by Brian G. Spare
Thinking back to when I was eight years old or so, one of the people who would influence my life from then until my late teens was a man named Pat Donohue. He was a lanky, six foot two gentleman who, to my sister and I, stood as tall as a tree. Pat immigrated to then Port Arthur, Ontario in the early 1960’s with his friend Paddy Doyle from their native Ireland. When I first met them, Paddy managed the Safeway store on Court St., and Pat as well, who managed the dairy department there.
Paddy settled down to family life while Pat remained a bachelor renting a room from a Mrs. White, a widow, who I think was glad to have a man about the house. She soon discovered that Pat was quite hand-fisted with anything mechanical or even the smallest things one might consider a man would be handy at. None the less, Pat would go his merry way each and every day dressed in a suit with collar and tie, with his dark brown hair combed back and greased, and his insulin in his suit coat pocket. It caused me to wonder in my teen years, how someone who seemingly was not at all adept with his hands could regulate his insulin and inject himself every day.
At the age of twelve, as for all Roman Catholic kids, it became time for me to be confirmed. This is a rite in the Catholic church which requires each person being confirmed to be sponsored by someone (Catholic of course). My mother suggested Mr. Donohue might be a good choice. So one day when he dropped by I asked him. He said he would be honoured to be my sponsor. From that day forward he became Uncle Pat to my sister and I.
Maybe Uncle Pat had a better life of it being single. He appeared to not have a care in the world owning little more than the clothes on his back, seemed always to have a smile on his face and being diabetic always have a bar of chocolate in his pocket which he was willing to share adding to his popularity with us kids. One other thing he liked to do is borrow the Doyle kids or my sister and I and take us out for an ice cream. Of course we didn’t mind in the least.
One day Patrick Joseph met an Irish lass named Anne, who was as tall as he, while she was visiting her relatives in town. Their attraction was immediate and she and Pat went back to Ireland to meet her family. Things didn’t work out and he returned to Canada alone but to Toronto not Thunder Bay. From time to time we would visit Toronto or Pat visit Thunder Bay up until the early 1980’s when we lost touch. It was about ten years later that we were to learn that Uncle Pat had passed away from cancer two years previous. True to the way he had always lived, Pat spent every penny as he got it and mainly on the horses at Woodbine where he spent nearly all his free time. Knowing Pat didn’t have a cent to his name, all the regulars at the racetrack pitched in and paid to his funeral costs. Although it has been over twenty years since I last saw Uncle Pat, my memories of him are still clear and warm