A long-time Sundridge resident, Muriel (Merle) Christie, passed away peacefully at Cassellhome in North Bay on Sat., Dec. 11, 2021. It was four days before her 100th birthday.
Family and friends had gathered that day to celebrate Merle’s 100th year. Instead it became a celebration of her life, despite the sadness of losing the wonderful person that everyone knew and admired.
Merle was born on December 15,1921, in Sturgeon Falls. Merle is the last of her family and was predeceased by her parents Gordon and Maryann Evans (nee Collins) and her eight siblings.
Merle’s mother died at the age of 39. Her older sister Beatrice, who was a teenager at the time, along with her father took over the running of the house and the raising of her four younger sisters. Merle was born two years to the day after her older sister. Beatrice lived into her 101st year.
The Evans family are long-time residents of Sturgeon Falls. There is a small community on the outskirts of Sturgeon Falls named Evansville. Gordon Evans owned a great deal of the property along the river. Over the years, several family members built cottages and homes there. A few first cousins still have permanent homes in Evansville. Merle grew up in Sturgeon Falls, attending high school there and St. Andrews United Church in Sturgeon Falls.
During the war Merle moved to Toronto and worked at Good Year that manufactured gas tanks for the Spitfires that won the War of Britain! She later moved to Parry Sound and worked at the ammunition plant in Nobel. She was a supervisor at one of the plants. It was here that she met her future husband, David Christie.
Merle’s first impression of Dave, “He was just so, so. He was a sharp dresser and smoked a pipe, which I liked,” remembers Merle. Dave told her he had really wanted to go out with her friend Audrey, but she was taken, so he was stuck with her. He also told her he was a minister's son, which wasn’t true.
The couple had many friends in Parry Sound, among them the parents of Bobby Orr, Doug and Arva Orr. Dave was the best man at the Orr’s’ wedding.
On February 9,1946, Merle married David Christie in Sudbury. During the ceremony, Merle and her sister, Beatrice, got the giggles. The minister, who fortunately knew them well, asked them to get control of themselves. Dave said, “I should have left her then.” But it worked out. They were together for 56 years.
The couple moved to Dave’s home town of Sundridge, where Merle lived with her in-laws, Malcom and Hattie Christie. Dave worked out of town. When he returned from being away, Merle told him she had bought a house. She used her own money to purchase a three-room house that was on 42 Park Street. She paid $485 for the home that had no indoor plumbing. It did have a well on the property and a hand-pump in the kitchen. Later, they bought the property beside it for $50. Over the years, the house was repositioned on the property with a basement, extra rooms and indoor plumbing. The house was the couple’s home for almost 75 years.
The couple had three children: John (deceased), Marion and Malcolm. Merle remembers John had beautiful blue eyes and long lashes, and Marion had beautiful red hair and was a real darling. Her Grandfather Evans called her pork chop, because of her fat cheeks. “Malcolm was like a little doll and his brother and sister adored him,” Merle would often say.
Merle also remembered some things Johnny said to her while holding him in her arms. “He looked up and told me I had beautiful brown eyes just like Tippy's (the family dog at the time).” John also liked to trap rabbits. He brought Merle the fur from his first rabbit, and told her he would catch enough of them to make her a coat. Johnny passed away at the age of 12.
Merle enjoyed and loved to play sports. Bucko McDonald was forming an all-girls’ baseball team. Merle was interested. Bucko asked her to throw him a couple of balls, which she did. After a few throws, Bucko took off his glove and told her she had made his hand sting. She was on the team. She played third base because of her strong arm. Merle was more committed to her growing family, and she told Bucko that she could not join the team, as she had no one to look after her children. Bucko told her that that his wife Tot McDonald would watch them, so Merle could play on the team.
Merle was also an avid bowler. Captain of her team, she won many trophies, including high score, high yearly average, top team, etc. Both Merle and Dave also curled. And of course, both were big hockey fans, both of the Beavers and later son Malcolm. They never missed a game of hockey that Malcolm played, especially the Junior Beavers winning the Ontario championship. Dave was a member of the original Beavers team, so he would critique Malcolm’s every move after each game. Malcolm says his mom was always afraid he would be hurt playing hockey. “Dad told her not to worry. He was afraid for the other kids, because Uncle Hugh and Knobby Hill taught him how to play!”
Merle was also an excellent swimmer and loved the outdoors, fishing and camping with Dave and their friends. A big weekend was going out to the family hunt camp.
Merle was a stay-at-home mom, a member of the Anglican Church and a member of the Anglican Church Women’s Group. She worked tirelessly at rummage sales, turkey dinners and serving on the Altar Guild. Prior to her move to Cassellholme in North Bay, every night she knelt beside her bed and said her prayers.
Those who know Merle, can testify to the fact she was an excellent cook and loved to bake. “We always had dessert with our meals and mom hosted many afternoon tea parties at her house with buttertarts, Swedish tea rings, marshmallow squares, date squares and hermit cookies,” remembers daughter Marion. Many family and friends still rave about her amazing buttertarts.
“When I was in high school, some kids would ask me to trade my lunch. It could be a sandwich with homemade bread, bologna cut up and mixed with relish and Miracle Whip. They always were always followed by a delicious treat, and not tradeable,” says Marion.
Many who remember Merle know her as a giving person. When Dave’s Aunt Annie Valentine was in her 90s, Merle moved her family in the Valentine’s home on John Street in Sundridge to help her out. When Dave’s mother, Hattie Christie suffered a stroke, Merle brought her into her home. She also cared for Dave’s father, Malcolm Christie, when he was aging. Merle never complained and always showed compassion, love and concern.
Merle told people she had a good life, except for the loss of Johnny. She would say in her later years that she did not feel old and had many beautiful memories. She was always proud of her children. Her greatest treasures in life were her family, friends and neighbours.
Some of her favourite sayings were: ‘Turn the other cheek.’ ‘What goes around comes around.’ ‘If you cannot say something nice, then do not say anything at all.’ Merle was always a good listener with a positive attitude and a loyal friend to many.
Merle leaves her children Marion Simard (Don), Malcolm (Deborah) and the late John Christie. Proud grandmother of Brent Duguay (Marsha), Stacey Duguay, Amber Minor (Mark), Erinn Christie (Shawn Chamberlain) and Jordanne Christie (Jake Barber). She was the great grandmother of Riayn and Tyler Duguay, Bronwyn and Vienna Minor, Ruby and Isla Chamberlain. Merle is missed by her family, and her many nieces, nephews, and friends.
A celebration of Merle’s life will be held in the Royal Canadian Legion in Sundridge on Saturday May 14, 2022 from 1 to 4 pm with a graveside service just prior at the Strong Cemetery at 12:30 pm with Reverend Rick Callery officiating.
The family requested that if desired, memorial donations may be made to the Strong Masonic Lodge.
"There are some who bring a light so great in the world that even after they have gone the light remains"