Except for the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Bell Bazaar would have been held at Burlington’s Holy Rosary Church on Nov. 7.
In a strange twist of fate Yolanda Fleming, who ran the event for many years, died the day before at the age of 100.
They just couldn’t have had a bazaar without her.
A widow for 47 years, Fleming served two separate terms as president of the Holy Rosary Catholic Women’s League and did not miss working at a single Bell Bazaar for the 60 years she was a member of the church. She worked her last bazaar in 2019 at the age of 99.
What’s more, she was responsible for starting a weekday afternoon drop-in centre for senior citizens, one which welcomed participants of all religious persuasions, many of them like herself widows or widowers.
Fleming, who was an aunt of the late Bernie Morelli the Ward 3 representative on Hamilton City Council for more than 20 years, and her husband Francis once operated both the tea room in the Rock Garden of the Royal Botanical Gardens and a food facility in the Rose Garden.
It was in the Rose Garden that she met and served Princess Margaret during one of her tours of Canada in July of 1988.
Long before that they operated Fran’s Catering in Hamilton and had a restaurant at the corner of King St. and Longwood in Westdale. They also ran the cafeteria at the original Bishop Ryan high school on Queenston Road when Father Ron Cote, a former pastor of Holy Rosary, was serving as principal.
Fleming grew up in St. Anthony’s Parish in the Steel City. She attended Cathedral Girls high school and marched in the annual Marian Day celebrations at Civic Stadium in May. Father Charlie Mascari married the couple in the old church on Clinton St. on April 22, 1950.
When Francis died in 1973, Fleming said it felt like the end of the world.
“He had bookings for a full year ahead, including one with the Children’s Aid Society for a dinner for foster parents,” she said.
She offered to find the society another caterer, but a woman from the CAS encouraged her to carry on, telling her, “You’ll do it.”
“That’s what kept me going,” Fleming said.
She is survived by her daughter- in- law Wilma Fleming, daughters Mary-Ellen (Domenico) Marcone and Denise Dwyer, son Paul (Karen) and son-in-law John, as well as 10 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by her husband Francis and son Gerard.
By DENIS GIBBONS