The Canadian Burke-Gaffneys

by John Burke-Gaffney, third son. November, 2001

About Ted

When the time came for Ted to attend high school, in 1929, he took his first year at St. Paul's College on Selkirk Ave., at the other end of the streetcar line. The college had been founded by the Archdiocese, organized by Monsignor Morton, and run by the Oblate Order. He spent his second year at Kelvin Technical High School on Stafford St. near Academy Road, presumably for its convenient location and public funding. Ted soon taught his brothers the Kelvin cheer, "KTHS, KTHS, are we with you, well, I guess!" He also picked up the nickname 'Tank' about this time, learned to play the ukulele and to build crystal radios.

The following year, he completed high school at Regina's Campion College, run by the Jesuits. Mary remembers helping cut out the letters for a large sign hung in the living room saying, "Welcome home, Ted." In 1932 he entered St. Paul's College, then federated with the University of Manitoba, and pursued a course in science, with a particular interest in geology, as did his father before him. In those days, U of M had a major campus in downtown Winnipeg on the Mall, in sight of the Legislative Buildings, but he attended some courses at the main campus in Fort Garry, then on the outskirts of the city. When certain courses required them to attend Fort Garry, Ted and his fellow students would cram into a taxi and share the expense.

One summer, he and his close friend Gerry Twomey got jobs on a cattle boat to Britain. They saw little of the ocean or of England as the smelly boat unloaded its cargo, turned around and headed back, docking in New York. Ted took advantage of their location by visiting the James Gaffney family in Washington and nearby Virginia, his second cousins. In all, they claimed it was an adventure.

When Ted completed university, he won a place on the Geological Survey of Canada which sent a party of 14 men to map the God's Lake country of northern Manitoba. The advance crew of four, including Ted, left Winnipeg early in May on the S.S. Keenora, an old wood-fired steamship that plied Lake Winnipeg. John remembers accompanying his father to Selkirk to meet the S.S. Keenora late that fall. Ted stepped off the boat wearing a full beard, moccasins and redolent of wood smoke. He must have seen his future on the Pre-Cambrian Shield.

Ted's work in northern Manitoba led him to Helen Ganz, a nurse, whom he met at Sherridon, Man., and married at The Pas July 7, 1941, the same year he joined Sherritt-Gordon Mines, as a geologist. Dad and Mother became grandparents in 1942 when Ted and Helen had their first child, Mary Helen, in Sherridon. Within a month, Ted transferred to the Josephine Iron Mine in Ontario and Helen followed shortly afterward. Josephine had no hospital, so Helen returned to The Pas to have John Patrick in 1944.

(Background: The 20-year-old mine in Sherridon began to run out about this time and the company sent Ted to the Josephine Iron Mine in Ontario as one of several geologists sent throughout the region in an effort to locate a new ore body. By 1945 Sherritt had laid claim to one of the world's richest nickel strikes at a totally isolated area 120 miles north of Sherridon at Lynn Lake. To reach Lynn Lake the company built a treacherous ice road over the muskeg that took 75 hours to travel. Although the town planners allocated areas for houses, streets, churches, an arena and a clubhouse, the company decided instead to haul the town of Sherridon piece by piece on skids over the winter road. The president of Sherritt-Gordon said at the time, "Sherridon won't become a ghost town; we'll take the ghost with us." The transfer was completed in 1953.)

Helen had returned to The Pas in 1946 to bury her father when the company ordered Ted to Lynn Lake; Ted, in Josephine, packed all their belongings and sent them back to Sherridon where Helen and the two infants stayed until accommodation became available their new home in the winter of 1945-46 was a 12x28 wooden box with no electricity, gasoline lamps for light and wood for the stove. Ted was appointed manager of labour relations, a daunting job in a community of roughnecks. After two years, Helen returned to Sherridon to wait for their 'real' house to be relocated north. The next two children, Frances Maureen (1948) and Thomas Edward (1949) were born in Sherridon. Finally, in 1952, the family returned to Lynn Lake where Theresa Anne (1953), Kathleen Margaret (1954) and Christopher James (1956) were born. To quote Theresa, "Mom was elated to get oil heat, and an electric washer and dryer."

In 1958, Ted and Helen made the difficult decision to leave the north in exchange for better opportunities for their children. They moved to Winnipeg where they found there were few calls for geologists; Ted found employment in his cheerful way in several fields, mainly with a printing company and a concrete forming firm. Helen, in turn, returned to nursing at the nearby Misericordia Hospital. In due course the girls attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart to be taught by their Aunt Mary among other nuns.

Pat was the first to leave home, marrying Valerie Johnston in 1964; Maureen married Maurice Copiak in 1969 (forever afterwards known as Mo and Moe). Mary, the eldest, slow to develop after difficulties at birth but greatly assisted by her family and Social Services, and gainfully employed, moved to her own apartment and in 1984 married Brian Rusk. Tom settled in The Pas and married Amanda Jane Moore in 1983.

Theresa and Kathleen, free spirits, saw the world together and separately until Theresa had a disastrous accident driving a mail truck from Thompson, Man., which left her paralyzed but indomitable. Kathy took up a career as a carpenter/house builder out of Stuartburn, Man. Chris became a rock musician and manager of award-winning talent, based in Winnipeg, where he had two sons, Nicholas and Jack.

About 1978, Ted and Helen moved to a high-rise apartment in downtown Winnipeg overlooking the Assiniboine River and the Legislative Buildings not far away. Eventually, tired of the cold winters, Ted and Helen retired in 1986 to Victoria, B.C. and found a sunny apartment in the James Bay area. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1991 at The Pas with their entire family around them. Vancouver Island became a gathering place for family members: John and Isobel moved to Nanaimo in 1988, and Maurice, Maureen and Theresa in 1996 in Duncan bought a house with a spectacular view. The three families celebrated birthdays and holidays together, especially in 1997 with a big house-warming and birthday party for Maureen, attended by Ted & Helen, John & Isobel, Frank & Lois from Calgary, Mary RSCJ from Montreal, plus Brian & Michiko from Japan with Taka & Saya, and Noel and children from Vancouver, the Copiak parents and friends. An informal snapshot taken that day will appear here shortly.

Helen and Ted celebrated their 85th birthdays in March and July, 2000, surrounded by family and friends. In February 2001, Ted died in Victoria General Hospital after bowel surgery. He was buried from St. Andrew's Church, Victoria, with all surviving members of his family in attendance.

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