Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMay 24, 1893
Place of BirthSuperior, Douglas County, Wisconsin
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMathew Mack (father), 5720 Ogden Avenue, Superior, Wisconsin
Trade / CallingTelegrapher and railroad brakeman
Service Details
Regimental Number507606
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion2nd Canadian Divisional Signal Company
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Engineers
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentWinnipeg, Manitoba
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentFebruary 8, 1917
Age at Enlistment23
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathDecember 21, 1960
Age at Death67
Buried AtMountain View Cemetery, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Mack, William

Sapper William Mack enlisted with the Canadian Engineers in February 1917 and served in France and Belgium for a year and a half. He returned to Canada in May 1919.

William was born on 24 May 1893 in Superior, Douglas County, Wisconsin. His father, Matt Makynen, was born in Finland and immigrated to the U.S. around 1888. He settled in Douglas County and became known as Matt or Matthew Mack. William’s mother, Anna Sofia Erkkila, was also born in Finland and emigrated around 1889. Matt and Anna were married on 14 August 1892 in South Superior, Douglas County. Their children included William, Emil Leonard, Lampe (Elaine), Olga, Jennie, Minnie, Nora, Einor and twins Edmund and Edward. Another son named Otto may have been one of the twins. Anna passed away in 1908, at age 37, and she’s buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Superior. Matt remarried and had two more children (Elmer and Elma) with his second wife, Mary Paananen, who was also from Finland.

When the 1910 U.S. census was taken William was living at home and working as a railroad telegraph operator. Sometime after that he moved to Kenora, Ontario where he found work with the Canadian Pacific Railway. The war started in August 1914 and he enlisted in Winnipeg on 8 February 1917, signing up with the Canadian Engineers Signal Training Depot. His address was Kenora, his occupation telegrapher and railroad brakeman and next of kin his father in Superior. He said he had served for three years with the Wisconsin National Guard. Training depots sent drafts of recruits overseas as needed and William went with the 12th reinforcing draft, embarking from Halifax on the SS Olympic on 29 April and arriving in England about eight days later.

William was posted to the Canadian Engineers Training Depot, where he spent the next six months. In November he was sent to France and on 1 December he was transferred to the 3rd Canadian Divisional Signal Company, Canadian Engineers. Signallers worked with the engineers to install, repair and maintain telephone, telegraph and wireless equipment. They also provided visual signaling and maintained the pigeon service. On 24 June 1918 William was sent to the Signal Pool and in September he spent a week at No. 56 General Hospital in Г‰taples, suffering from neurosis.

After a few more months in the Signal Pool William joined the 2nd Canadian Divisional Signal Company on 27 December and he was with them until the spring of 1919. Operations were winding down by then and he returned to England on 9 April 1919. He embarked for Canada on 13 May on the SS Northland, arriving at Halifax ten days later. He was discharged on demobilization on 24 May in Montreal. An article in the Kenora Miner and News noted that William was back in town by the end of the month. The Americans had entered the war in April 1917 and William’s brother Emil served in the U.S. army with ‘C’ Company of the 87th Engineers from July to December 1918.

After the war William spent some time in both Kenora and Superior, where his family still lived, and around 1924 he moved to Fort William, Ontario, making his home there for the next 36 years. He was married in Fort William on 1 August 1934. His wife, Lida Gertrude Windred Crowe, was born in Harriston, Wellington County, Ontario on 18 October 1893. Her parents, William Hall Crowe and Annie Windred, were married in Sarnia, Ontario in 1892 and Gertrude had three younger brothers, John, Charles and Fred. The family was living in Superior, Wisconsin at the time of the 1900 U.S. census and they moved to Fort William around 1907.

Gertrude was an excellent musician and music teacher and she operated piano studios in both Fort William and Port Arthur. William worked as a telegraph operator for the Canadian Pacific Railway. He was a member of the Order of Railway Telegraphers as well as lodges in Kenora and Fort William. He passed away after a short illness on 21 December 1960, at age 67, survived by his wife and five of his brothers and sisters. Gertrude died on 27 November 1971, at age 78. William and his wife are both buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Thunder Bay. William’s father had passed away in 1938 and he’s buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Superior, Wisconsin along with his first wife Anna, his second wife Mary (d. 1959) and other family members.

By Becky Johnson

Obituaries courtesy of Thunder Bay Public Library; grave marker photo courtesy of Lynda Piilo.

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