It was a beautiful May in 1979. It would be a day in which an ugly duckling would turn into a beautiful swan.
Wende was making breakfast for her family, a true northern deal, eggs, pancakes, bacon, toast and fried potatoes. She got the coffee ready for her mom and dad. As Wende cooked she sang and dance, for that evening Wende would be officially engaged to her true love.
Ernie had beautiful blue eyes, blonde wavy hair, a perfectly trimmed mustache. He looked like a movie stare, beautiful sculptured body, like a athlete. They had pet names for each other like young lovers, his was Chipmunk and hers was Woog. Her dreams were coming true, when she turned 18 she would marry Ernie.
The engagement party was perfect, all their friends and family were there. Wende and the girls were talking about wedding dresses, honeymoon, where they were gonna live after the wedding. Everything young girls talk about. Ernie was telling his mom and dad about the plans to meet all Wende’s family and of the May 24 weekend and invited them to come.
Now the weekend was fastly approaching and there was a lot to do, the trailer had to be cleaned, the van also needed cleaning and packed. It would take everyone to get this trip together and organized, a lot of friends and family were coming and Wende’s mom was the monarchy behind organization. While Wende was cleaning the trailer and van, mom and dad where out getting the food, drinks and liquor. It was hectic and the van and trailer had to be cleaned and pack the way mom expected, or there would be trouble.
Dad and Wende put the canoe on the front lawn, then as Dad cranked down the trailer top, Wende was making sure that the tent was folding it in right, no wrong creases or bumps. As soon as the trailer top was down far enough, she had to get in and unhook the door and secure it to the ceiling of the trailer top. With the trailer secured now it was time to put the canoe on the top of the trailer, Dad showed us the proper way of roping the canoe so there would be no movement as it was being pulled down the highway. Mom was backing the food into the coolers in the Van, making sure everything was right. Dad waited till Mom was finished and back the van to the trailer, locked it on and we were ready, it was time for everyone to load into the van and we were off. We were going to a little lake called Sewell Lake, it was a spring feed lake so even on the hottest of days the water was ice cold.
It took almost two hours to get there but we finally got there, we all stretched and ran around a little bit while Dad positioned the trailer right and unhooked the trailer from the van. The boys took the canoe off the trailer top, and Wende and Dad started the process of lifting the trailer up. The boy’s got the tents out and set them up. Mom was getting the coolers out and start making lunch.
After lunch Glen, Gary and Ernie went out in the canoe to do some fishing, they returned empty handed. As more of the family and friends, the boys were playing tag football and the girls decided to go for a walk, Wende would show them all the nice place and were we could get a lot of suckers. Of course there girls aren’t going to do that, that was ok they could watch the boys and Wende carry there catch of the day.
Dad started the fire and Gary was playing his guitar, all the cottagers came down and enjoyed the crowd. Everyone new everyone and it was a little hideaway, a close little community in it’s own right. It was getting late and everyone went to bed, the boys in there tent, Wende, Beatrice, Mom and Dad were sleeping in the tent trailer. Wende couldn’t sleep, when it finally came she dreamt of a beautiful life with Ernie, he would go to work and she would have his supper cooked. She would be the perfect house wife and mother to their children.
The morning came with the singing of the birds, the beautiful sunlight was trying to peak through the curtains. As everyone was getting up the view of the morning glistening on the green water, the odd ice island still was on the lake. The birds diving into the water for their morning meal, the gentle wind blew a cool breeze gave you goose bumps. The birds sounded like angels singing, a true oasis.
After breakfast was served, the women and girls did the dishes and Gary and Ernie went out with the canoe. Gary was new to the canoe thing so Dad game them a short and quick lesson on how to operate the canoe, he also told them to stay close to shore because of the ice still on the lake. Then they were off.
Mom started to mention that the boys were out on the water for a long time, we decided to go to the shore to see where they were. Mom honked the horn 3 times to let them know to get back. We watched them crossing the lake, not heading Dad’s warning of staying close to the shore. Then it happened, they canoe capsized and the boys were in the water, they were trying to climb on the canoe to get out of the cold water. As they were trying to hold on the tip of the canoe went straight up in the air and dived straight under water, leaving the boys without anything to hold on too, and did not have the safety of life jackets. We all started to yell for them, Wende started to take of her shoes and coat, as she was running into the water a big hand grabbed her and said don’t be so stupid you’ll freeze and drown before you get to them.
Mom pointed to Dad where the boys were. Dad looked around spotting Mr. and Mrs. Vianno on the lake in there boat. Dad started to whistle so loud it hurt our ears. Glen and Wende started to run toward an open area near where the Vianno’s were, as we got there we saw Mr Vianno turn toward Dad’s whistle. Dad was pointing to the boys and we saw the boat turn toward the boys and we heard the roar of the motor as Mr. Vianno turned it full throttle.
Wende was now frantic: “How could this happen? Were was their life jackets? Her older brother and fiancé could drown? Mom started to yell instructions, Wende get blankets. Yves start the fire. Glen run up and get Aunt Lillian get everyone. Beatrice and Glen watch them and tell us when they get to shore.
Everyone did what Mom said, without a word. Then Glen yelled: “Here they come! The got them in the boat, hurray”. We all ran to the shore, as the boat pulled up to the shore, Dad grabbed the rope to pull the boat in. Mom put the blankets round the boys and started to walk them to the fire. Dad and Mr Vianno anchored the boat, we all went to the camp. Dad gave the Vianno’s any thing they wanted to drink. Dad made the boys a hot toddy to get them warmed up. By then all the cottages were there, Aunt Lillian check to make sure the boys were not hyperemic.
As Mr and Mrs Vianno started to relax, they were telling dad that he thought the boys were not going to make it, the one was going down for the third time, all he could see was blue eyes looking up and him as he started to sink further into the water. All he could think of was help me get this boy up he’s too young to die, just then the boy reach his arm toward heaven and I grabbed him. After tears and laughter at the near fright of the near lost.
Now Gary and Ernie were sitting wrapped in blankets drinking their hot toddy’s, I hovered over Ernie which he was not happy with and firmly told me to back off. Than evening it was like the near tragedy didn’t happen, Ernie even apologies to me for his reaction, he explained how scared he was and knew how close to death he was, both him and Gary. We just sat by the fire and enjoyed the company and music, I secretly thanked God for the miracle.
That weekend will always be special to Wende, she will always praise her Dad for his loud whistle, and Mr. And Mrs Vianno for saving the boys. They will always remain true hero’s to me. As I write this I wonder if Gary and Ernie ever think of that May 24 weekend. Mr. & Mrs Vianno and Dad have know passed on, I just wanted to share with everyone just a few of the hero’s that where in my life. Every day there is a hero somewhere. Remember to thank them and always remember one day we can be someone else’s hero too.
Causes Wende Plante aka Billy-Joe Supports
Distress Centre Of Ontario, Aids Committee of Durham Region, United Survivors, Y.W.C.A.