BARRY’S BAY – Mack Olsheskie did not let the bad things in life get to him. Whenever something was thrown his way, he dealt with it with a smile on his face.
It is that very smile and his hearty laughter that the community will miss the most. Sadly, the popular business man and family man lost his battle with cancer on January 20.
Mack was an inspiration not only to his family, but to the community as well. Even though he was diagnosed with prostate cancer almost 17 years ago, he continued to have a positive outlook on life.
The Valley Gazette had the privilege of interviewing Mack two years ago and showcased his inspiring story. The following is a recap of that article that ran in September of 2011.
Mack grew up on a farm outside of Barry’s Bay in Radcliffe Township, near the North Shore of Wadsworth Lake. He was born February 15, 1923 to parents Frank and Elizabeth (née Kosnaskie) Olsheskie. He had two brothers, Nelson and Sylvie, and two sisters, Agnes and Ursula.
They lived in a log home, built by Frank when he was only 17 years old. Frank had help from his father (Mack’s grandfather) and a handful of neighbours.
The house measured about 24 feet by 26 feet and was two stories high. The main level was open-concept, combining the kitchen, living room and dining room. Upstairs held two bedrooms, with a large hallway. There were two beds placed in the hallway for the children.
Olsheskie went to church almost every Sunday in the summer time. The family was fortunate enough to have a car, so they were able to make the seven-kilometre trek to St. Hedwig’s parish in Barry’s Bay.
Midnight Mass at Christmas was rarely missed. The family headed out to church in the dead of night and arrived at the parish in time for the service. Mass would last for two hours, and the family would arrive home sometime past 2:00 a.m.
When it came to his education, school was something that never really interested Mack. In fact, he attended the school near Halfway up until Grade 3, before dropping out to work on the farm. As the years progressed, Mack started working with his dad in the bush, cutting trees and logging for many years.
He did that until he was around 23 years old, before the family decided to build a home in Barry’s Bay.
LEARNING A TRADE
As the house was being built by a local carpenter, Mack had the opportunity to help out. He learned many carpentry techniques during this time. In the winter, he was still working in the bush, skidding with a team of horses. But, there was nothing to do in the summer months – the horses could not be worked in the extreme heat. So, with his newfound carpentry skills, Mack began picking up many jobs building houses and cottages with other carpenters in the Valley.
Eventually, he enlisted the help of his brother-in-law Dominic Lorbetskie, and the two began building houses together. They constructed many cottages that can still be seen today around Wadsworth Lake, Kamaniskeg Lake, Paugh Lake and everywhere in between.
During this time, Mack married his first wife, Marcelle (née Yeritch) at St. Hedwig Church in Barry’s Bay in 1947. Together the couple had eight children: Theresa, Francis, Louis, Barry, Goretti, Danette, Larry and Lorraine. Marcelle passed away in 1987.
He then married his second wife, Dorothy Yantha (née Golka – she was previously married to Dominic Yantha.) Mack and Dorothy were married in 1991 at St. Hedwig Church.
Meanwhile, the last cottage that he built was in 1991 for his daughter, Theresa. He told the Gazette in 2011 that he had built 11 cottages and houses for his family.
He took great pride in his work, and the fact that he was able to establish a career despite his lack of education.Mack has been praised by his clients, many of whom are highly-educated professionals. He even joked that he built homes for professionals who had lots of money, and he only had a Grade 3 education.
Even his retirement did not stop him from taking odd jobs around the Valley. He continued to build smaller scale structures that local carpenters did not want to take on – like garages or sheds. Mack was in his mid-70’s when he decided to stop building. When he could not build anymore, Mack continued to chop, carry, and pile wood to heat his home.
Story continues in the January 23, 2013 issue of The Valley Gazette.