Hundreds gather to celebrate “Growing Up in Madawaska”

Hundreds of people who live, have lived, or whose families lived in Madawaska at one time converged on the community centre in Madawaska throughout the day on Saturday May 11 to reflect on the “good old days”, preserve their community’s history, and to celebrate family and friendship. (Shown at top are some of the folks who attended. All photos Mark Woermke)

Hosted by Luanne Hilderbrandt, Norma Thurston-Lewis and Colleen Robbins, this event grew out of a Facebook group which has close to 500 members – Growing Up in Madawaska — created by Sandra Meads-Campbell.


Wendy Jocko (at left) travelled to Madawaska from Pikwakanagan for the reunion. She is holding a photo of the six Jocko boys from Madawaska who served in World War II – James, Matthew, Patrick, Peter, William and Leo. Leo Jocko was her father.  Pictured at right: Four Silieff sisters (Nancy Silieff Smith, Judy Silieff Cameron, Linda Silieff Cameron, and Evelyn Silieff Dellapenna), Margo Haskin Brotton and Heather Dupuis Wilmot were among the many former Madawaska residents who got to visit at the reunion. Linda Silieff Cameron who lives in Arnprior said that her father Tony came to Egan Estate and later Madawaska in the early 1900s. He was originally from Ukraine.

“A bunch of us met at a memorial service and said, maybe we should have a reunion,” said organizer Luanne Hilderbrandt. “When I got home that evening, I saw that Norma Thurston-Lewis had posted the same idea, so we got the ball rolling,” she added. The organizers were grateful to the Murchison and Lyell Recreation Committee of the Township of South Algonquin for their sponsorship of the reunion. When asked how many people were expected to attend Hilderbrandt said, “I lost track of the RSVPs after three pages!”

pic5-Dean-Robbins-Melvin-Towns-Percy-Bresnahan pic4-Diana-Yantha-Klentz

(Left) Dean Robbins, Milton Towns and Percy Bresnahan getting caught up at the reunion. (Right) Diana Yantha Klentz with some artifacts – letters, articles, soldiers cap, and a war diary – she found between the floor boards in her home which was the old O’Reilly homestead in Madawaska. 

A year in the planning, the reunion, which ran from noon to 9 p.m., featured displays of photos, old newspaper clippings and artifacts from various families, a slide show of photos compiled by Thelma Haskins Villeneuve, a video of the 1989 Madawaska Pioneer Days, live entertainment featuring many musicians including members of the Bresnahan, Hamilton, Sabatine and Towns families, and a delicious potluck meal. Copies of a history book, Reflections of Madawaska, were on sale and donations were accepted to offset the costs of the event. After expenses, the reunion committee raised $600 which they are donating to St. Francis Memorial Hospital in Barry’s Bay.


Thelma Haskin Villeneuve, Margaret Haskin Brotton and Donna Sabatine were busy setting up the pot luck meal in the kitchen.

Most of all, the reunion was an opportunity to reconnect with old friends, discover interesting facts about Madawaska’s history and savour that good feeling that comes from being home. When asked what feature of the day stood out to her, Hilderbrandt said it was

celebrating our wonderful town, reminiscing, and sharing our memories and talents with everyone.



Luanne Hilderbrandt, one of the organizers, with some family photos taken in the 1920s, 30s and 1940s from her great grandparents’ album. 


Click HERE to visit the Facebook group Growing Up in Madawaska. 

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