On June 11th, 2012, there was a Celebration of Life Party for Pat Damaren at the Country Life Resort facility. Pat Damaren was a well-known resident of Wasaga Beach through her work at the Dyconia Resort where she and John Hutchenson operated it as a team just a few years ago. The Dyconia was sold to a new owner and the "Dinner Bell Lounge" and the upstairs lounge closed, but many of us still remember the amazing buffet dinners that John and Pat would put together. They were often hired to assemble the menu for the Wasaga Beach Chamber of Commerce's annual Business Awards dinner among other popular events.
The Country Life Resort banquet hall was packed with people who came to remember Pat. It was anything but a sad occasion. Anyone who knew Pat would know she would have hated a mournful event, so the mood was intentionally light. A few people got up to speak about her life and of course there were stories that gained a good hearty laugh from the crowd who came to pay their respects.
As someone who has been an entertainer most of my life, you would think that getting up to say a few words would be easy. It's not. I truly admire people who can stand in front of hundreds of people and tell a funny story during such a sad occasion. I would never have made it through a speech without losing control of my emotions. But, I can write. So if you will indulge me, I will tell you the story I would have told if I had been brave enough to do it in front of a live audience.
In summer of 1991, my husband Rick and I decided that we would take a vacation in Wasaga Beach. We stayed at Joanna Cottages just east of the Dyconia. I had not been to Wasaga Beach since I was about 10 years old and Rick's last visit was with his first wife. We spent lazy afternoons on the beach and in the evenings we would look for live entertainment. There were a few places back then which had live bands; the Dard (Rock), the Apollo (Country), and the Dyconia. The Dard charged a hefty cover so we opted to go to the Dyc who had 2 rooms with entertainment. Downstairs they featured full bands and upstairs they had a guy on piano named Paul "Fingers Mindard". The place was busy with a mostly local crowd. We thought to ourselves "we have to get a gig here, this would be so much fun!" So, we called our agent and asked him if he could get us booked at the Dyconia. We didn't get to work during the summer but we did get our first gig there in September of that year. It was a gig that would change the course of our lives.
The Dyconia in 1991 was the place to go if you wanted to meet the people who lived here. We met people who worked at the bank, the Post Office, the Town's building inspector, Fire Chief and Deputy Fire Chief, Council Member (now Mayor) Cal Patterson was there with his wife. There were some cottage owners who would return year after year, a mechanic, real estate agents, some contractors, bartenders and wait staff would hang out when their shifts were over. It was reminiscent of Cheers - where everybody knows your name, complete with a guy named Norm; but this one owned a houseboat where many of us would go after the bar closed. The town had only 6,500 people then and because they were used to tourists, we never felt like we were newcomers.
We did well enough at the gig in September that we were asked to come back again, and again. We ended up working as the house band for 3 summers in a row at the Dyconia's upstairs bar. We had worked a lot of places over the years but nowhere felt as friendly and welcoming as it did at the Dyc, so we discussed the idea of buying a house nearby. The prices were on par with what we were already paying in rent so we pulled up stakes and bought our home here in the Beach.
What does all of this have to do with Pat Damaren?
Well, when we played that first summer I was standing at the bar and this woman comes up to me and introduces herself as "Pat". She explains that she is John's girlfriend. Pat and John had both been married before. I suspect that neither of them was anxious to take another walk down the aisle but it was clear that Pat was completely smitten with John. She confessed to me that she was "in love" and we spent that night talking about how they met, sharing stories about life and love, music, fun and more. Pat was smart, engaging and a no-nonsense type of person which is just fine with me.
Pat had a larger than life personality and when she was enjoying herself with a few cocktails, she'd be the first person to hit the dance floor. For the people who entered the Dyconia, there was no such thing as saying "no" to Pat. She'd grab you by the hand and tell you to get out there and dance with her. I can't imagine how the evenings would have gone without that never-take-no-for-an-answer personality. If she wanted you to share a drink with her, you would share a drink, if she wanted you to dance, you would dance and if she requested a song, you'd play it three or four times that night because saying no was never an option. It was fun to see Pat have fun and if she was on the dance floor dancing to our music, we were guaranteed a good night.
During those summers the bar was full to capacity and the people who would have been wallflowers were literally forced out of their chairs to participate in Pat's version of a party. If you didn't like it, then you shouldn't go to the Dyconia. We loved it. For a musician, a packed house with a full dance floor is about as close to perfection as you can get.
What was most amazing about all of this was the fact that Pat would get up early in the morning to work. I don't know where she got the energy. Pat was a diabetic which for most people would have them cutting back their work obligations but she worked like she played; full throttle - all the time.
Pat was someone who lived life on her own terms. She had fun. I prefer to think of her as she was when she was enjoying herself. A drink in one hand, the other hand waving in the air as she danced to a song with a lively beat. She packed a lot into each and every day.
Of course this is just a memory of the way I would have known her as the hostess of one of Wasaga Beach's most popular hang-out's but she had many other sides as well. After that first conversation where she revealed her feelings for John, they stayed together for more than 20 years. John Hutchenson was there by her side as she battled cancer. It will be hard to picture one without the other because they were a team who complimented each other perfectly. Our thoughts go out to John at this time.
Pat Damaren will be greatly missed by many here in Wasaga Beach but she leaves a legacy of memories of good times and small town hospitality.
| John H & Darlene|| Pat hard at work||John at work|
|Rick on bass||Bartender Sam & Patron||Paul "Fingers Minard"|
|< Prev||Next >|