Who can resist a heartwarming story in the midst of a pandemic?
Donna Boksa and her husband moved to Niagara ten years ago, and have lived in Fenwick, on Mansfield Drive, for three. She loves antiques and old curio objects, and found one at a yard sale on 7th Street Louth near the QEW. It was a rather beat-up copper weathervane, composed of a horse and carriage with a man at the reins, with arrows indicating compass bearings north, south, east, and west. The detailing was beautiful, despite the weathervane being bent, dented, and broken at some of the welding points.
“I have some experience repairing stained glass windows, but no knowledge of how to work on copper,” said Boksa. Fortuitously, she read an article in the Voice concerning auto restorer Jim Ryan, and wondered whether he might be able to weld her treasure.
Ryan examined the weathervane at his Balfour Road auto shop, but said that he didn’t have the specific tools required to weld copper. He referred her to Clarence’s Garage in Fenwick, saying, “If they can’t fix it, they’ll know who can.”
Boksa was told at Clarence’s that she should seek out a local retiree and farming machinist named Gary Eller, who maintained a workshop at his rural property on Sixteen Road.
“Gary loved my little piece of coppery artistry, and knew what needed to be done,” said Boksa.
Eller was happy to have a go at the challenge, and refused to accept payment for his work, considering it a labour of love.
While leaving Eller’s workshop, Boksa notice a stained glass rooster weathervane sitting on the split-rail fence, spinning in the wind. The rooster had the glass on the comb of its head broken. Given that she had worked with stained glass before, Boksa offered to fix Eller’s rooster weathervane, as a thank-you gesture for Eller’s good deed.
The first thing Eller did was call up his friend, neighbor, and old school chum Robert Wegman.
“He’s good with a welding torch, and has specialized skills in repairing copper,” said Eller of his buddy. The carriage had no wheels, so Wegman went to work fashioning the rims and spokes out of soldered wire. Six weeks later, the pair of octogenarians had restored the weathervane to its original splendor.
Boksa returned to the Eller workshop with the rooster weathervane, which she had repaired with the help of a stained glass artisan in St. Catharines named Caroline Freeland. She was thrilled to see her restored horse and buggy weathervane brought back to life.
“It’s wonderful that in our community we have people willing to share their unique talents to help a neighbor or someone from the local area. All it took was asking someone, who then knew someone else willing to assist. This is part of why I love living in Pelham,” said Boksa. “During this time of isolation, it’s nice to know we are not alone. I was delighted to get acquainted with Gary and Robert, and hear some of their stories of Pelham ‘back in the day,’” she said.