Palmer Rapids – An abandoned truck in the forest was a poignant image local artist Kelly MacLeod wanted to capture in a painting, but in creating the piece of art she quickly developed an interest in finding out the story behind the old truck.
Fortunately, she learned the story of what happened to the owner of the truck over 50 years ago and it has made the painting even more special and much more poignant. For the owner, Gerald Junop, drowned in a fishing accident on a cold October day in 1967 and his truck may have been abandoned since then.
To discover the story behind the truck and its owner, it was necessary to hunt in the Leader archives for a clue as to why the truck has been left abandoned in the forest and find out a bit more about the owner.
“I painted this old truck, just because it looked so interesting,” she said. “Then family members saw it and told me who it belonged to and what had happened to him. A sad tale for sure.”
Family members told her a bit of the details, including the name of the original owner. The Leader archives filled in a bit more about his life.
Although she heard a bit of Gerald’s story from family members, it prompted her to see if there was more information available somewhere on his untimely drowning death at 22. Her first step was looking in Reflections of a Century which was published by the Leader to mark the 100th anniversary of the publication and includes many excerpts of stories from the century of publication. However not every story in every issue is included and when she didn’t find anything there, she reached out to the Leader directly. A quick search of the October 1967 files found the story of what happened to him on Thanksgiving weekend 55 years ago. The title of the story was “Gerald Junop Drowns” and it was published in the October 26, 1967 issue of the Leader.
“Thanksgiving weekend claimed the life of a young man in the most loved pursuit of his life, when Gerald Stephenson Fredrick Junop was accidentally drowned in his 23rd year, duck hunting at Burnt Bridge Marsh on October 7th, 1967, while home for the weekend from Sudbury, where he was employed by the International Nickel Co. of Canada,” the story begins.
“Gerald spent much of his time over the weekends fishing and hunting, and usually in the company of others,” the story continues. “However, there seemed to be something unique about this expedition, and as happens to all of us, God calls to us individually and Gerald was alone when his way of departure came.”
Gerald was born in Rosenthal in 1944 and went to the Rosenthal Public School, continuing his schooling at North Hastings High School and then one year in Combermere. The oldest son in the family, he left behind his parents and four sisters and one brother, as well as an extended family.
The Leader article, written by an uncredited writer, also ended with a rather evangelistic note.
“Again, the warning has been sounded to ‘Prepare to meet thy God’ for this young man was in the prime of life and will be missed in the community and among his friends, as was evidenced by the floral tributes and cards received,” the article concluded.
Ms. MacLeod first saw a photograph of the abandoned truck taken by one of her friends and thought it would be a good idea to paint it. She painted the truck from the photograph. A self-taught artist, she has been receiving a lot of positive accolades for her work and enjoys painting scenes which relate to the Ottawa Valley.
She noted the truck in the forest had a poignancy which moved her.
“I guess it was just left there,” she said. “There is even a gunshot hole in it now.”
While the Leader article told some of the story, her information is the parents of young Gerald left the farm at some point after his death and the vehicle was abandoned. It remains in the hills of Rosenthal.
A native of the Ottawa Valley, Ms. MacLeod enjoys sharing the stories of the Valley through art. As an emerging artist, she enjoys painting and expressing herself through her art.
“I’ve been doing this my entire life,” she said. “I’m self taught.”
Her work has been displayed in a few galleries and she recently had a landscape voted as the best landscape in the Bancroft Galleries Juried Show.
“I’ve done several commissions for people too,” she said.
Based in Palmer Rapids, her studio is there.
It is also possible to see some of her work at a piece which is touring with the Pop-Up Art Gallery which tours across the Valley. In fact, her painting is on the poster for the exhibit entitled ARTifacts. It celebrates the artifacts which tell stories of the lives of people in the Valley. Ms. MacLeod’s painting is a rocking chair with a tree growing through it in a classic vintage mason jar.
“The idea was about preserving,” she said. “There are mason jars in all our museum. The rocking chair represents the old storytellers and the plant is the sprout of inspiration.”
With a love of history, this was an exhibit which really resonated with her, so she was pleased to see her painting highlighted in it.