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January 31, 2007

Alex and I had been dating for more than four years when in September of 1963 he proposed to me. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to marry him. We were sitting on the couch in my parents’ home in Whitefish when he asked that momentous question. Of course, I said, “YES!” My mother and father came out of the store after having served their customers and we immediately gave them the exciting news. They congratulated us and asked when we planned to get married. A spring wedding had always appealed to me so we decided that Easter weekend would be a good time. This would give us enough time to plan our wedding as I was teaching at Creighton Mine Public School at the time and we needed some time to save money for the much-anticipated event. My parents had made it clear that we would be expected to pay for our own wedding as my father had been off work with pneumonia for quite some time.
As fall began, Alex and I asked ourselves why we were waiting until spring since we knew each other so well and had no doubts that we were meant for each other. As a result of our wanting to be man and wife as soon as possible, we moved our wedding date up to December 28 instead. My mother was not amused! This meant that not only did she need to prepare for Christmas but also for her eldest daughter’s wedding just after Christmas! Another problem for my parents was that they had no idea what needed to be done for a wedding in Canada, as it was quite different than a wedding in Holland. That left all of the decision – making up to Alex and me.
Alex had contacted his best friend Dennis Taus to ask him to be his best man. Dennis however was serving with the United Nations’ Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus. He could not get leave to come home in December and was very disappointed as we were. To make up for his absence, Dennis sent me 12 metres of the most beautiful shimmering Egyptian brocade and asked if I would consider having my wedding gown made of this material. I was overwhelmed and of course agreed and told him so in a letter immediately. I approached Mrs. Mary Ostashek and asked her if she would have time to accomplish this before Christmas. Together we chose a pattern, which would display this amazing material to its best advantage and decided something simple was what was needed. I was living at the Teachers’ Residence in Creighton at the time and Mary lived on Alexander Street not far from there so fittings were not a problem after school. Mrs. Ostashek an experienced seamstress, made my beautiful gown and since I had plenty of material she suggested a long self-lined train which had a wide sash that could be removed for dancing at the reception. Alex planned to rent a tuxedo for our wedding, which cost the huge sum of $12 at the time.
However now we had a problem in that Alex had to find a new “best man” to be a witness at our wedding. He asked my brother Ron who consented at once. We had planned on having Ron in the wedding party in any case so he just moved up to a more important position. Alex then asked his good friend and football buddy Ron Hewitt to be his groomsman. My close friend Sharon Heaphy had agreed to be my “maid of honour” and Alex’s sister Denise Fex was my other bridesmaid. My little sisters Liesje and Lillian were junior bridesmaid and flower girl respectively. The bridesmaids and little girls all wore short dresses in a French blue colour with wedding band headpieces. The wedding party was complete. My brother Franky served as altar boy and so my whole family was involved in our wedding.
Then came the serious planning with so little notice. I approached the ladies of the St. Michael’s CWL to ask if they would cater our dinner. There was some initial hesitation due to the Christmas season but they agreed to do so. Thank heavens! Cabrini Hall was reserved for our big day, as I wanted my pupils to be able to come to see their teacher in her wedding finery. Flowers were the next item to be decided. I had always known that I wanted my wedding bouquet to be red and white and so ordered red roses and white carnations. The bridesmaids’ bouquets were pink and white. Corsages for Alex, the groomsmen, my mom and dad… much to think about!
Alex and I went to Wolfe’s on Durham Street in Sudbury to choose and order our invitations. When we had completed our arrangements, Mr. Wolfe presented me with a wedding gift – “The Joy of Cooking”. The price was marked inside the cover - $ 7.95 Needless to say we were very pleased with this courtesy gift. I suspect that Alex was even more excited than I was since he had an expectation of the wonderful meals I would learn to cook from this book.

