MICHAEL JAMES BELL – Fort Frances Times
It is with deep sadness that Mike’s family announced his unexpected death at LaVerendrye Hospital on January 27, 2023 from complications from his old enemy – diabetes.
Mike was born on March 8, 1957 at Fort Churchill Manitoba Military Hospital, the first child of Marilyn Matchett Bell and Ivan Bell. When he was six months old, the family returned home. Fort Frances was Mike’s home and where he lived the rest of his life. He grew up carefree with all the kids on River Drive before he started his working years at the paper mill here.
He had a great lifelong passion for fishing. The first thing he did with his paper route earnings as a child was to buy an aquarium full of fish. A constant family joke was that he could catch walleye in any mud. The cabin at Little Turtle Lake in the Mine Center was his happy place to spend time whenever he had the chance. He spent countless hours as a boy, then as a man, pursuing his love of fishing and enjoying the surrounding lakes, which he knew like the back of his hand.
Portaging and safaris to remote lakes and secret fishing spots with friends was what he would call a good day. He made a lot of fishing tackle himself and collected recipes for preparing, smoking, salting and cooking fish. If you were lucky enough to be invited, you might have enjoyed one of his fried pike perch or his homemade chicken Kyiv. He was the first to tell you he doesn’t make desserts.
When he was 35, he suffered a series of strokes due to a very rare genetic moyamoya syndrome that caused lifelong problems with mobility and vision. He spent the rest of his life with severely impaired vision and struggled with 40 percent peripheral, bilateral blindness. This robbed him of much of his independence. He couldn’t drive anymore and one of the hardest things he had to do was give up his new Harley Davidson that he loved so much. He retained many memories of road trips to places like Sturgis, South Dakota and other wild rides on his Harley.
He was a determined fighter aiming to get back to his job. About six years later, with the full support of his doctor, Dr. John Nelson. After 29 years of working at the paper mill, he retired in 2014.
Friday nights at Legion were a time to socialize with many friends. He was always pretty lucky when he won tickets for the meat box and other draws. Every time he won, he took a lot of ribs from the boys. Mike had a funky sense of humor, a quick wit, a smooth tongue, and a quick comeback. His dry comments and observations could be very amusing and entertaining. His friends often said he missed his calling in life – he would have become a hilarious stand-up comic.
Mike is survived by his mother, Marilyn Matchett Bell; brother Lindsay; sister-in-law Lesley, niece Jastra; aunts Cora Thompson Schorsch of Chicago; Thunder Bay’s Naida Wolff; Carol (Jack) Booth from Devlin; Uncle David H. Bell of Fort Frances and his cousins Schorsch, Wolff, Booth, Bell, Fults, Gushulak, Bodnarchuk and Flinders. He particularly valued the close friendship of his best friend Mark Faragher. Their friendship went back decades. Markus was always there for him.
Before him, his beloved father Ivan Bell passed away in 2016; grandparents William and Ruth Bell; Andrew and Grace Mudge Matchett; Uncle Gordon M. Bell in WWII France; Uncle Larry Thompson of the Mining Center; Carl, Lindsay and Vernon Matchett; aunts Lois Flinders and Lillian Schmelzle; aunts Patricia McCuaig and Marie Bodnarchuk, special cousins Clay Flinders, Diane Fults; Martin Bell and Andrea Booth Silander.
At Mike’s request, there will be no church services. His final resting place will be with his family at Matchett Plot, Riverside Cemetery, Fort Frances, Ontario.
Mike – You have crossed your last portage. You drew your last line. Now it’s time for a well-deserved break. You will be missed so much by those who love you.
“May the holes in your net not be bigger than the fish in them.” (Ancient Irish blessing.)