‘I feel you are still near me and always in my heart, Honey Bunny. I go every year to Gros Cap at the turn around where the Blue Water Inn was and sit in the car at the spot you proposed to me, and dream of that day all over again. I still get tingly all over thinking about you,’ reads just one small section of an 800-word memoriam Caroyln Chisholm wrote about her late husband, Walter ‘Skippy’ Chisholm Jr., a firefighter who passed away in 2005 after battling cancer and diabetes.
If you’ve seen a car covered in flowers or read one of Chisholm’s impassioned annual memoriams in local newspapers, you may already know about her love for ‘Skippy’. “He was the only boy I’ve been with my whole life. I’ll love him 'til I die – forever. I really will,” said Chisholm, who first met Walter when she was seven years old as they would occasionally play together out in Gros Cap and Prince Township where they lived.
Years and hormones progressed, but as was the custom, she wasn't allowed to date before she was 16.
“Then you couldn’t date, you had to be chaperoned. I couldn’t wait until till I was 16. When that finally happened, he asked my parents if he could ask me out,” said Chisholm.
Chisholm said that she comes from the ‘old school’ – even after she and Skippy started dating, they didn't kiss until five later.
“Today is different. Years ago we had a healthy fear of trying not to do the wrong thing. It was a healthy thing. You didn’t kiss on the first date. There was many things we didn’t do. It's because we thought it was proper; we had dignity, okay? That’s why I waited so long - for five months!” said Chisholm, who to this day looks back at the traditional ways with a kind of fondness.
“Even the first night he dated me, all my brothers and sisters were inside the window looking out to see if he would kiss me. He never did. Next date? Never did,” said Chisholm, who always had to be in by 11 p.m.
It wasn’t until one night, sitting in a 59’ Oldsmobile on the side of Dean’s Rd. that she said she received the first and ‘best kiss of my life’.
“I said, ‘look at that moon up above, isn’t that beautiful?’,” said Chisholm, who closed her eyes, smiled, and started whispering. “I said yes - it is. Then I thought, maybe is this it? Is this it? And finally, he took my chin and kissed me the most romantic kiss and I just fell apart. I still think about it today. He was wonderful.”
Years later, she asked why he didn't kiss her sooner and Skippy – who was a bit of a joker – said, "Well, I had to keep you waiting."
The marriage proposal came three years later.
Walter asked Chisholm’s father for permission, then bought the engagement ring and on the same day drove out to Gros Cap to make the proposal looking out over Lake Superior
“He bought his false teeth and my engagement ring on the same day because he was so excited he could afford both,” she said.
The marriage was an all-day affair that started at St. Veronica’s Church at 10 a.m., and lasted for three meals at the Polish Hall. The couple then retired for their much anticipated honeymoon at the Canadian Motor Hotel.
It was the only night of her entire life that she ever drank alcohol.
After two glasses of champagne she passed out and almost drowned in the bathtub. Walter saved her life by yanking her out by the hair.
Soon after their marriage, Walter became a firefighter and they had four kids together.
In the late 90s, Walter was promoted to captain and stationed at No. 2 Hall, the fire station across from No Frills on Second Line West.
“I’d say, ‘Good morning, officer Chisholm’ and he’d say, ‘That’s Captain to you’,” she recalled.
In 1999, Walter suffered kidney failure and was put on dialysis.
Chisholm saw how difficult it was on him and the other patients, and she wanted to cheer him up, which is why she put the flowers on the car.
Walter came out and rolled his eyes, “gave a cute little grin” and just looked at his wife and said, ‘Okay’.
From there on out, they left the flowers on the car.
Unfortunately, Walter’s health problems worsened.
A few years later he contracted cancer. Complications between that and diabetes led to his death on Oct. 5, 2005.
Chisholm has never stopped putting flowers on the car since.
She changes the theme four times a year – spring, summer, fall, and Christmas.
February and March, the car is bare because she can't think of a theme for that time.
“I do it in his honour now. I’ll love him forever,” said Chisholm, who has a photo of Walter above her now one-person sized bed.
Over a decade later, her devotion and passion for Walter rivals that of newlyweds.
Since Walter’s passing, she’s had men try to woo her with flowers and Tim Hortons gift cards. Although they are good men, she turned them all down, leaving at least one saying "I can see you're Skippy’s girl forever."
“One man said, ‘Can I call you in ten years?’ and I said, ‘Not in twenty, but thanks anyways',” said Chisholm “So, when I bump into those guys once in a while… they’ll wink at me because they know that this is my love. I have no other interest. I’ll never get that same love again. No thanks, I’m quite happy the way I am.”
And of course, there’s the memoriams.
Chisholm’s spent enough in publishing those annually that she could put a sizeable down-payment on a car.
“They’ve saved eight marriages those memoriams,” said Chisholm referring to the phone calls she gets every year.
Although from the outside, her marriage might look perfect, Chisholm said she had to work at it, just like everyone else.
“I want people to know that no marriage is perfect. The only perfect person is...” she paused, looked up, and put her hand to her heart, “...Jesus Christ.”
“Love and faith (are important but) forgiveness is the key secret. And talking to each other. People will argue until they die. There are ups and downs because no two people are the same. You have to know that person, know your limits, and that’s how I believe I have a true love, I do.”