Personal History Examples

I do what I do because I believe in celebrating the extraordinary lives of the ordinary people around us. I have had the privilege of writing my own mother-in-law’s obituary, creating a scrapbook of my grandfather’s WWII experiences, and publishing articles on a number of fascinating individuals. Here are a few examples of this work.

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 M and J Gould Wartime“Sweethearts ‘til the end,” What’s Up Yukon (June 2013):

A chance encounter during wartime turned into a love that lasted more than 65 years.

In 1944, John Gould was a young Royal Canadian Air Force pilot stationed in St. Catharines, Ontario for flight training.

He was a long way from his family’s mine at Nugget Hill outside of Dawson City, but he was pursuing his dream of flying — and fulfilling his patriotic duty.

One night he and a friend crashed a dance at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto.

“In uniform we had no trouble getting in,” he noted in an interview shortly before his death.

John sat on the sidelines and overheard two girls nearby.

“They were arguing,” John said. “One wanted to dance and the other didn’t, so I stood up and said ‘I’ll dance with you.’”

That was John’s first dance of many with Madeleine Anita Lavigueur. “I courted her every chance I got,” he said, and the pretty factory worker was equally smitten.

A few months later, John was sent on courses in Quebec and then posted to Great Britain, but they did not lose touch.

In fact, Madeleine travelled to Burnaby, British Columbia to stay with his mother for a time.

“I got a letter from Mother, telling me she liked her,” he said.

John shipped home in August and they got married October 6, 1945 — he in his uniform, she in a smart skirt suit — in her hometown of Greenfield, Ontario.

The next year they moved north to the family’s cabin in the Yukon. Madeleine took to life in the territory: photos show her making ice cream with her mother-in-law and cradling a Grizzly cub. She had grown up in rural communities and was used to working hard, but was also used to having amenities like indoor plumbing.

She was known to quip, “Sure the cabin had running water – but only when I ran up the hill with the buckets.”

Over the next decades, John and Madeleine moved into Dawson to raise a family, and helped build the community through paid work and volunteer contributions.

As granddaughter Gemma Lilace McIntyre-Gould remembers, they did this as a team. “They loved everything about each other,” McIntyre-Gould says. “Grandpa told me that even up until Granny passed away they were always working on the relationship because that was the only way one ever lasts. They supported each other in whatever they were doing.”

After a battle with cancer, Madeleine died at home in 2010. Less than two years later, John died in his sleep. Their ashes are buried — together, as in life — in the Dawson Catholic Cemetery.

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KENNY-PAGNUTTI, Dawn Adele (nee Atkins) (July 10, 1960 – September 6, 2009) Dawn Adele Kenny (nee Atkins) did not live with moderation. She loved fully, laughed loudly, traveled extensively, and was happiest when surrounded by friends, family, good food and wine. Dawn was also an accomplished shopper – whether at snappy boutiques or garage sales – and collected everything from nutcrackers to tea pots to shoes. So much of what she bought or made (she painted, knit, crocheted and refinished furniture) went to loved ones, but she gave most generously of her time and enthusiasm, which she shared with many as a volunteer at local schools, Vintage Wings of Canada, and other places. She will be remembered for her willingness to try new things (like hip hop dancing in her mid 40’s), her fondness for lipstick, and her seemingly boundless energy. Her sons, husband, sisters, parents, grandfather, nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws (or outlaws as they were often called), friends and cats will all miss her. In keeping with her personality and as per her wishes, a Funeral will not be held, but rather a celebration of life party will occur at a future date. Friends and family members will be invited and a notice will be sent out by email and posted in this newspaper. The family asks that no food or flowers be sent to the house. People are invited to give a donation in her name to the Canadian Cancer Society and can bring pink flowers when they attend the upcoming party. Thank you to the dedicated and caring staff at the Ottawa General Hospital’s fifth floor, ICU and Cancer Centre.



© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.