On November 22, we were all shocked to hear of the assassination of the youthful president of the United States, John F. Kennedy. I will never forget our principal, Mr. Gordon Whalen, coming to my classroom door to tell me of this tragedy. I was teaching about the Solar System at the time. I remember feeling very frightened, as we did not know if this was a solitary act or if this was the beginning of a time of war. That evening we were all glued to the TV watching the events unfold. Again on Saturday the TV was on all day. Sunday after Mass, that TV set was again turned on as we watched in horror as Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald. We could not believe what we had just witnessed! After supper mom asked me to accompany her to the church hall for Bingo. My immediate reply was that I was watching history in the making and that I would have to teach about this some day and, “sorry mom but I’m staying right here.” Then Alex whispered in my ear that since we would be married soon perhaps I should go to Bingo with my mother. I found this somewhat strange but since he kept at me I reluctantly agreed to go. As mom and I and my sister Liesje descended the stairs leading into the church basement, people stood up and began to applaud. I then noticed Alex’s mother and sisters and suddenly realized that this was a shower for me. When I think back to what I put my poor mother through! Another shower was held for me later at Cabrini Hall in Creighton. The parents of many of my pupils attended, as did my teaching colleagues, old neighbours, and many friends. I can’t really remember how I was encouraged to go to the hall but again it was a surprise to me. I was most fortunate to receive lovely gifts in both cases.

My engagement and wedding rings, as well as Alex’s wedding band were purchased at John Bazar Jewellery also on Durham St. I felt so special wearing my engagement ring and glanced at it often while I was teaching and everywhere else. We had heard favourable reports of the work of photographer Tramontin whose studio was located at the top of Elm Street so made appointments for our engagement pictures as well as our wedding photos. We liked him immediately. Next we had to choose our wedding cake. Accordingly, we went to Cecutti’s, picked out the figures for the top of the cake, and placed our order to be delivered to my parents’ store in Whitefish. Another wonderful surprise – Cecutti’s donated the cake as a wedding gift as my parents dealt with them on a daily basis in the store. Another one of the salesmen with whom my parents dealt on a constant basis gave us two lovely Hudson Bay blankets, again totally unexpected.

One morning mom phoned me before I went to school. That was most unusual! My father had been hospitalized at Copper Cliff Hospital with pneumonia again. He required much rest and was told to stay indoors for several weeks when he came home. I was in a panic! Of course I wanted my dad to walk me down the aisle but the doctor had said that he must remain inside the house. I called the doctor and explained my predicament. He agreed to dad coming to the church and reception provided he was well rested ahead of time and wore extra warm clothing. Whew! What a relief! Mom called me a second time, now just a week before our wedding. Now what? My 3-year-old sister Lillian – my flower girl, had taken the scissors and cut her bangs right off. I couldn’t believe it! Mom took Lillian to Sophie the experienced Creighton hairdresser and asked her to do what she could to salvage her haircut. Sophie’s solution was to cut the hair short and comb over hair from the side to try to hide my little sister’s disastrous efforts.
Another Whitefish girl had planned on getting married the week before us. Her mother had done all of the cooking for the dinner. The night before the wedding, her fiancé called her and told her the wedding was off, he had changed his mind. So when Alex’s brother Leo arrived to drive dad and me to St. Christopher’s, the first question I asked him was, “Is Alex at the church?” He assured me that indeed he was. After the Mass celebrated by Father Joseph Hompes, we proceeded to the photographer, then to Cabrini Hall for dinner and our afternoon reception. Right after dinner was finished Alex and I went outside to have our photo taken by the statue of Mary on the church lawn. It was traditional for Catholic couples in Creighton Mine to do this. Even though it was a very cold winter day, the sun was shining brightly and I would not miss out on this opportunity. About ten of my pupils came to the reception and I was as excited to see the children as they were to see me. Such fun! I informed them that my name from now on was Mrs. Fex. Could they remember that? Later we danced to music played by my brother-in-law Ron Fex and Dennis’ brother Alfio Taus. Unexpectedly, an announcement was made asking everyone to please be quiet for a few minutes for a very special reason. As this was not something Alex and I had planned we looked at each other in puzzlement. It was a phone call from my grandparents van den Branden in Holland! Ron Fex and Alfio had rewired the PA system so that everyone in the hall could hear the conversation. The Dutch people who were present were crying, as was I. What a wonderful surprise!

Then it was time to go to our apartment on George St. to get changed into our “going away” clothes. My little sister Lillian clung to me wanting to come with us. Mom actually had to hold on to her so that we could get away. I had purchased a cranberry red three - piece suit and Alex also had a new suit. We returned to the reception and received wonderful applause as we entered the hall.
We went by train to Montreal for five days on our honeymoon and finally we had time to relax and unwind. Our new life adventure had begun.

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