Home News Home full of memories destroyed

Home full of memories destroyed

A photo of the home dating from the 1940s to 1950s. Courtesy Leslie-Anne Stacey

Glorianne Dickinson will always think of the home on Old Malone Highway across from the pharmacy as Ma’s. It’s been in her family since the late 1800s. It belonged to her mother Edith Canadyan before she inherited it in 2005, and it would have continued being passed on, had it not been for the fire that tore through it on Christmas night.

Dickinson, who lives just a few doors down, was there to watch it all – from the moment the Kahnawake Fire Brigade (KFB) arrived after 10 p.m. to when the demolition team was called in to take it down. Her brother Keith Cupples, his two daughters Shayna and Chelsy, and Shayna’s two children had been living there. Luckily, no one was injured. 

Dickinson, the sixth and last owner of the home, grew up there alongside her brothers Daryl, Wayne, and Keith after moving there in the early 1960s from Brooklyn, New York. 

“It was always a full house; our friends would go there whenever, and my grandmother, she always had an open door. And whoever wanted to come in, would come in,” she said. 

That door remained open after her grandmother Cecilia Leaf passed and her mother Edith took over the home, too, Dickinson said.

“My mother would always have food on the stove, big pots of soup, and would ask ‘Would you like a bowl of soup, or a sandwich?’ My mother was always like that,” she said. “All my friends would go back to mother’s house after school.”

The front door was the last thing standing after the fire was put out, and the last thing to be torn down when the excavator came, said Leslie-Anne Stacey, Dickinson’s daughter.

“It was bittersweet, ” Stacey said. “It was almost poetic, that her open door was the last thing standing.”

Shayna Cupples and her three-year-old son were the only ones home when fire broke out. It began after a candle was left unattended in her daughter’s room, on the second floor. By the time she woke up to the fire alarm, it was too late to intervene. 

“It was half of her room that was engulfed in flames,” said Shayna. “I couldn’t think of anything but grabbing my son and running out.” 

She managed to get her two dogs and their litter of nine puppies out too. In the days since, she’s regretted not running in for more, like her mother’s photos, journals, or VHS tapes of their family, but she’s since made peace with how she reacted. 

“I loved my son enough that I didn’t have to run back to get anything, because I already had everything I loved with me,” she said.

By the time firefighters arrived, the first and second floors were completely engulfed, said Wihse Stacey, Kahnawake’s assistant fire chief.  

“There was pretty much no chance of anyone making it inside to put it out,” Wihse said. “We used three separate fire hydrants. At one point we were probably flowing approximately 50,000 gallons per minute into the house because of how big this fire was.”

The fire was brought under control after 11 p.m., roughly an hour after Shayna’s call, he said. 

“It was a shock, but to make matters worse it happened on Christmas Day. It doesn’t get much worse than that,” said Wihse. He also spent time in the home in his youth alongside his cousin Leslie-Anne. 

Chelsy Cupples was among those living in the home and has been staying with her boyfriend ever since the fire. She said her family hopes to put donations coming in toward a new rental. After that, the hope is to rebuild the family home somewhere new in town.

“I’m very thankful for my family and my friends, and the whole community that came together so fast,” Chelsy said. “It seems like a small town but then when something happens, the town seems like it’s pretty big. It was overwhelming, but greatly appreciated.”

Well over $19,000 has been donated thus far, she said, alongside clothing, toys, food, and other items. Those looking to help out also can reach out to the Royal Canadian Legion Mohawk Branch 219 for more information, she said. Her father Keith is a Marine veteran there. 

“It’s very hard for me to say in words the way I feel,” he said. “It’s hard to believe that beautiful old house of so many generations that has filled our hearts with all those memories is gone, and it’s hell to know my grandchildren won’t be playing in that yard no more.”

He and his daughter Shayna and her two children have been staying at the Riverside Inn in town ever since, something made possible thanks to Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) chief Ryan Montour, he said. On Boxing Day, wrapped gifts were also brought over from community members so the kids could have a second Christmas, after their presents were lost.

“To see them happy brought tears of joy to my eyes,” said Keith. “I got a roof over my head now, my family too. It’s not home but it’s warm.”

miriam@easterndoor.com

This article was originally published in print on Friday, January 5, in issue 33.01 of The Eastern Door.

+ posts

Miriam Lafontaine is a reporter with the Eastern Door. Her work has appeared in Le Devoir, CBC Montreal, CBC New Brunswick as well as the Toronto Star.

Previous articleMarveling at Kahnawake Marvel 
Next articleStrong competition at Club Lacrosse Nationals
Miriam Lafontaine is a reporter with the Eastern Door. Her work has appeared in Le Devoir, CBC Montreal, CBC New Brunswick as well as the Toronto Star.