Culture

In Remembrance: A tribute to some of the Red Lake area’s Second World War Veterans

John Richthammer

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, several hundred men and women of the Red Lake District patriotically enlisted in various branches of the Canadian Army. This series depicts a few of their stories.

Edna Auger (1895-1993) was born in Thurso, Quebec, and was one of Red Lake’s earliest female entrepreneurs. Throughout the 1930s, she operated ‘Edna’s Cafe’ on Howey Street in Red Lake (opposite the elementary school). She also managed a hair salon, took in boarders, had a dog team, played the violin at dances, bootlegged, grubstaked prospectors, and played on womens’ baseball and bowling teams. She moved to Pickle Crow, Ontario, to operate a hotel in 1940. After serving in the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service during the Second World War, Edna was a long-time cook, coffee shop owner, and postmistress in Eastern Ontario. She died in Buckingham, Quebec, at age 98.

Colin M. Boudreau came to the Red Lake area during the 1930s. He spent a great deal of time around the west end of Red Lake, especially with the Brown family. He later married their daughter, Janet, and they worked on McKenzie Island. Colin left Red Lake to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force. By 1950, he and Janet lived at Sleeman, Ontario, but eventually divorced.

John Brown (1918-1979) was the rebellious son of English-born William Brown, Red Lake’s first postmaster, and Josephine Parenteau, a French and Anishinaapek woman from Wabigoon. John was one of nine children, most of whom were raised in Red Lake and at West Narrows, some 20 miles away. While living at the west end of Red Lake, the Browns were impoverished. John was frequently in trouble with the law and spent some months incarcerated. However, he apparently enlisted under an assumed name (Tremblay, his wife’s maiden name) and was a sapper in the Royal Canadian Engineers in England. John spent his latter years as a shipwright in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is buried in Dinorwic, Ontario. Two of John’s brothers, Alfred (Fred) Brown (1914-1977) and William Brown, Jr. (1922-2002), also served in England during the Second World War. William, Jr. went overseas in 1943 with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders.

Alexander Joseph Collette (1915-1995) was born in Oakwood, North Dakota, and moved to Canada with his family when he was six. He spent his teenage years in Northwestern Ontario and by age 19 was guiding tourists to great hunting and fishing locations in the Quibell, Ontario, area. During the Second World War, he enlisted with the 7th-11th Hussars Tank Regiment in 1942, and saw action in Europe. Upon his return to Quibell, Alex married Louise Marion Warra, who had been born in Vancouver. For over 40 years, they operated Collettes’ Camp at Gold Pines and Bluffy Lake until their retirement in 1985. Their guests were their children. Alex was a long-time member of the Ear Falls Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, while Louise was a member of the Ladies Auxiliary until her death in 1987.

Dr. Emil (Danny) Daniel (1917-1996), the son of Ukrainian immigrants, earned his Doctorate of Medicine at the University of Manitoba in 1941. He served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. Shortly after his discharge, Danny and his wife Alice (Tretty) Tretiak, a registered nurse, moved to McKenzie Island. From there, he was a long-time Madsen and Red Lake physician. They and their children moved to Dryden in 1956, where Danny practiced for several more decades. His massive photograph collection well documents social life in the Red Lake area for many years.

Leo and Marcel (Marc) Desmeules were two of the nine Desmeules siblings who came to the Red Lake District as children in 1927. Leo and Marcel served overseas during the Second World War, Leo as a sergeant with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, and Marcel (born 1923) as a private in the Canadian Forestry Corps. Leo (1919-1998) was employed with the Hudson’s Bay Company and Red Lake Supply at Red Lake before the war. He married his wife, Marie, in England in 1944 and together they spent their early married years on McKenzie Island.

Edward Futterer, Jr. (1923-1971) was born in a mining camp in Sewell, Chile, where his father managed a mine. As a boy, he came to Red Lake with his parents and sister, Agnes. Edward, Sr. was an early manager of the Howey Gold Mines in Red Lake. Edward, Jr. (or ‘Teddy’ as he was well-known) attended school in Red Lake from 1931-1937. In 1942, he enlisted as a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and served until 1945. Upon his honourable discharge, Teddy attended McGill University of Montreal and graduated in mining engineering. Ultimately, he became vice-president of exploration of Noranda Mines. The father of six sons, Teddy died at only 48 in 1971.

Norma Green (formerly Miller) served in the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service during the Second World War. In the 1970s, when she was widowed, Norma renewed acquaintance with his first boyfriend, Richard (Dick) Green of Balmertown, who was a widower. He had served in the Royal Canadian Navy. They married in 1979 and enjoyed life together in the Red Lake District. Norma now lives in Edmonton, Alberta.

Rev. Arthur J.B. Hough (1912-1999) was born in a bank in Manitoba and came to Red Lake as a student Anglican priest in 1935. He returned as an ordained Anglican priest in 1939, and ministered to the entire area until 1941, when he enlisted in the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. He married Eileen Gregg, who was a nurse during the war. After service overseas, Hough returned to university and became a psychologist. He was one of the founders of the Canadian Psychological Association, and retained a lively interest in Red Lake for the rest of his life.

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