June 17th, 2020 ~ Vol. 90 No. 24
Looking Back - John Kinnear
A Moment in Time – Love at First Sight
Looking Back
John Kinnear photo
Lorraine with her mother Phyllis and father Bob. She was only two when her Bobby Daddy left for the war
“Her eyes stole my heart, her smile gave me life, her presence made me high, her touch left me breathless.”
Sometimes it seems like only yesterday, but it is, in fact, 48 years since my life was forever changed by a casual glance. A magical, profoundly honest and innocent glance that swept my way from across the room at, of all places, the Highlander Bar in Calgary.

I’ll preface this encounter by telling you how I wound up there at that definitive moment in time. It was early July of 1972 and I was on the run, so to speak. I had been working at Coleman Collieries for 15 months straight as a surveyor helper and draftsman for my father. I was well aware that it was about to come around to the first anniversary of the abrupt and painful death of my beloved older brother Alex in a motorcycle crash in Bellevue and I knew that my parents would be greatly affected by this turning point.

So I took off, on a lost boy sojourn, to escape the heartache and pain of losing my best friend and to steer clear of my parents resurfacing grief. I took a greyhound bus to Calgary, flew up to Edmonton and got a room at the plush MacDonald Hotel where I ordered a big steak dinner in their fancy restaurant. While there I realized that I was sort of lost and going nowhere so I flew back to Calgary and called up my old college buddies to meet me at the Highlander, our favourite college watering hole.

It was there, on that Friday night, that I glanced across the vast extent of that bar and beheld a woman walking back to the table where her friends and sisters were seated. It is hard to describe that moment when our eyes met, as many may never experience such a profound singular encounter. There was something magical and arresting about her. An aura that emanated from her very being that was all-encompassing, at least to me. Instinctively I knew that this woman, named Lorraine, and I were meant to be together. I was as sure of that fact as I was of anything in my life. I walked up to her table and gave her a yellow rose and the die was cast.
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To illustrate just how profoundly I was affected by this brown-eyed, red-haired angel, I should tell you that I returned home to my job after that Stampede weekend encounter and a few days later was informed that Norcen Energy, the then owners of Coleman Collieries, had determined that their recent venture into the coal business was not going well and that there would be layoffs. I was told I was to be let go.

Not two weeks later, management called me in to inform me that they had reassessed my position and observed that I had made such an important difference to the engineering department that they had reconsidered and wanted me to stay. I thought for only a second about it and then said: “You can’t do this to someone, dismiss them and then change your mind.” To explain how strong my realization was that I wanted to be with Lorraine, consider this. I had just had a $7000 loan approved to purchase a brand new trailer which I intended to locate up on the hill where I grew up, with a view unlike any other.

I could have very easily stayed and continued on with my life here in the Pass but instead I followed my overwhelming gut feeling and left for Calgary. At the time Lorraine was herself in flux, having left her abusive husband in Germany after fifteen years of attempting to work around the abuse. When we met she was trying to restart her life back in Calgary with her two daughters Kelly Anne and Tracy Anne, aged 10 and 14. Lorraine must have also recognized that we were meant to be and after consulting with her daughters invited me to stay with them so I could look for work.
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Years later Lorraine shared with me a dream she had had about a tall, dark handsome man who was going to come into her life someday. A sort of Prince who would come to rescue her. Despite my present grayed appearance, I was at one time, dark haired. I am still tall but I will leave the handsome part to you the reader to yay or nay. There was never a doubt, never a moment of uncertainty, as to our journey together. We worked hard, played hard and lived life to its fullest.

Lorraine’s background was Air Force and her father served in Burma during the Second World War. After the war she, along with her three siblings, got to see Canada from one end of the other at bases like Fort Nelson, British Columbia, Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Gimli, Manitoba, and Greenwood, Nova Scotia. She spent time in, of all places, Biloxi, Mississippi, where at the age of 16 she worked as a soda jerk in the Gulfwater Edge Hotel. She came across the worst of racism there and it should be no surprise to hear that she stood up to it in her own special way, serving cold drinks in the sweltering heat to the black kitchen staff, despite the owners stern warnings. She told me she said to the owner: “We don’t treat people like that in Canada!”

Another bit of serendipity with regard to Lorraine and I is the fact that our grandparents, on our mother’s side, were both homesteading at the same time near the small Saskatchewan town of Cabri, in 1918, when the Spanish flu hit. Lorraine’s grandfather died from the flu and my grandmother, Katie Agnes MacInnis, survived it and went on to live to almost 104 years of age. Lorraine told me that her grandmother lay in bed holding her mother, who was then 3 months old, alongside her dead grandfather for three days before help came. We didn’t discover this connective fact until many years later and it merely reinforced our belief that our paths were destined to cross.
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Lorraine and I spent 8 years in Calgary and then moved to Fernie, BC in 1980, where we spent the next 25 years before moving to the Pass in 2005. It was here I found the home of her dreams. In Fernie, as I worked at Line Creek Mine, Lorraine took on different jobs, on and off, until she settled into being a home-based dog groomer. It all started with a call about a skunked Sheltie dog that she cleaned up and word spread from there about her animal talents. It’s hard to describe what it was like for her to receive as many as three dogs a day for grooming. Often the dogs had overgrown nails, terribly plaqued teeth and heavily matted hair requiring hours and hours of prep work that went into just bringing the dog to a bathable stage.

She did this with such patience and care that dogs, who did not know her and were terrified, were sent home feeling much better and looking their very best. You can’t imagine what it is like to single-handedly handle a dog who doesn’t know you. Brushing out sometimes terrible mats, trimming nails, and then bathing and drying a trembling animal was very taxing. Often she did three a day, usually at around three hours a dog. In the end carpel tunnel in her wrists from all that dog handling ended her grooming career but she is still remembered in Fernie as the magician who transformed peoples’ dogs back into their very best.
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Throughout our Fernie years Lorraine and I raised and said goodbye to literally dozens of animals. There were two Siamese cats named Chin and Chan, a bullmastiff named Max that I wrote about in 2019, a Bichon Frise, a Ragdoll cat and then a retired tortie lynx-point Balinese show cat named Coquette. Coquette was given to us when she was eight years old and, unbeknownst to us and the original owner, was pregnant. What followed were three kittens, a lynx point, a red point and a seal point. That’s what the recessive Siamese gene can do sometimes. What a riot they were growing up.

Author’s Note: Part two of the story of the love of my life will be unfolded soon. As you can imagine it is my toughest assignment ever and I hope you the readers find this window into Lorraine’s world a worthwhile read. There is so much more to her story.

I have noted that the covid crisis has caused a disconnect in the grieving and acknowledgement process so important in remembering loved ones that have passed. So I am offering, on behalf of the paper, to use my column to tell the life story of your family member who have departed. You can engage me with photos and stories and I will help you share their important legacy.

Read: Part II - A Moment in Time - A Life Well Lived

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June 17th, 2020 ~ Vol. 90 No. 24
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