the story doesnt end

St. Louis, Missouri, sits just south of the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Those great rivers, and the fertile bottom lands their floodwaters nurtured, have drawn people to this location for millennia.

St. Louis, Missouri, sits just south of the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

Those great rivers, and the fertile bottom lands their floodwaters nurtured, have drawn people to this location for millennia.

The largest, manmade, ancient earthen mound north of Mexico lays only a few kilometers to the east of the city. It tells of aboriginal people’s long presence there.

Layered over First Nation names on local geographic features, the settlement names left by the European colonizers recount the story of the region.

The formal ceremony between Spain, France and the United States marking the cession of the Louisiana territory took place in St. Louis in March of 1804.

Napoleon’s vanquished dream of a North American empire gave the fledgling United States a territory that stretched from the mouth of the Mississippi River on the Gulf of Mexico north to Saskatchewan.

The Louisiana Purchase would eventually comprise 13 future states.

Waves of immigrants from lands such as Bohemia, Germany, Ireland and Italy, as well as from the Civil War-ravaged states to the south, would flood St. Louis over the next century.

New residents all brought with them their stories and patterns of speech and intonation to tell them with. These would blend into a unique local accent.

The local pronunciation of the name John, for example, sounds like Jan to an outsider’s ear.

Luckily the couple my wife Eva and I visited the week before last were John and Jan. Whatever we said sounded right.

For John, a teacher, and Jan, a librarian, the story provides a key reference point for their lives. The belief everyone has a story to tell, a life worth recounting, insights to be shared puts a value on all lives.

John taught English to Grade 6, 7 and 8 students at St. Ann Catholic Elementary School in Normandy, a near suburb of St. Louis, a quarter hour expressway drive from their central St. Louis home. His nearly 39 years of teaching alone would not have made him a master teacher. Giving voice to young people’s dreams through the creativity he inspired and the skills he imparted did, though.

Genuinely enthused, John showed us the poetry his young charges wrote in response to the 14-day blog of two canoeists circumnavigating St. Louis.

Having the unflagging ability to see his student’s potential and a wide, imaginative range of tools and techniques with which to unlock their creativity produced great results.

His students, young as they were, produced strong and evocative pieces.

This was only part, however, of a larger project.

John’s unselfish striving to assist students in naming their own futures, to becoming subjects of their own stories and not just the footnotes in others’ biographies move him one from the master teacher to the master human-being category.

Last weekend, we heard a stroke had crippled our teacher friend. A day later, another call from Jan told us he had died.

This completely unexpected passing reminds me just how fragile this life is, and how suddenly life’s moorings can be loosened.

John’s story continues, as does all of ours, in the lives he has touched.

When John joined the two paddlers on Pelican Island just above the point where the mighty rivers join on the last day of the St. Louis Circumnavigation Project, he wrote his own poem to go along with those of his students.

So much depends


a lone canoeist


on the river


receiving its grace


John C Wiedmann, 1949-2011

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Calvin Delwisch poses for a photo inside his DIY sauna at Marsh Lake on Feb. 18.
Yukoners turning up the heat with unique DIY sauna builds

Do-it-yourselfers say a sauna built with salvaged materials is a great winter project

Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

The Yukon government responded to a petition calling the SCAN Act “draconian” on Feb. 19. (Yukon News file)
Yukon government accuses SCAN petitioner of mischaracterizing her eviction

A response to the Jan. 7 petition was filed to court on Feb. 19

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Bureau of Statistics reports rising rents for Yukoners, falling revenues for businesses

The bureau has published several reports on the rental market and businesses affected by COVID-19

Council of Yukon First Nations grand chief Peter Johnston at the Yukon Forum in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. Johnston and Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn announced changes to the implementation of the Yukon First Nations Procurement Policy on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Third phase added to procurement policy implementation

Additional time added to prep for two provisions

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

Most Read