Fulford, Carl & Rhoda #140 *

Carl and Rhoda Fulford

Carl and Rhoda Fulford became residents of North Bay in the fall of 1994 and thoroughly enjoyed their time here, but their life story began well before that and very much farther away.

Carl Fulford was born in the Blue Mountain district of Collingwood, Ontario in the spring of 1915, to Lauren and Mary Ann Fulford, the second youngest of their 10 children.

At the young age of 10, Carl went to live with Elizabeth and Tom Armstrong in nearby Thornbury, Ontario where he was able to attend school and help out on the Armstrong family farm.

In 1938, at the age of 23, Carl decided to leave the farm and travel north to look for work in the booming gold mines of Northern Ontario. He settled in the growing mining town of Kirkland Lake, where his first mining experience was at the nearby Bidgood Mine. He soon moved to the Upper Canada Gold Mine, located in the small village of Dobie, on the outskirts of Kirkland Lake.

When war broke out in Europe in 1939, Carl and a friend from the Upper Canada Mine decided to join the Royal Canadian Army. It was a decision that would affect the rest of Carl’s life. Both men were accepted and became members of the Royal Canadian Engineers.

Carl’s unit was sent overseas and he was stationed at an officer training school in the south of England, where he served until the end of the war. While on leave from his unit in the summer of 1941, Carl visited the Scottish coastal community of Broughty Ferry. While strolling along the seaside beach, he had a chance meeting with a beautiful young woman. Her name was Rhoda Lowson.

Born in Dundee, Scotland in early 1920, Rhoda was the eldest of three daughters born to Alexander and Elizabeth Lowson. In the summer of 1941, at age 21, she joined the RAF Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. One week before she was to leave for Air Force duty, Rhoda and her younger sister decided to visit Broughty Ferry. They had a chance meeting with a young Canadian soldier they thought looked a lot like screen star, Gene Kelly. His name was Carl Fulford.

Carl and Rhoda were married in the spring of 1943 in Dundee, Scotland, while on leave from their respective units in England. Their first child – a daughter – Irene Elizabeth, was born in the spring of 1944 in Dundee, Scotland.

When the war ended, Carl and Rhoda considered remaining in Scotland. However, with the promise of a job back in Canada for those who had left to go to war, Carl returned to Kirkland Lake. Rhoda and Irene Elizabeth joined him in the summer of 1946, travelling to Canada aboard the Queen Mary along with hundreds of other war brides and their children. Once settled in Kirkland Lake, Carl and Rhoda welcomed two more children to their growing family – Sandra in 1947 and Neil in 1954.

When Carl returned from England, he resumed his role at the Upper Canada Mine where he would work for the next 25 years. Respected and trusted by fellow employees, and recognized as a tough, yet fair negotiator by the mine’s management, Carl served for many years as President of the United Steelworkers of America Local 4639. Not once during his tenure as president was there ever labour unrest at the Upper Canada Mine.

Shortly after the closure of Upper Canada in 1970, Carl obtained employment as a custodian at Northern College, Kirkland Lake. He worked for the College until his retirement in 1980.

In his spare time, Carl was an avid gardener, painter, reader and walker, and he loved the quiet serenity offered by his most favourite summer pastime, picking blueberries in the woods around Kirkland Lake. He also took great pride in maintaining his motor vehicles in factory-like condition. His classic 1972 Pontiac LeMans remains in the family to this day and is still in excellent condition.

Meanwhile, Rhoda was a friendly and familiar face to all who shopped at Lothian’s Drug Store in Kirkland Lake. It was there in the late 1970s that she began a support program for women whose lives had been affected by breast cancer. Relying on her own experiences as a breast cancer survivor, and with the cooperation and support of the Canadian Cancer Society, Rhoda began fitting women for post-mastectomy prosthetics, and more importantly, offering them comfort and counselling at a time when neither was the norm. Recognized by the Canadian Cancer Society for her efforts, Rhoda continued to offer physical and emotional support to breast cancer survivors well into her retirement.

During her spare time, Rhoda loved knitting, sewing, baking and walking. When they were young, her daughters’ outfits were almost always hand-made. There isn’t a member of the family – young or old – who doesn’t have a cherished woollen sweater, scarf, socks or mittens that was lovingly made by Rhoda. No one who ever tasted one of her pies, mint squares, cookies, shortbread or date squares will ever forget how magical she was with baked goods. Rhoda was also a lover of music and the arts, and passed on that passion to all of her children and grandchildren.

After a lifetime of service to their community, Carl and Rhoda left Kirkland Lake in 1994 and relocated to North Bay to be closer to their family. Carl passed away in 2001 at the age of 85, and Rhoda, a long-time member of the North Bay Interlink Choir, passed away in 2010 at the age of 90.

They lived full and complete lives, highlighted by a love for their family, their communities, their countries and each other. They leave behind their three children, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren to continue their story.