EDITOR’S NOTE: Manitoulin is being transformed with the influx of new residents and business owners who bring with them fresh ideas, experiences and perspectives that are enriching the area. Some individuals and families are still unpacking boxes, having only moved in the past month or two, while others made the move over the last few years and are now comfortably established in their new communities. Here are some of their stories.
by Heather Marshall
“I always wanted to live on Manitoulin, ever since I was a little kid,” explains Pat Giles enthusiastically. It would be quite a while, as there would be numerous detours along life’s path before he was able to achieve that dream, but his childhood wish finally came true in the winter of 2021.
Pat was born and raised in Windsor and had grandparents–Edith and Rollie Trepannier–living in Mindemoya. Some of his earliest and fondest memories are spending time on the Island with his grandparents where his family vacationed every summer. The annual trips were an opportunity to visit with other local family members, including an uncle in Little Current and an aunt and cousins in Spring Bay. When he was a little older, he spent several months living with and helping his grandparents, strengthening his bond with them and cementing his determination to eventually make Manitoulin home.
Those ambitions were interrupted when, at 21, he met then 17-year-old Meghan at a mutual friend’s house in Windsor hanging out around the backyard pool. “It wasn’t love at first sight,” laughs Meghan, “At first, we both thought the other was a little awkward but that changed quite quickly. We’ve been together ever since!”
Meghan was raised in nearby Tilbury, but her family moved to Windsor as she was nearing the end of high school. She was still in school when she and Pat met. Once she completed her studies she moved into a variety of retail jobs, mirroring Pat’s employment history in retail sales and manufacturing positions.
The young couple began raising a family soon after, with three daughters born in quick succession. They didn’t get around to marrying until 2011, complete with a built-in family bridal party, when Meghan adopted Pat’s surname. Both parents worked full time and Meghan did volunteer work at a cancer clinic. It was during his hectic period that the busy mom decided to pursue a career in the health field as a medical clerk.
“We had our three beautiful girls and wanted a stable family income with benefits, as neither of our jobs offered those perks,” says Pat. “And I was keen to try my hand at health care and decided to take the plunge,” adds Meghan. “We did the math and to put three kids in daycare didn’t make sense financially. Since Pat was the better cook and great at helping the kids with homework it was a natural for him to become a stay-at-home dad, which he did for many years.”
Meghan worked on several campuses of the Windsor Regional Hospital over the next 15 years, beginning as a unit clerk in an oncology ward and eventually moving through a variety of medical specialty units.
With the girls growing up, Pat wanted to return to the workforce and start his own business. He launched a tattoo shop in Windsor in 2017 to capitalize on a hobby he had pursued during the years he stayed at home. Artwork came easily to Pat, having learned to sketch from watching his father who was very artistic.
Those skills were put to the test as he began his business during a serious downturn in the local economy, driven by the auto industry which is notorious for its up and down cycles. Those challenges were compounded when the pandemic struck, which forced Pat to close his shop on three occasions for weeks or months at a stretch. Despite the difficulties, he kept his business going and acquired valuable knowledge while honing his tattooing skills.
The silver lining of the pandemic was the unprecedented rise in housing prices that swept the province, including Windsor, which was by then going through another boom cycle.
“It was a perfect time to sell our house. Meghan was tiring of work in the hospital during COVID, which was gruelling. Our girls had moved out on their own. We had an empty nest, and it was a sellers’ market, so it was time to fulfill our dream of moving to Manitoulin,” says Pat.
Because of the pandemic, they were limited to virtual house hunting, although they asked Island relatives to do on-site visits of the properties that interested them. In the end, they chose the former home of Keith and Kathy Size in Sandfield, a “cute little house we had passed by often over the years, taking our girls to fish on the government dock.”
The couple moved permanently to Manitoulin in February 2021, just days ahead of a massive snowstorm. They lived in their trailer for the first few weeks until their house was ready for them to move in. By summer, they were settled and ready to launch a new tattoo business—Pattoo’s ink —in Mindemoya, which has enjoyed early success.
Life is unfolding exactly as they imagined, and the duo couldn’t be happier. “I once asked a cousin if doctors give people happy pills because everyone is so friendly and cheerful,” jokes Pat. “And now I am one of them. The only thing missing in our lives is grandkids eventually but, for now, we have two grand-dogs we take care of so life is just about perfect.”
“It’s amazing, wonderful!” gushes Meghan. “We love going back south to see our daughters but no longer enjoy spending time in the city. After a few days, we cannot wait to get back home to the beauty, peace and quiet here.”
Heather Marshall and her husband worked as journalists and consultants in the National Capital Region for more decades than they care to admit before making their Sandfield cottage their permanent home. A lifelong learner, Heather loves discovering new things and people and relishes the opportunity to write about newcomers to the Manitoulin. If you would like to share your story or know of recent arrivals we should meet, send a message to HAMarshall@proton.me