By Jennifer Thurbide
Family and old friends gathered in Cochenour last week as the district’s new airport terminal received its name. With more than 70 residents and visitors on hand, the June 22nd ceremony focussed primarily on honouring a community visionary.
“Everybody has heroes, some are real, some are fiction, some are a thousand miles away…but mine, he lived in Red Lake. He was instrumental in our community and he is why we are here today,” began Stephanie Hayward addressing those gathered and who, along with sister Britney, offered a snapshot of the life of J.E.J. Fahlgren, whose name now adorns the terminal building. “Unfortunately we didn’t get to know our great-grandfather personally because we were three and six when he passed on but our family tells us the stories and shows us the newspaper articles and photos, and many things that we would like to share with you today.”
Speaking to the gathered crowd last week the Hayward girls were joined by Mayor Phil Vinet, former Mayor Duncan Wilson, Cochenour resident Maureen Reid and family members Susan Hachey and Ted Fahlgren who spoke at the event and provided onlookers with a detailed account of Fahlgren’s life.
Starting off the speeches was Wilson who spoke of meeting Fahlgren when he came to the area and who discussed some of the lobbying efforts that were undertaken to improve transportation for residents over the years. “[Fahlgren] had so much respect with the Premier and the Government of Ontario that he made real inroads on issues such as power and other governmental matters and he told me that one minister that had a lot of power came up to him and said ‘Ed keep it up, we are going someplace.’ That just goes to show you the vision of the man, or the substance…Today we are respecting the memory of one great citizen of Cochenour, of Red Lake, of Northwestern Ontario and it was my pleasure to be involved.”
This past November Wilson joined a delegation led by Maureen Reid that appeared before municipal leaders in an effort to lobby for the recognition of Fahlgren. Detailing how that meeting came about Reid said last week “a few years ago it occurred to me there was no visible recognition of the life of Mr. Ed Fahlgren. After speaking to several different people I decided to push the issue. I called some people I knew that shared a lot of information about Ed’s life and they were more than interested in this. The delegation to Council consisted of myself, Lois Beck, John Jeffries and Dunc Wilson. We all remember Mr. Fahlgren well be it through personal connections or mining.”
The career teacher who grew up in Cochenour and returned to the area in the late 1980s continued noting “Looking back through a longer telescope I realized the area is very young and much of the community building was accomplished by some very young pioneers—people with a vision of making this area the perfect place to live. One such pioneer was Mr. Ed Fahlgren, mine manager at Cochenour-Willians Gold Mine for many years but Ed was unique as his interests went far beyond managing the mine. He was a man who had a huge vision for the area and worked tirelessly to bring education, health care, transportation and recreation to the area for the good of the whole district.”
Offering a thank you to those who were involved in the naming process daughter Susan Hachey said “Dad above all believed in community especially in the Red Lake District. He fell in love with the district in 1936 and made his home from that point on resisting more than one opportunity to move on. He worked tirelessly to improve all aspects of life in our community including projects such as paving the highway and the highways around Cochenour and Balmertown, construction of the Red Lake District High School, our Cochenour United Church, the arena, the [Cochenour Manor] and the Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital. Although not always successful in his projects, the causeway to McKenzie Island never came to be, Dad put his all into any and all proposals that would benefit the district and ensured that those were state of the art and built to the highest standards…he would be deeply moved to have this beautiful airport terminal named after him.”
The J.E.J Fahlgren Airport Terminal was completed and opened in October 2011 to replace the smaller structure which had been serving as the Red Lake terminal since the 1980s. According to Reid and family members, one of Fahlgren’s projects resulted in receiving funding to construct the original airstrip in 1949.
Providing further context to the event Mayor Phil Vinet spoke noting “The Municipality decided three or four years ago to build a new airport terminal building…it was a heck of a decision to make. It was a decision based on what is best for Red Lake and its residents down the road, which is the job of a councillor. As a result we ended up with this beautiful building that is very functional, state of the art, modern and will meet the needs of Red Lake travellers and visitors for years to come.”
A portrait of J.E.J. Fahlgren now adorns the wall in the departures area of the building.
Pictured above (from left): Doug Fahlgren, Peter Fahlgren, Susan Hachey, John Fahlgren and Ted Fahlgren pose for a photo with their father’s photo at the newly named J.E. JFahlgren Airport Terminal on June 22, 2012. Photo by J. Thurbide