Ion T. Toma was born in 1861, the first child of Toader A. and Sanda Toma, in Boian, Bucovina. He grew up there but being the oldest he was needed to help at home so he never attended the village school.
As a young man he married Domnica Hutzcal and in 1899 he and his wife who was heavy with child set out for Canada with the rest of the Tomas. When they finally arrived in Winnipeg, everyone got off the train and Domnica complained to her husband of labor pains. Ion promptly searched for a midwife. With Mrs. Sanda N. Kelba attending, the young mother gave birth to a healthy baby girl. The father was a bit dis-appointed as he was hoping for a boy. The mother with her new baby and the midwife were left behind in Winnipeg while the train rolled on westward over the prairies with the rest of the immigrants. Later in the early fall the young mother joined her husband and they spent the first winter near Andrew, then moved on to Boian. They first settled on S.W.Vi, 20, 56, 14 West of the 4th. Like the other newcomers they began putting up buildings, breaking land, and growing vegetables and grain. Four more children were born here, Ioana (Jennie), Bill, Nick and Mike. Then in 1912, the mother died leaving Ion with five little children. Sanda, being the oldest girl, with the occasional help of some of her older cousins, had to do all the housework previously done by the mother.
In 1914 Ion married Veronica Stefureak, eldest daughter of Toader and Elisaveta Stefureak. Veronica had an only son, Floyd from a previous marriage. The blended family worked well as Veronica worked very hard and treated her stepchildren as her own.
Ion experienced at least one setback as a farmer. One Sunday he and his wife went visiting and did not return till late in the afternoon, and what a sight met their eyes. Nick had been playing with matches in the fairly large machine shed and it caught fire, burning everything to the ground. When his dad asked him what he had done, he said, “Bill forgot to close the farm gate and the fire came in from the neighbors and burned the shed!”
In 1923 Ion Toma moved his family to N.E.Vi, 9, 56, 14 W. of 4th, directly across the road from the school. He hired two carpenters Nicolai Dor- ish and Elie Ravliuk to build a larger two-room log house which in time Veronica plastered and whitewashed so that it always appeared clean and cozy. The family increased in number. Several children died as infants but the surviving ones are George, Elsie, Metro, Victoria and Johnny. Ion moved to the new location in order to be close to the church and the school. Both these institutions meant a good deal to Ion and Veronica Toma.
This man played a major role in procuring the land for a cemetery and a church and also in the building of the church itself. He worked voluntarily, pleaded for help and donations and made many trips hauling materials for the church. Once the building was completed, he noticed that the north and south walls were bulging outwards so he immediately went to see the carpenter Elie Ravliuk. The latter, after examining the structure, told Ion that they would require two long iron rods to tie the two walls together. Ion took off to Edmonton with his Indian ponies harnessed to a wagon. There the blacksmith told him that he had no rods long enough but that he would order them from Winnipeg. He expected them in two weeks. Ion returned home and two weeks later made a second trip to the city. To his dismay, the blacksmith informed him that the rods had not arrived and that he was to come back later. Another useless trip! In time another trip was made to Edmonton. How happy Ion was when he saw the long awaited rods lying near the blacksmith’s forge! The blacksmith helped him to tie them on the wagon and away Ion went, happy as could be. The carpenter placed them in position, tightened them and there they are today eighty years later.
One cannot write about this couple without mentioning how kind they were to acquaintances and strangers alike. Because their home was situated near the crossroads, wayfarers often stopped there for a meal or to sleep overnight. No one was ever turned away.
Then the annual church anniversary was held on St. Mary’s holiday, September 21 – the hram. For a month prior Veronica worked hard to repair the plaster on the walls. Then the whole house was whitewashed inside and out. The colourful tapestries would be aired outside on a sunny day, then hung on the interior walls. All the food had to be arranged for and prepared. Finally the day would arrive and Veronica would don her most colourful Romanian costume and after attending the church service, was ready to receive her guests from near and far. She was particularly glad to welcome the friends from neighboring districts whom they had visited earlier in the year when their respective church anniversaries were observed.
The years went by quickly. The children grew up, married and left. Sanda married Pete Hudema and they went farming north of the mighty Peace. Jennie married Vasile Henetuik and they went north also. Jennie died young leaving a family of six children. Her husband died soon after and the children were looked after by their aunt Sanda until they were able to fend for themselves. Bill married Katie Stefanetz. They lived in Edmonton and in Toronto. Nick married Sarah Hantiuk and they farmed most of their lives at Pierce- land, Saskatchewan. Mike remained a bachelor and farmed at Hotchkiss. George, too, remained single and farmed at Boian for many years. Elsie married Paul Borstel. They had three children and Elsie still resides in Willingdon. Mitru (Bob) married Helvie and they had one son. After Bob returned from the army he worked as a mailman in Edmonton until retirement. Vickie married John Sarafinchan. They have three daughters and they, too, live in Edmonton. The youngest, Johnny, married Pearl Heyduk and they farm the home place where they still reside. They had a family of seven children, including a set of twins. Both Johnny and Pearl always took an active part in the Boian community activities.
Both Ion and Veronica lived to a ripe old age. Ion died in 1946 at the age of eighty-five. His wife being much younger passed away in 1978 at the age of eighty-seven. They are buried at Boian in the cemetery of their beloved church.
Interestingly enough, Sanda, who was born in a grassy field near the railroad track in Winnipeg, lived to marry, raise a family of eleven children and died at the age of eighty-four.
Author: John Toma
Ion Toma birth record.
Ion was born Jan. 23, 1861. Father – Toader, son of Andrei Toma. Mother – Sanda. Godmother – Paraska, wife of Toader Cuciurean.