Valley Lives - Kristina Mozgiel

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the February 12, 2014 issue. Reprinted with permission.

She planted the seeds for community participation

by Joel Balsam

For Wakefield to blossom into a place known for healthy living, activity, and community involvement, it took a core group of dedicated organizers to plant the seeds. A key green thumb in that group of culture cultivators was Kristina Mozgiel, who died on Jan. 26 in her home at the age of 63.

Valley Lives
Kristina Mozgiel started one of the first recreation baseball leagues for women in the area. Photo courtesy Gwen Shea.

Mozgiel, who was originally from Belgium, immigrated to a town near St. Catharines, Ontario with her family as a baby. She went off to the University of Toronto where she studied law and graduated in 1969. But law was not the right path for her - far from it. Mozgiel was swept up in the hippie movement and moved out west, where she met up with artists and fellow hippies.

A small group of them eventually moved off the map to start a commune on Haida Gwaii, then known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, and lived entirely off the land for two years. The hippies - or, as Mozgiel preferred to call them, flower children, because the name hippie is associated with drugs, in which she didn't partake - lived with no electricity, made their own flour, and caught their own meat.

When Mozgiel moved to the Pontiac region, she continued to live off the land in a tiny cottage in Gracefield, which could only be reached by driving through fields. While there, Mozgiel had her first child, Amy.

Finally fed up with Mozgiel's electricity-free lifestyle, her mother bought her a place in Alcove where she met neighbour Gwen Shea, who became one of her best friends for the rest of her life. The two young mothers connected: both were in their late twenties to early thirties, and both were physically active. With no recreational programs for women in the area, Shea and Mozgiel took out an ad in the Low Down and went doorto-door to recruit young women to join a baseball team. About 10 women from as far as Low turned up for the pick-up game in Chelsea; nobody knew each other except for Mozgiel and Shea. With their kids playing on the side, the women played baseball once a week, even though they didn't know the rules. "We counted balls and strikes with pebbles," recalls Shea, who wrote about the high scoring unorthodox games when she was working for the Low Down. Chic's Swingers, named after their sponsor, Chic's bar in Alcove, played for six years and eventually morphed into a co-ed league.

Valley Lives
CAN YOU NAME THESE PLAYERS? Mozgiel was one of the Chic's Swingers 1984 ball team named after the former Chic's bar in Alcove. We know the following are in this photo: Susan Brown-Mahon, Gwen Shea, Shelley Payne, Kris Mozgiel, Linda Bardell, and Karen Bays; but Gwen Shea left for Mexico before identifying the rest of the players to the Low Down. Can you name the rest of these swinging chicks? Photo courtesy Gwen Shea.

Growing up in the Wakefield area, Mozgiel's daughter Santina watched as the village evolved into the artistic and community-centric town it is today. She said she considers her mother's feminist baseball team to be the root of that development. However, she didn't always see it that way, ruminating on her hippie, funloving elders: "Looking at our parents running base to base with wine in their hands, I was like, who were these people?"

Mozgiel's other exploits into community development included starting a community garden, making chili for DragonFest, and fundraising for the community centre. Her job as an 'unofficial housekeeper' wasn't limited to passing the vacuum and dusting tables. "She went above and beyond just cleaning," said Santina Mozgiel, reflecting that she also took on odd jobs such as renovations, gardening, cooking, and cleaning for seniors, sick people, and children. She would sit and talk with her clients for hours. Her kindness and generosity were often reciprocated - her clients treated her like family and invited her to their children's weddings. Mozgiel also made time to drive daughter Amy, who is developmentally challenged, and other residents of the Quebec Association for Independent Living (QUAIL) support home to outings so they could go bowling and shopping. Some were invited over for Christmas if they didn't have a place to go to.

Mozgiel's husband, Charlie, whom she married at 31 when he was 23, shared Mozgiel's love for hunting, fishing, and nature in general. At one fishing excursion in the rain with Charlie, Shea recalls Mozgiel calling out: "Oh my God, I caught something!" Instead of a fish, Mozgiel pulled out a fully-grown potato. "Things like that would happen to Kris," said Shea. The family is asking that donations be made to La Lanterne, a day centre for persons with developmental disabilities. So far, La Lanterne has received over $1,200 in donations on behalf of Mozgiel from friends across the country.

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