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WILLY de BURGER

Oct. 15, 2006.

My brother Willy was born in Hulst in The Netherlands on June 18, 1944. He was the third child in our family and the first to be born in hospital. Myself and my brother Ronald were born at home as Holland was occupied by the Nazis during WW2 and therefore the hospital beds were for wounded soldiers. When Willy was still a young baby my mother ran out of breast milk to feed him. Dad had heard that the local farmers had invited people who needed milk to go into their meadows to milk the cows for their needs. Accordingly my father, who had been raised as a farmer, took a bucket to get milk for our baby and the rest of the family. After he had filled his pail he started to return home. Suddenly he heard gunshots and his pail was hit. It was quickly emptied of all the milk he had collected. Dad jumped into the nearest ditch for safety. When the shooting stopped he stood up cautiously and when he realized that he was now safe, he hurried home to tell my mother what had happened. For today milk would have to be borrowed from someone else.

When he was 2 years old Willy fell off a low roof and broke his right leg. Was he ever proud of that cast! Other than that he was a loveable child the darling of our maid Appolonia. Mom and Dad had a fruit and vegetable store and therefore mom needed help in the house with the general household duties and us.
Willy was 7 years old in 1951 when our family immigrated to Canada. He was in Grade One. The Brothers at his school in Holland had tried forcing him to write with his right hand although he was naturally left-handed. This had been very difficult and painful for him until my mother discovered why he hated to attend school. He was hit hard on the hand each time he used his left hand to write. Mom went to the school and soon put a stop to that! My dad was also left-handed so Willy came by it naturally. In Canada, he was allowed to write with his left hand, which was much appreciated by him as well as by my parents.

Willy loved nature! Spending time in the bush whether it was to fish, hunt or just hike gave him great pleasure. He joined the Boy Scouts and became quite proficient at using a compass, building a campfire, setting a trap, tying knots and all the other skills he learned in Scouts. Whenever he would venture into the woods alone, he would always tell my mother where he was going and assured her that he had his compass as well as waterproof matches. It was natural for him to be careful and cause our parents as little worry as possible.

On March 12, 1960 my dad took down our bikes in the garage, He repaired the spokes, oiled the chains and generally got them ready for the spring season. It was a lovely warm early spring day. My brother Ronald was allowed to take the family car for the first time that evening. Alex and I were at my friend Lorraine Mead’s house waiting for her boyfriend to come to pick us up as we were planning to go to see a movie in Sudbury that evening. We noticed that there was a great commotion on the road in front of her house. Cars were stopping. Alex and Lorraine went to see what the cause of all this activity was. I remained in the house.. Alex rushed back to the house blurting out to me, “Come quick, Erna, we have to go tell your parents, It’s Willy!” “What do you mean?” was my stunned reply. Of course I could not accept what he was telling me! My brother had been hit by a car? When we had left the house just 15 minutes previously he had been watching TV with my parents. Why was he on the road? So many questions!

Alex and I ran up the hill to our house. Someone had already gone to get my dad by that time. Alex had actually identified Willy while several men were working on him making him as comfortable as possible and trying to stop the bleeding until the ambulance arrived. Tom Shannon was one of these gentlemen on the scene. When the ambulance arrived dad climbed in the back to accompany my brother to the Memorial Hospital. Dad later told us that when they got to the Iron Ore Plant blood started to flow from Willy’s ears making dad fear the worst. Willy went into surgery as soon as he arrived at the hospital but dad was soon told that there was not much chance. He phoned home for my mother to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Mrs. Bruyns a neighbour who was also a nurse, took mom to the hospital. Willy died at 10:15, just 2 hours after he was hit. When Maria Bruyns called the house she asked to speak to Alex but I insisted that she tell me what I really already knew, that my brother had died. By this time our house had filled with neighbours who had come to offer support to our family. From my reaction they realized what had occurred. When mom and dad arrived back home they were both speechless in their grief. Dad insisted that mom go immediately to bed. She was 8 months pregnant for my sister Lillian and he was afraid as to how this horrible tragedy might affect her pregnancy as we all were.
The next day being Sunday Dad took us children to Mass at St. Michael’s. Father Regan announced to the parish what had happened and as Creightonites always do and did, people sprang into action to help us in every way possible. Food arrived all day long. Stella Vagnini came to the house to cook our dinner and help clean the house and just generally do whatever needed to be done. Father Regan also came after Mass to offer support as did Miss Black and many others. It was then that we discovered that Willy had been riding a bike when he was hit! This made no sense! Willy who was always so careful, was riding a bike which had no lights, in the dark ? Who can explain these things?

Sunday night and all day Monday at Lougheed’s Funeral Home on Eyre St., were extremely tiring days but also affirming times when the outpouring of support for our family by Creightonites, our schoolmates, teachers, and even strangers, served as some measure of comfort. St. Michael’s was packed for the Requiem High Funeral mass celebrated by Father Regan at 9 am. The First Waters Boy Scouts formed an Honour Guard on the church steps. Willy’s grade 9 classmates from St. Charles College had been brought by bus to the Creighton church. Willy was buried at the Catholic Cemetery on Lasalle Blvd. in Sudbury. He was nearly 16 years old.

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