I came across the old Toronto Star obituary for Howie Morenz after he’s passed away in a Montreal hospital bed in 1937 and I’d like to add it to a post I did last summer after wandering around Montreal.
First, the truly beautiful obituary witten by Andy Lytle in the Toronto Star, (from Brian McFarlane’s book “True Hockey Stories: The Habs”), followed by my post done last summer.
“Like a tired child dropping softly to sleep, Howie Morenz died in a Montreal Hospital last night.
Morenz, the flashing meteor of the ice lanes, the little man who proved that “they do come back from the valley of regret and disillusion,” ate a light supper, smiled at his nurse and then turned his head wearily on the pillow as though to fall asleep.
The watching nurse, noting the strange pallor settling over his face, called a doctor. But before the medical man arrived the turbulent soul of one of the greatest figures that ever laced on skates had found eternal peace.
It was his heart that gave out, the experts said sorrowfully. To those who knew the strong vein of sentimentality that surged in the make-up of this remarkable athlete it was if the fibre of the man slowly disintegrated as he faced the uncertainty of a hockeyless future.
A crestfallen Morenz had come back to the Canadiens this season after a season on foreign ice with Chicago and then the Rangers.
In a few months he had re-scaled the heights. Was once more the flashing, dashing Morenz, the streak of Stratford, the beloved of the hockey gods who sit in silence or roar like maddened souls during the progress of the games in Montreal.
Then a quick twist, a fall on the ice and Morenz was carried away, his leg broken in two or three places.
As he recovered slowly, Morenz held court in his hospital ward. His friends were legion, his admirers more. They called to see him, to talk, to commiserate and to secure his autograph.
Howie again broke under the strain and the excitement of this renewed adoration. Last weekend the doctors belatedly clamped on the lid. No more visitors, no more chats. He was, the experts said, on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown. The strain was too great.
And then, a few days later, as his friends looked confidently forward to his complete recovery, with the unexpectedness of a bolt of lightning from a cloudless sky, the weary, exhausted figure heaved a tired sigh and turned his face to the wall.
A moment later, to a startled world and to his agonized people, the tragic words were spoken – “Howie Morenz is dead.” It was his brave heart that had given suddenly, tragically out, his doctors said.
Morenz is survived by Mrs. Morenz and three children. Howie Jr., 10, skating mascot of the Canadiens, Donald, 4, and Marlene, 3.”
It was mostly driving around Montreal today instead of walking, and I have to say, the pavement sucks almost everywhere.
Bumpy streets. I’m hoping my shocks hold up.
I avoided joggers and bike riders at Mount Royal Cemetery, and visited Howie Morenz and his son Donald. As you can see, Donald died when he was only six. Howie and Donald are buried with Mary Morenz’s family members.
I don’t know what caused Donald’s death at six years old, and I’m not sure where Howie’s wife Mary is. She doesn’t seem to be there with the rest of the gang.
If my research is correct, it seems Mary remarried in 1939 (to Georges Pratte), just nine days after young Donald Morenz passed away.
And just for the record, Herbert McKay and Wilhelmina Stewart on the headstone are Mary Morenz’s mom and dad.
After that I drove to the Howie Morenz Arena, which wasn’t far away and I was killing time before Lester’s Deli opened. The arena’s only 35 years old for goodness sakes, with new renovations. I was hoping for something much older with more of a sweaty, tobacco/mildew smell.
But at least Howie has an arena named after him, and rightly so.
Then I went to Lester’s Deli, just as it was opening. Lester’s, a family-owned business since 1951, was fantastic, and the neighbourhood around it on Rue Bernard has this great Jewish feel to it. Some of the men walking around wore these big round hats which I’ve never seen before. Awesome hats. I want one.
Lester’s smoked meat sandwich is right up there with the best of them, that’s for sure. I was the only one there and it was fun to watch all the staff, who might be all related, go about getting ready and from time to time bitch at each other.
If I hadn’t have gone to Schwartz’s (which holds a special place in my heart) first, I would say Lester’s is the best. It’s not fancy and it’s not big, but it’s clean and nice, with a lot of funky stuff on the walls.
They didn’t ask me if I wanted lean, medium, or fatty, and I’d say it was medium that I scoffed down. And wow was it good! An awesome smoked meat. Messy as hell. I didn’t order fries because I’m worried about my complexion.
My one complaint was afterward, when I looked at the menu on the wall and I saw they have a regular sandwich for $7 bucks and a bigger one for ten, and they brought me the ten buck one automatically. But what’s three bucks, right? And I wasn’t going to say anything because I’m a Canadian.
A cool place on a cool street.