Staff at Safeway are putting together a Christmas hamper for a family in Williams Lake sparked by a donation from a man from Ontario. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

Staff at Safeway are putting together a Christmas hamper for a family in Williams Lake sparked by a donation from a man from Ontario. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

Gratitude nudges man to pay it forward four decades later

An Ontario man is helping a Williams Lake family this Christmas

He did not receive a visit from a ghost of Christmas past, present or future, but an Ontario man said it was the summer’s wildfires that finally nudged him to give back to Williams Lake because of something he did almost 40 years ago.

From his home in Courtice, Ont., Pete Morrison told the Tribune he left Ontario in May 1978 for a job at a mill in Williams Lake.

He and his friend, Brian Hartwig, had met a girl at high school in Lacombe, Alta. whose father owned the mill.

Unfortunately, while the two friends were driving across the country for work the mill burned to the ground.

“We arrived in Williams Lake and had no jobs and nowhere to live,” Morrison recalled. “We were able to get a sublet of an apartment from a teacher that was leaving town for the summer.”

They lived there for a bit and one evening when they were away some guys they had met decided to let themselves in and party.

“By the time we got home we were evicted,” Morrison said.

Hartwig and Morrison ended up living in their 1973 Camero, which was “pretty small” for two guys, and quickly ran out of money.

“We would sleep at the cenotaph, we’d sleep at the Safeway parking lot or couch surf at a few places, but were hungry,” Morrison recalled.

In desperation they went into the Safeway one day.

They grabbed a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jam and made sandwiches.

Leaving the ingredients stashed behind the peanut butter and jam shelf in the store, they decided they’d return the next day if they were still hungry.

“We did this every day. We went into the store, made a sandwich and ate an apple or a banana. Looking back on it, they must have known what we were up to because we never bought any groceries.”

Two weeks later they both secured jobs at the Pinette and Therrien mill in Williams Lake and things started to improve.

They also met Troy Eccles, Morrison said, who brought them home and whose parents took them in.

“They even had four or five kids,” he recalled, chuckling. “Mr. Eccles was the principal of the high school. Mrs. Eccles made us lunch every day. You know, we were strangers — it was just amazing.”

Once Morrison and Hartwig earned enough money to pay the first and last month’s rent, they left the Eccles’ home and rented a house for themselves and in Morrison’s words, “everything else just fell into place.”

Morrison stayed four months and left at the end of the summer to go home and finish high school.

“Brian stayed for a year and a half and he met his sweetheart there,” Morrison added. “Her last name was Lalonde. Her dad had an auto shop in town.”

Morrison has worked in construction the last four decades and is a project manager for a local builder in Courtice.

A few weeks ago he was on the job site and started thinking about the wildfires around Williams Lake.

“My wife and I like to do something at Christmas so I decided to call Safeway up and let them know I’m indebted to them for getting us through that rough patch.”

He told store manager, Marnie Millership, he wanted to send some money to Safeway to help a family in Williams Lake.

Millership told the Tribune she was surprised when the phone rang at 7:30 a.m. and Morrison told her what he wanted to do.

“It’s a cool story that he would do this so many years later,” Millership said. “It was pretty crazy. We had a good chuckle.”

Millership has only been at the Williams Lake store for a couple of months so she immediately put employee Carmen Shwarz in charge.

Schwarz has worked at Safeway for 36 and half years and would know the community better and could find someone to help out, Millership thought.

Schwarz said she has enjoyed making Morrison’s $100-donation go a long way and has been receiving donations from friends so the hamper is continuing to grow.

“I’ve selected a woman who is very deserving, but the type of person that doesn’t want to ask for help,” Schwarz said. “She’s known by a lot of people in town.”

Morrison said hearing how his small donation is going to go far makes him feel good.

“Williams Lake has always had a place in my heart.”



news@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson
MLA’s CORNER: Rural B.C. needs help now

We only have one shot at lifting the B.C. economy out of the pandemic, so we have to get this right

As a former reporter and editor at the Tribune, Diana French carries on sharing her ideas through her weekly column. (Photo submitted)
FRENCH CONNECTION: Cheering on the Habs

Many westerners were biased against French Canadians years ago

Email letters to editor@wltribune.com
LETTERS: Congratulations to Romeros on JUNO Award win

Fame has not made them more aloof, as it does to some

Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Williams Lake Tribune.
FOREST INK: Agroforestry alternative to some commercial forest practices

We do need to seriously look at some of our practices

2021 graduate Annaliese Hunt-Owega with Burton Astleford in advance of the Reverse Grad Parade held Saturday, June 12 in Williams Lake. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Most Read