It’s been 46 years since Joyce and Louis Fonda arrived in Fort St. James.
And they have never looked back.
The couple, about to celebrate their 62nd wedding anniversary on Dec. 28, say that life in the Fort, despite any challenges, has been an overall blessing.
Both from Saskatchewan originally, (Louis from Medstead and Joyce from Rabbit Lake) the couple met in 1956.
“We met by mistake,” Joyce said jokingly. “He was busy chasing young girls at the time.”
But it’s obvious that Louis’s eyes were set on one special lady at the time and still today, it’s clear that the couple are closer than ever.
“When I fell in love, that was it,” Joyce said. “I knew that it would be for life.”
And for Louis, it has been a good life and one full of adventure as he recalls arriving in Fort St. James.
“I couldn’t be happier. We raised a big family, we worked hard. We made a good life here and that’s all I ever wanted,” Louis said.
“When we first arrived, we weren’t sure what to expect. But we came here because work was slow back home and we heard there was a job here.”
So the couple decided to take a chance.
“Road building was slow in Saskatchewan so we thought why not? Let’s go on an adventure and yes, what an adventure it’s been,” Joyce said.
The couple decided to take a job at the then “Caledonia Inn” which today is known as The View.
The Inn was owned by shareholders from Medstead, Saskatchewan that offered the Fondas a new opportunity.
“I started washing dishes and I cooked. My husband began working maintenance and then he became the bar manager,” Joyce said.
“I did that for three years and that was it for me. It was time to move on,” Louis said.
Louis then took a job at a jade mine at Mount Ogden, B.C.
“That’s about 125 air miles from here,” Louis said. “I stayed there in the winters and my wife would also come and stay and cook.”
Louis shows a stunning piece of deep green jade from his days at the mine.
“We flooded the market with this jewellery jade,” Louis recalls.
In the meantime, Joyce worked at Apollo Mill for 15 years.
“I started on trim saw, then a lumber piler and then I became a lumber grader,” Joyce said.
During that time, Joyce took an industrial first aid course, became a seamstress and quilter.
“I remember sending quilts to “Siblings of Dying Kids” down to Vancouver to Canuck Place and it felt so good to be able to do that,” Joyce said.
Joyce also enjoys painting in her spare time.
Her artwork along with her husband’s hunting trophies and family photos fill their warm home that was built by Louis himself.
“It took us 6 years but we did all ourselves,” Louis said.
And the couple also managed to fill their home with 6 children.
“We are so proud of our kids. Once they got out of school, they never looked back. They’ve all done so well,” Louis said.
When Louis left the mine, he went on to Stuart Lake Lumber and built roads in the bush.
“I was good at it. This is what I knew well. I knew how to build roads and I gave good advice.”
Through the years, the couple volunteered at the Stuart Lake Seniors Association.
And they also managed to take in every opportunity they could to enjoy the great outdoors that Fort St. James has to offer with their children.
“We fished, camped and waterskied,” Joyce recalled. “And we have a fifth wheeler that we’ve enjoyed too.”
“I remember years ago, we were stranded on Takla Landing in the 70’s. Oh, yes, we’ve had some adventures for sure.”
Louis looks on laughing.
The soon to be 90-year-old shows no signs of slowing down as he smiles at his wife.
“I’m about to be 90. But that’s because I’ve had a good cook,” he says.
“And I think there may have been a bit of love too,” Joyce adds.
The couple now have 14 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren and they are proud of every one of them
“We have so much to be thankful for. If I won $50 million, I would give it all away. There is nothing I need,” Joyce said.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Louis adds.
“We raised our family here. We helped build their homes. We all worked together. This is a place you can call home.”