Mini-College Reunion in Paradise²–Kenora, Ontario
When Ramona, the nicest person we know, suggested a college reunion at her home in Kenora, Ontario, Canada, what else could we say but Yes, Eh!
Planning started about 8 months ago. The location was set, but we needed six people to agree on a date. Things worked out and we were able to include the reunion stop in our tour across the top of Lake Superior.
The group graduated from Carthage College, Kenosha, Wisconsin 38 years ago. I had lost touch with everyone, until 15 years ago when my college roommate Steve, returned from a multi-year overseas assignment with the US State Department.
This small group initiated a reunion eight years ago, and I attended one on the Carthage Campus 3 years ago. The group is three males and three females residing in: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, and Ontario Canada. Several of us shared a freshman honors class in college and most of the group majored in liberal arts subject like: psychology, sociology, and religion. (I majored in Chemistry.) Four of the group are well-rooted in the Lutheran faith. ***I met Marla at Carthage during the last semester of my senior year so she is an adjunct member of the group.
Kenora is 100 miles north of International Falls, Minnesota. We have all heard of International Falls during winter weather reports, as it is often the coldest location in the USA. We picked up Cindy and Brenda at the International Falls airport, before venturing across the border.
With unclear markings of the driving lanes at the Canadian Customs for a Motorhome towing a car, Marla got out to ask directions. Big Mistake! The customs officer came out of his booth with his hand directly over his gun and ordered Marla back in the vehicle. With that disaster avoided, we passed through Fort Frances and head north through glacier carved rock and beautiful lakes. So many lakes! Check the map. If Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, then Western Ontario is the land of 10,000,000 lakes. Crystal clear water everywhere you turn.
The reunion started with a dinner Saturday evening at Dennis and Ramona’s summer place on Willard Lake. Paradise is a fantastic layout of three buildings (main house, guest house/studio and boat house), on a 2 acre point of the lake. The location has a very Zen feeling and is complimented with 2 Zen gardens. The Carthage group caught up on each other’s lives, while Dennis and Marla discussed world travel and archeological discoveries and myths. It is funny how the conversations picked up as if we had just seen each other the day before in the dorm or class room.
Sunday at Paradise started off with blueberry/raspberry pancakes followed by water sports. We brought Princess Twinkers and Madam Hillary along and they made friends with everyone. (They even avoided doing their business in the Zen Gardens).
We were treated by Dennis to a four hour boat tour of Willard Lake, which included a history of how his family settled on this portion of the lake, and numerous references to scenes he painted. Dinner back at Paradise1 of gazpacho soup was provided by Steve and Dixie. All the guests shared in providing the meals.
Monday, which was cool and drizzly, was a tour of Kenora. Sitting on the shores of Lake of the Woods, Kenora is mainly a tourist town, but it was started by Europeans in the logging and paper industries.
The town features Catholic and Lutheran, but also a Ukrainian Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches. Kenora is also home to many Native Canadians, but as in the USA, they were not treated well by the invading Europeans. Many still suffer as a result of that today. Post tour Ramona treated us to a dinner of local pickerel back at Paradise1. John, the final member of the group arrived solo and joined in the dinner.
Tuesday was a venture to Ramona’s family retreat on Favel Lake. It took a 1 hour drive and 20 minute boat ride to arrive at Paradise2. Ramona’s father, a Lutheran Minister, discovered and purchased this place about 50 years earlier.
The retreat has multiple cabins and lodges and includes a ice house, but has no electricity, no cell connection and limited water. If you want to get away, this is the place. The location is equally as beautiful as Paradise1 but lacks the creature comforts we have come to depend upon. We had to boat in our food and beverage for the day. Between meals, we enjoyed the lake and touring the area. Paddle-boarding, I learned, is not my thing. Three of our group stayed a couple nights at Favel.
Marla and I said our good-byes to the group on Tuesday. We both agreed that Ramona was perhaps the nicest person we had ever met. We were also glad to meet her partner Dennis, who shares with us an avid interest in seeing the world.
I thought about how the six of us Carthaginians were still very much friends since meeting 42 years ago. Even though most of us are now orphans and are considering what to do in retirement. Most have children they raised and who have left home, and many have suffered some type of tragedy. And, we still share common values. Seems I uncovered another reason the decision to attend Carthage College worked out pretty well.
As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge and Thomas C. Hemling
Title “Adventure Before Dementia” tune by The Wardens (Here is a link to their site, could not find individual tunes. They are one of our favorite Canadian groups.)