Various Veins

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What you learn as time passes! I rode to Frank Volkaert's funeral with David and Deborah on Thursday.

David asked what Frank's father's name was. I was a close friend of Isidore, Frank's brother, for many years. I could picture their father, a short, stocky Belgian tobacco farmer who could almost scratch his knees without bending over. But what was his name?

I had David drop me at the church on the way to the Straffordville cemetery. Can't trust my plumbing to be too far from a facility these days. I started quizzing people there for the name. Gerald Taylor is usually a good one to answer such questions. I consider Gerry to be in my generation. He said he could hardly remember when the Volkaerts lived not far from his home. He was just a kid. Their trails seldom intersected.

I don't know who supplied the answer. It was relayed to me. Mr. Volkaert went by Domin.

After Domin died, his youngest son Joe took over the farm. Joe was elected to Bayham council while he and Elda lived there. One day Joe bent to pick up a piece of plank. The plank was held to the ground by suction so tightly that a cartilage popped out of place in his spine. I went to visit him. He was lying in bed with a plow point or two applying weight to a system of cables rigged to pull his spine into position.

During that visit Joe told me he learned how to operate his farm on a business basis, using what he learned as a councillor. He and Elda moved to a farm on County Road 45, and later they bought one of the brick houses on Plank Road south of Straffordville. They stopped growing tobacco and opened J&E Ball and Bearing in Tillsonburg. Joe died early but the business continues, his son Joe Jr. carrying on.

Domin had two daughters, Irene and Justine. Irene never married. Justine, Mrs. Lucien Cattrysse survives. Lucien greeted a man in line at the visitation on Wednesday. "Hello, Ross." He was pleased to remember one name, probably taken aback as Justine corrected him. This is Doug, Ross's son. He met the real Ross on Thursday. Don't feel bad, Lucien, all us guys over 80 have the same trouble with faces and names.

The year that Isidore and Irma came to share-grow the crop on the farm I called home from 1933 to 1950, I helped build the house they would occupy until they started growing for Irma's father, Clarence Locker. Martha and I worked for them on the Bowes farm and for several years on the Locker farm. During those years I became acquainted with Frank.

One day we were priming together. We got to talking about school. Frank never failed a year, not because he liked school. He hated it with a passion and wanted to get out of it as fast as he could.

Frank loved playing the accordion. In spite of accidents that shattered his arm, he managed to play polkas. I called him the Walter Ostanac of Straffordville. Frank sang with the United Church choir for many years. He never learned to read music, either vocal or instrumental. Being a teacher, I tried to show him how the notes were given little flags to tell us how many... It was useless. Likely it was too much like having to go to school. Once he reached adult age there was no way he was going to be forced-fed stuff he could handle by ear.

Frank became a mechanic. He had a Petrofina station by the bridge over the Otter for several years.

He had three loves, his wife Madge, his cars, and his music. Of course, like most fathers, his affections were spread among his growing family, too.

Frank's accordion was prominently placed by the bier in Ostrander's chapel for his funeral, a fitting icon of his life.


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