When I was ten years-old, I met for the first time this guy that everyone called Uncle Moe. His personality was larger than life; he was always smiling; and he was always eager to help anyone he could.
His sister, Sharon, and good friend, Cheryl Brown, set up Mom and Moe up for their first date. I was invited – as it should have been - and got to go along. My Mom had found someone that treated her well, wanted to share his dreams with her, and loved her deeply. Gradually Uncle Moe became a bigger and bigger part of my life. After an appropriate courtship, Moe finally did the right thing by asking for my permission to marry my mom. My twelve-year-old self said, “Yeah”.
I remember from that day, and in reminiscing over pictures in the past week, their happiness on that day. Little did I know at that time that I had won the jackpot, because the man known as Uncle Moe to everyone else had become a father to me.
The journey that Moe took to become the head of our family was an interesting one. Moe was born and raised in Flin Flon. He was an active young man who at an early age developed a passion for the outdoors.
I remember him recounting stories of canoeing or hiking or boating at Limestone Narrows when he was growing up in Flin Flon. Although I never had chance to meet him, I have no doubt that his father was instrumental in cultivating his love of the outdoors as well as many of his values and interests, at an early age.
You could readily hear the pride in his voice when he would talk about his dad serving in the air force during World War 2, or how Jean Beauchamp had been THE first aid instructor in the mine and in the community.
It was likely these early examples influenced a lifelong commitment to uniform and service.
In spite of his short hair and military demeanor, some of you may not be aware that Moe had a touch of a rebel inside of him. My mom has memories of Moe roaring up and down Center St in front of SMR, Sir Maurice Roach Catholic High School on his motorcycle decades before he would formally enter our lives. The rebel resurfaced a few years ago when Moe purchased his Spyder. It was a lot of fun teasing him about his inverted adult tri-cycle.
As a young adult, Moe went off to the bright lights and big city of Toronto to train as an electronics engineering technologist. While in Toronto, he joined the Canadian Forces Army Reserve, more commonly known as the militia, as a military policeman. He served with distinction during the FLQ Crisis of October 1970 as an MP protecting vital armoury resources.
From Ontario, Moe traversed the country and found himself in Alberta, working in the northern forests as a park ranger. He used to recount how his Mom would come to visit him at his fire tower, rifle in hand. He admired her independence
He returned to Flin Flon and began to re-establish himself as part of the community. Moe was a diverse individual with many interests and significant skill at each. Over the years Moe was an upholsterer, a miner, a carpenter’s apprentice. He worked in building maintenance as a power engineer, he was a union president, and an army officer. Each endeavor was approached with enthusiasm and a desire to not just show up but to excel. Throughout each he found a way to influence people around him, sharing his knowledge, skills, and passions.
A central piece of Moe’s life in Flin Flon was his work with the Militia and cadets. Moe was an intuitive leader with 21 Field Engineer Squadron, developing the hearts and minds of young recruits in a spirit of family, community, and service. He used the credo “firm, fair, and friendly” to guide his actions. Moe had many happy memories of his time in uniform, some of hard work and accomplishment under stressful circumstances, others of shenanigans and tomfoolery with his fellow officer, Captain Jean Champagne. He retired in the rank of Captain. After his retirement from the reserves, he continued to work with the Army Cadet League, fostering the success of more of Flin Flon’s youth.
In 1989 Moe achieved his Red Seal in Carpentry after finishing a college program in Thompson. He continued to work with the school division, building the relationships that would foster future successes with both the Flin Flon School Division, Frontier School Division, and the University College of the North.
A few years later, Mom and Moe began building their dream house on Mosher Lake. Moe spent his days working for the School Division keeping the schools warm, dry, and safe; and his evenings and weekends building a retirement home for him and mom.
After finishing the house Moe continued to find activities to fill his time. At the young age of fifty-one Moe, along with his good friend, my Uncle Keith, embarked on foot on a 220km trek through the mountains of the Northwest Territories from near the Yukon border to Norman Wells. A challenging feat for a person half their age, Moe and Keith finished with gusto.
A decade later Moe again struck off in search of adventure. This time, along with a group of paddlers from the local area, Moe completed 1100km of canoeing in just over two weeks. An accomplishment that was challenging, and even proved unattainable for people half his age, Moe dug his paddle in with fervor.
As Moe was winding down his work in building maintenance with the school division, a new opportunity presented itself. A need existed within the school division for a carpentry instructor and Moe was the obvious choice. Moe approached this new challenge with the same enthusiasm that he approach any opportunity. “The students were obviously well motivated. The credit has to go to Maurice for his efforts.” Guy Hamel, Manager Industry Training. Over the ensuing years the accolades continued to pile up as Moe shared his knowledge and skills with students of Frontier School Division, the University College of the North, and Frontier Builders. Moe was instrumental in creating opportunities for youth from across northern Manitoba in developing the skills to be successful in both the building trades and in life. Many of his former students are now employed across northern Manitoba, leaders on both job sites and in their communities as a result of the traits Moe exemplified and instilled.
Moe’s list of accomplishments is a long one. As I prepared for today I spoke with a number of people, meandered through photos and certificates, and recalled countless conversations. I could easily prattle on for hours about all of the things Moe did and all of the people he influenced.
When I tried to pick out the traits that most characterized Moe I struggled to isolate just a few. In the end, here is what I came up with.
Pride, not in himself or his work, Moe was always humble about his own accomplishments. Rather it was pride in the successes of his friends and family. He would nearly burst when he spoke of how Uncle Rob was the first second generation SARtech or of how my son Tyson had dazzled people with his numbers game when he was six years old; careful if you run in to him in the hall afterwards, I think he has it in his pocket. Moe was so incredibly proud of the accomplishments of those around him, and though in many cases those successes were in some way attributable to him, he never sought recognition for his contribution.
Selflessness. Moe never backed away from someone who needed help. Whether it was a coworker that needed help on a specific task, or a stranger with a flat tire on the side of the road, or a friend that needed an extra set of hands. Moe was the kind that would always there to help. I can’t count how many times I called Moe at any time of the day or night when something or other wasn’t working and I needed his guidance.
Loving. Moe was a person whom people would instinctively gravitate towards. People wanted to be near him, to share his enthusiasm, his zest for life. You can hear the happiness in the voices of those who refer to him as Uncle Moe. He inspired confidence and instilled a sense of safety and security. Moe had a way of calming the waters and creating a sense of peace, even when things were chaotic or troubling.
It’s this sense of peace and family that I think Moe would want us to share today. It’s important that we celebrate his life the way that he celebrated life. I encourage all of us, as we struggle through today and the tomorrows to come, to contribute to, and celebrate the successes of others. To share of yourself with both those you know and those you don’t, who knows who your next friend might be; and to love those around you, seek happiness and cherish the moments you have, life is never quite long enough.
We each have lessons that we can learn from the way Moe lived his life.
Thanks Moe. Rest well.
As presented by Sean Fisher