above one, "Last Voyage of the Aurora Borealis", was framed and presented to Jack ROBBINS, our Chief Ranger, upon his retirement. He's the one sitting at the front of the boat. Others in the picture are Dave SCHULTZ, Vern PATTERSON, Jack PETTY, Bob CALTRELL, Jack SUSUT, Emile GAUTREAU, Jim EMOND, Norm WILKINSON, Dr Yasu HIRATSUKA, John MELVIN, Dr Dick WONG, Paul MARUYAMA, Me, John LAWRENCE, Gordon SMITH, Craig TIDSBURY. In the water are Dr Rob REID, Dr Bill IVES and the Director of the Nothern Forest Research Centre, Dr Bruce DENYER.

 

Computer Programmer
1980’s

 

It was in the early 1980’s that the first home computers became available on the market. I bought a Commodore 64 and was soon hooked on computer programming which I taught myself from programming magazines.
** MORE ABOUT the COMMODORE 64 in Wikipedia
I was able to develop and market a software package called Map World. This was in 1988, by which time IBM was marketing its new home computers essentially putting Commodores out of business. I sold many packages of Map World, but the venture ended in failure because I just didn’t have the time or the will to convert my program to IBM.

 

Map World for the Commodore 64

 

I did begin to develop computer programs related to my work at CFS and to remote sensing and GPS (Global Positioning System). In 1983 I coauthored a research paper that appeared in the Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing. Check it out at this link:
MAPPING THE DISTRIBUTION OF ASPEN DEFOLIATION USING LANDSAT COLOR COMPOSITES

 

El Returns to the Workforce

 

When kids were in their pre-teens (early 1980’s), El began working for Alberta Government Temporary Staff Services, eventually settling in a permanent position with the Alberta Department of Advanced Education in Edmonton (Clerk-Typist, Financial Services).

 

El and kids - early 1880's

 

Eldred Diagnosed with Breast Cancer
1990

 

In 1990 Eldred was diagnosed with breast cancer. What followed was a mastectomy and many agonizing months of chemo therapy and radiation, etc.

 

Alberta Forest Service
1992-1996

 

Hawaii 1992

Vacation in Hawaii

The only real vacation we ever had together

 

RETIREMENT

1996-

 

On Jan 26, 1997, Eldred (nee THOMAS) STILL died at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton. She was 52 years old.

 

Son Adam marries Carissa HENNIG
2002

 

On July 20, 2002, Adam married Carissa HENNIG, daughter of Sandy KLESO & Marvin HENNIG. 

 

Wedding: Me, Carissa & Adam

Me, Carissa & Adam at Wedding 2002

 

Colon Cancer
2009

 

In February of 2009 I was diagnosed with colon cancer. Surgery followed on Feb 9 (Dr. Dale BERG). I was hospitalized for two weeks – the worst two weeks of my life for pain.

 

GRANDCHILDREN
2011

 

Adam, Eason, Carissa and Nixon

Adam, Easton, Carissa & Nixon in 2011

 

2012

 

As of 2012 Adam is the Art Director at Tanner Young Publishing. As well Adam, Carissa and Chris all work for Maverick Design (their own private business) as Graphic Designers and Web Site Developers

** MORE ABOUT MAVERICK DESIGN

 

I (Gary) am a retired, fat, grumpy old man who spends almost all of his time at his Genealogy hobby. Every day I go on long walks for exercise, hoping to lose some weight.

 

Four surviving Still siblings 2012

Four surviving Still siblings visit in August of 2012
L-R: Everet, Myrna, Gary & Gordon

 

Cancer Returns
2017

 

In February of 2017 I visited my eye doctor (Dr. Mandy MAH, Alberta Sports Vision) to check out a problem with my right eye (blurred vision and out of focus). A few tests and she was concerned. She sent me to a specialist, Dr. Matt TENNANT of Alberta Retina Consultants. His tests suggested the possibility of cancer – referred me back to Dr. SCARFE at the Cross Cancer Institute, the doctor who dealt with my colon cancer surgery back in 2008.
What followed was an MRI, a PET scan and a biopsy of a lump that I thought was a hernia, revealed that I did indeed have cancer again.
It was determined that my previous colon cancer had metastasized (spread) to other parts of my body.
In April I received five treatments of radiation for cancer in my retina (at the back of my right eye). Following that, to make a long story short, Dr. SCARFE then indicated that I had Stage 4 Cancer (final and incurable) and that my life expectancy was perhaps six to nine months.

 

Gary Still Famkily - Easter 2017 at the Henniigs

Easter of 2017 at the Hennigs

 

Under construction. Much more to come

 

Please post comments & queries about me & my family at this Link: FORUM DISCUSSING ELDRED & GARY STILL

 

 

========================== Family Details ==========================

 

Children: (both born in Selkirk, Manitoba)

1. 1972 ADAM GARY STILL (m. Carissa HENNIG)

2. 1974 CHRISTIAN JAMES "CHRIS" STILL            

 

Top