My sweet dad, George G. Wilson went to his Heavenly Home on 1/23/18. He was 92 years old. One of the last questions he asked me and my husband Bob was when we would be going back to the River. Dad loved our cottage on the River and if it weren't for him and my mom, I would have never fallen in love with the River. And Bob and I would, therefore, have never written any of our River books, produced any of our River DVDs or played any role in recording some of the rich history of Singer Castle. We owe so much to this kind and gentle man whose love of the River (and his family) changed our lives in so many ways.
Dad was born in the Bronx in 1925, served in the Marines as a Corporal in WWII, graduated from NYU as an electrical engineer, and was hired by GE in Syracuse. There he met my mom and they married in 1951. But this former city boy quickly discovered he was a River rat at heart. Some friends of my parents let them spend a week in their tiny trailer on Kring Point Road when I was very young. I remember the first night when some kind of siren woke us all up out of a sound sleep and we ran outside in our pajamas only to discover it was a ship's horn sounding as it passed by on a foggy night. After a somewhat tentative start, dad also discovered that he loved to fish. But that was only after catching a fish, losing his footing on the slippery rocks and ending up in the River. My mom, always one to keep a cool head in an emergency, ran and got a camera so she could get a keepsake shot of him crawling out of the River, fishing rod (and fish) still in hand. This was when I also first learned the meaning of laundered money, seeing all the bills from dad’s soaked wallet hanging on the clothes line to dry. Despite a few such incidents, our family was already hooked on the River.
A year or so later, my parents must have upgraded their friends, because we were invited to spend another week at the River, this time in someone's waterfront cottage. At that time, my parents realized that the big fish, and many other River adventures are more likely to happen a little farther off shore. That winter they both took their United States Power Squadron safe boating course and purchased their first power boat. While dad loved powerboating, I have to admit he never quite mastered the art of the smooth landing. A typical landing involved ramming the dock with the bow, as my mom waved the boat hook and hollered for dad to slow down. I noted that ramming the dock was actually a very efficient way to slow down.
It was through the safe boating course and their subsequent membership with the Syracuse Power Squadron that they learned about Binnacle Island. This small binnacle-shaped island located in the Admiralty Fleet Islands of Gananoque is owned by the Syracuse Power Squadron and is available for use to its members.
For the next three summers, we spent our vacations on Binnacle. I was a music major in college by then, and not wanting to get out of practice over the summers, brought my trumpet up to the island. I'm not sure what inspired me to do so (perhaps because my parents didn't particularly want me practicing inside the small cottage), but one day I took my trumpet to the tip of the island and blasted it at a tour boat that was passing by. The tour boat blasted back, and for the rest of the week it cut closer to the island, so we could toot at each other (I had obviously become a tourist attraction by the end of the week).
At the end of that third summer, my parents decided it was time to purchase a spot of their own on the River (it also probably helped that they no longer had to help with college payments, so their daughter could toot her trumpet at tour boats). They found a beautiful piece of land on the water and within the year dad had the frame of the cottage built. He did much of the rest of the work himself. My parents called our cottage "Elim" which means "Place of Refreshment". It is a reference to Exodus 15:27 which states, "They came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees. They set up camp there by the water" (Ex. 15:27).
My mom would probably argue that it wasn't that much of a place of refreshment for my dad since he spent the majority of his time working on building projects and repairs (but loved every minute of it). Of course, that still left him plenty of time for fishing, boating, and watching ships. We probably have 20 years of the “Know Your Ships” books in which Dad meticulously marked each ship he spotted, with date and direction. But no matter what else he was busy with, he always took time off for church on Sundays. Dad loved the Lord and always made Sunday worship a priority whenever possible.
It was shortly after getting the cottage completed that they heard about a Sunday service that was held in a castle on an island not too far from our cottage. I was with them the first Sunday they headed off in the boat to go to church at Jorstadt Castle. It wasn't long before the owners, Dr. And Mrs. Harold Martin, found out I was a musician and invited me to play (piano, not trumpet) and sing at the services which I did for the next 15-plus years. When I met Bob in the late 80s and he "popped the question" it was at dad and mom's wise request that he also take the Power Squadron course especially since it was their boat he would be using to take his bride to church on Sundays. And to dad's great delight, the man his daughter married quickly came to be a fellow River rat and beloved son-in-law.
After my mom's health worsened, there were several years when my parents were not able to make it to their beloved Elim. But after she passed away, dad began to come up to the River a couple of times every year with Bob and me. For the next seven years we loved seeing him sitting on the deck with his telescope watching the ships (and his daughter in her kayak) go by. Those were such precious times and precious memories.
Just a few days after dad went Home, I was reading the last few pages of a new biography on Frederick Bourne*, who was the original owner of what is now known as Singer Castle. In the last chapter, the author describes the last moments of Commodore Bourne's life. He writes, "One source of comfort during his final days would be listening to his daughters play his favorite musical selections on the organ. On his last day, March 9, 1919, Dr. King had told him that death was close. Mr. Bourne asked for his children to come in and he said his last goodbyes. Before they left, he asked that they play for him the song, 'The End of a Perfect Day' and then until he slipped away, 'Abide With Me'.** Mr. Bourne thanked Dr. King for staying with him. Then he wished several of his closest servants goodbye and at 3:00 on that Sunday afternoon the Commodore closed his eyes and as Dr. King wrote, 'His spirit soared outward on the wings of music'."
At the time my dad asked when we would be going back to the River, we didn't know he was going to be leaving us quite so soon. It will be sad for us, this summer, not seeing him in his usual place on the deck. However, his absence will be a reminder to us that even though “his spirit has soared outward” he is, indeed, at the River where "God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain...Then the angel showed me the River of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Rev 21:3-4, 22:1).
* Frederick Gilbert Bourne: Forgotten Titan of the Gilded Age by Philip Selvaggio
**Abide With Me - http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Abide_with_Me/
1. Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.
2. Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
3. I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
4. I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
5. Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
By Patricia Mondore
Patty Mondore and her husband, Bob, are summer residents of the Thousand Islands. Patty is an author and a singer/song writer. Her most recent books include River-Lations Revisited: More Inspirational Stories and Photos from the Thousand Islands , River Reflections: A 90-Day Devotional for People Who Love the Water and its two sequels, Nature Reflections and A Bird Lover's Reflections. She and Bob co-authored Singer Castle and Singer Castle Revisited published by Arcadia Publishing, and co-produced "Dark Island's Castle of Mysteries" documentary DVD, in addition to a Thousand Islands music DVD trilogy. Patty is a contributing writer for the "Thousand Islands Sun." Her column, "River-Lations", appears in the Vacationer throughout the summer months. The Mondores are online at www.gold-mountain.com. (Be sure to visit Bob's singercastle.blogspot.com too.)
Editor’s Note: I can think of few other things to cheer us up during cold winter, than having a Patty Mondore article!