Before Dan and Mary

Uncle Dan (Joseph Daniel Ducharme), the brother of Clarinda, my mother’s mother and his wife, Aunt Mary (Marie Anne Laure Langhan), took my mother in after Clarinda died in childbirth in 1937. I haven’t pieced together the entire story yet, but you will be able to read about it in ‘Clarinda: Ancestors Book 17’.

Charlie Wong and Clarinda Ducharme married August 19th, 1935,  just 3 days before the birth of my mother. It would have been an interesting dynamic; a young woman from a very Catholic family, pregnant, out of wedlock by a foreigner no less. A Chinese. Though that may have sounded outrageous, back in that time, it actually may not have been that weird. Why? Because the French side of the family were very aware of societal discrimination at that time. The Ducharmes, like almost all French-Canadian families, had native blood somewhere in their background. Many of them looked native, from Cree, Ojibwa, Algonquin and Montagnais genes many generations back. Prejudice was palpable from many whites, more so then than now, though it clearly remains a stain on our society.

The Ducharmes were not so different from the Wong’s back then, so it wouldn’t have been too odd for a Ducharme-Wong marriage. My guess is that there was a great deal of pressure put on Charlie to marry Clarinda before the child came and he finally succumbed out of conscience. Lucky timing. Why was it such a stretch for Charlie, a young, successful business man, who was probably Clarinda’s employer? Because he was betrothed to Gim Toy, by his family when he was 5 years old, back in China. And though he had probably not seen Gim Toy in more than 20 years, if ever, his obligation to his family arrangement presented a great moral dilemma. In the end he did right by one family and wrong by another. But Charlie and Clarinda did marry, my mother was born, and I think they were probably pretty happy, like any young couple with a new child. Here is my infant mother with Clarinda.

And here they are again with another young man and woman. The young man was very likely sponsored by Charlie and perhaps they both worked in one of his restaurants to earn their living.

My guess is that Clarinda came to Winnipeg looking for work. She found it in one of Charlie’s restaurants. They were single, attracted to each other, connected, as men and women do, and life happened. They married (just in time, my mother bore the surname Wong) and they planned to grow their family. Sadly, Clarinda and their second child did not survive child birth and they died March 31st, 1937. Charlie would not have been able to be a single parent, as might happen today, but fortunately the Ducharmes stepped in.

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