Memorializing a fishing tragedy helps complete a family puzzle — 50 years later
Their dads died together on a fishing boat, but now they realize their connection runs much deeper
About 200 Islanders gathered in Souris, P.E.I., on Saturday to remember the 10 fishermen who died when their boat Iceland II was grounded in a storm off Cape Breton 50 years ago.
For one family, it completed a family puzzle that had been missing a piece all those years.
"Out of tragedy, comes some good news today," said Sandra Hodder Acorn, who was only two months old when her father, Capt. Tom Hodder, went down with the boat.
"We're remembering all the men that went down today and we're making new connections and finding new family members."
The story goes like this:
After the tragedy, Hodder's mother got remarried to a man named Buddy O'Hanley. He had a son, David, a crewmember who was also killed that day.
What Hodder Acorn never knew is that David had a daughter — until Thursday, when she got a message on Facebook from "the sister-in-law of David O'Hanley's daughter, which we didn't know existed."
Out of tragedy, comes some good news today.- Sandra Hodder
The message said the daughter, Darlene Balsor, was hoping to finally meet her step-family, and to lay flowers at the monument in Souris bearing the name of her father and the others who died.
"I hardly slept in three days, and I don't think I've eaten any food in four," said Balsor. "It's just been, 'Wow.' I'm so glad they were very open about including me in this."
Balsor said as a child she knew about Buddy O'Hanley's family — "My mom told me the whole story" — but said as she got older she was afraid if she reached out, "they might not want to have anything to do with me.
"The fear of the rejection was a little bit stronger at that time than the need to know where I came from," Balsor said. "And this year, I have a nine-year -old son, and me growing up not knowing anything much about my dad and his side of the family, I thought it's time that I know so that I can pass a little more information on to my son."
Hodder Acorn said they have some catching up to do.
"We'll make some connections, look at some pictures, and maybe have a glass of wine while looking at some pictures and get to learn a little bit about each other," she said.
As for their fathers, Hodder Acorn imagined they would be proud of them, and "very proud of the town that hasn't forgotten about them."
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With files from Nicole Williams