Remembering the life of Michael D. Fraser (2024)

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Remembering the life of Michael D. Fraser (1)

I was born in Niagara Falls Ontario on April 9, 1951, son of the late Ralph and Flora (Holmes) Fraser and brother to Judy.
The following story documents my life journey to the USA.
I grew up in a small village called Stamford Center, later becoming part of Niagara Falls, Ontario.
I remember as a child I would climb our maple tree in the front yard, and I would sit up there on a small stool that I wedged between the branches. From my perch I could see the neon sign on the roof of the United Office building in downtown Niagara Falls, NY. I would also watch the cargo planes fly out of the US Air Reserve Base. I was always fascinated by those "flying boxcars"!
In my youth, from one year old until college, I spent every summer with my mom and dad at our campsite on Lake Huron in Southampton, ON. Mom and I would stay for the summer until Labor Day. Dad was a purchasing agent for a company called Ohio Brass so he would commute every weekend except for his 3 weeks of vacation in July.
Dad was a WWII veteran with the RCAF. He was very resourceful and engineered several improvements for us to enjoy living in a tent for the summer. We would fish a lot and cook on a camp stove. On rainy days we would gather around the picnic tables under the awning and play Rummoli. Later it would be euchre tournaments with Black Label beer for the adults, while we roasted marshmallows.
Mom and Dad eventually upgraded to a trailer in 1965. The last one was over thirty feet with an indoor bathroom. I was always content in my tent.
At the age of 10 I got my first job as a pin setter at the Beach Bowl. I earned five cents for every ten frames of five pin bowling per person. All that cash went back into the pinball machines and soda fountain for shakes and fries. At 13 I worked for my Grampa Jim (mom's dad) at his grocery store and cottages. I took the early shift until noon in the store while Gramps tended to the cottages. After work I would spend the rest of the day at the beach with my friends. Most were from the Michigan area.
My best friend was Dave from Detroit. Often during the week when dad was home with the car, we would walk the boat on its trailer down to the beach and launch it by hand. The boat was aluminum 14-foot with a six horse Merc. It was just big enough for us to explore Lake Huron from Chantry Island on out to the mile marker buoys at the mouth of the Saugeen River and upstream to the rapids at Denny's Dam. After a day of adventure, we would gas up at the harbor and head back to the beach.
My last summer at the lake was in 1968. After that, my trips to the trailer were usually in July for Dad's birthday. Mom passed away in 1992 but Dad continued to spend his summers at the lake up until 2005, the year he joined mom. The last trip for me was with my wife in 2000 on Dad's 80th. We trailered our bikes there so Dad could enjoy his first ride on a Harley. I was so fortunate to have such great parents to afford us our summer vacation every year.
During my high school and college years I spent my leisure time at various US bars where the drinking age at that time was 18. During high school, my favorite haunts were Jackson's, the OH and Gabriel's. During college they were The Bakery and Fitzgerald's.
I graduated from Niagara College in 1972 with a Technologist degree in Construction Estimating and Drafting. Before I started working for a living, I took a vacation and flew to Great Britain for 3 weeks where I hitchhiked over 1800 miles. I stayed in bed & breakfasts, hostels and camped in my pup tent whenever possible. I started south of London to Nottingham Castle and on up the east coast to Edinburgh, Scotland where I was able to hear the pipes play from the castle at the Highland Tattoo. There were marching bands from all over the world but what impressed me the most was the Queen's Guard, a Drill Team of the Cadet Force of Rutgers University from Brunswick, New Jersey USA! The next day I continued north and camped out along Loch Ness next to an old crumbling castle. I thought I might catch a glimpse of Nessie but no luck although it was worth a look. The last leg of my journey was to Motherwell, Scotland where my Grampa Jim was born in 1891. I then traveled through the Lake District of England, a side trip to the northern coast of Wales on the Irish Sea and then south through the moors of southern England where I visited Stonehenge. Overall, it was an amazing journey where I met so many friendly people in the pubs enjoying some great pints of bitter. I really loved that beer!
Upon my return home I began my career as an architectural draftsman. I started with D.N. Chapman Architects for 0 a month. The firm expanded to become Chapman Murray Architects (CMA), where I worked on a wide range of projects throughout the Niagara Peninsula mostly in schools and hospitality plus a lot of custom cottages in Northern Ontario. I worked up through the ranks and excelled in historic renovations on various local projects such as the preservation of the Toronto Power plant in Niagara Falls, the Angel Inn, Queens Landing Hotel and the Pillar and Post Hotel, all of which were in Niagara On The Lake.
During that time, my life changed significantly!!
In 1985, while cruising on my motorcycle checking out the bands at the local bars, I met Bobbie. She was the lead singer in a band! She was also an American citizen from Ohio. Bobbie was the one! We dated for a few months and then I moved in with her in the house she rented in Niagara Falls, ON. She had two German Shepard guard dogs named Smith and Wesson and I had my Miniature Schnauzer. His name was Casey. We later purchased the house in 1986. Bobbie commuted to Niagara Falls, NY to work at various administrative positions and played in her band at night. I continued working at CMA and came home at lunch to let out the dogs. Eventually she quit the band so we could enjoy just being together.
In 1987, we were married at Hickory College Church, a small chapel in Lewiston, NY known today as the St. Jude's Shrine. Who would have thought back then that we would wind up living so close to where we exchanged our vows.
In 1992 the economy tanked so we sold our house in Canada and packed up and moved to Lorain, Ohio to take care of Bobbie's dad Stan. Ten months later in 1993, we found ourselves back in Niagara Falls, only this time we settled in NY! Other than 10 months in Lorain, I have lived in Niagara Falls my entire life.
I continued commuting to Canada working at CMA until, I was let go in 1999. Unbeknownst to me another architect had heard of my layoff and wanted me to work for him. So after 20 years with CMA I left and joined Piraino + Raimondo Architects (P+R). It was a no brainer because their office was only a fifteen-minute drive across the border on the Nexus only Whirlpool Bridge to our house in Deveaux.
P+R provided far more opportunities for design than what I had ever done on my own at CMA. I started off right out of the gate with a 15-story hotel for the Radisson chain. It was already under construction, so they needed an experienced designer to push it forwards. When the principal partner left the firm, I became an associate with the new firm named Raimondo Associates Architects, (RAA). Some of my favorite projects consisted of the Entertainment and Conference Center for the Sheraton Hotel, the new façade for the Ripley's Believe It Or Not on Clifton Hill with King Kong on top of the Empire State building, the new Entertainment facility and water slides at Sherkston and the new Water Park atop of the parking garage at the Sheraton Hotel.
In 2000 I became a Roman Catholic. During my time attending the RCIA classes at St. Joseph's with Monsignor Amico, I had the privilege of designing a brand new Roman Catholic Church in Stony Creek, ON named the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was a very moving experience.
On October 7, 2010, I became a US citizen!! It only took 59 years but was well worth the journey getting here! After all those years I recently discovered that my Grampa Gordon Fraser, (Dad's Dad) was born in Detroit, Michigan!
The last project that I was involved with was in 2015 with the opening of the Rainforest Cafe at the Sheraton on Third Street in Niagara Falls, NY. In 2016, I retired. All tallied up I worked 44 years. Architecture was a very gratifying career choice where I coordinated with many talented individuals to create, a wide range of buildings on both sides of the border.
Upon retirement, Bobbie and I dispersed our time by continually improving our home and property. We customized our home to suit our lifestyle. I kept up with my trade by redesigning our kitchen and bathrooms and completely renovated the upstairs and downstairs. We turned our yard into a sanctuary with our cabin styled deck, hardscape patio features, perennial gardens, and landscape lighting. We added a pond with a waterfall and a sand beach with a working lighthouse. We genuinely enjoyed our gardens and all the critters and birds that traveled through it. We converted our garage into what we called the Outback Shack. It is a combination workshop, garden shed, Harley parking only garage and museum where all my collectables are on full display. Since the pandemic it has become the Outback Shack Pub where we entertain ourselves.
It was a great decision not to return to Canada when we left Ohio. We love our house in Deveaux where we lived the rest of our lives together. Not once since we met did we ever eat dinner apart or spend the night apart. We were destined to be together forever.
Lastly and most importantly I would like to thank my wife and best friend Bobbie for a wonderful journey! See you soon for our everlasting adventure together! You are the best EVER!! Mine Beauty Girl!!
Interment was in St. Joseph Cemetery, Pope John Paul Mausoleum, Niagara Falls, NY. A Mass for both Michael and Roberta will be celebrated together and will be announced later. Memorial offerings may be made to The Seeing Eye, PO Box 96916, Washington, DC 20077. Arrangements by M.J. Colucci & Son Niagara Funeral; visit for online condolences.

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Published on June 9, 2024

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