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Ben Waldner and Glenn Penney meet in St. Anthony after working in Manitoba mines 50 years ago

Former mining colleagues, Ben Waldner (left) and Glenn Penney reunited in St. Anthony this past week after not having seen each other for nearly 50 years. They're pictured here beside the Newfoundland Treasure, a boat formerly owned by Penney.
Former mining colleagues, Ben Waldner (left) and Glenn Penney reunited in St. Anthony this past week after not having seen each other for nearly 50 years. They're pictured here beside the Newfoundland Treasure, a boat formerly owned by Penney. - Stephen Roberts

A reunion 50 years in the making

ST. ANTHONY, N.L. —

Ben Waldner immediately recognized the familiar face he'd last seen in the nickel mines of Thompson, Man., nearly 50 years ago.
He had travelled from Manitoba, across Ontario, Quebec and Labrador, to once again see this old friend and colleague.
“I actually recognized him when he come out of the truck – from here (the nose) up he still looks the same,” Waldner, 74, told The Northern Pen. “I said to my wife, ‘that’s Glenn!’”
Glenn Penney, 69, of St. Anthony worked with Waldner for three years in the nickel mines.
Early last week, Penney heard there was a man asking to see him at the Triple Falls RV Park. He had no idea who it was.
But he hopped in his red pickup truck and drove to the park, about nine kilometres outside of St. Anthony.
It was Waldner.
“It’s pretty good, after 50 years, to recognize me,” Penney commented to The Northern Pen.
While nearly 50 years separates the two men, their bond quickly re-emerged.
Waldner, who is touring Newfoundland and Labrador with his wife this summer, spent four days in the St. Anthony area last week.
He toured L’Anse aux Meadows and saw icebergs and whales from a tour boat. But, perhaps most importantly, he got to have a couple of meals with his old friend, step aboard his boat and reminisce about the old days.
Penney went to work in the Thompson nickel mines in 1969 when he was 20 years old. 
He soon came under the direction of Waldner, four years his senior, who had been there since 1964.
Waldner was employed as the “stope leader” – a stope being an open working area where miners drill and blast – while Penney was a driller.
The two reflected on their time working together with fondness and admiration for each other.
Despite warnings, Penney says he got along “perfect” with Waldner.
“I know our boss said to me, ‘I don’t know if you can stay there or not, he’s a rough guy to work with,’” Penney recalled. “I said, ‘well I’ll try it.’ 
“He shook his head and said, ‘I’ll give you a week.’"
Waldner says Penney was up to whatever task he was given.
“I couldn’t give him enough to do,” he said. “There was only this one guy, I couldn’t keep up with. He was a good one. He was fast, he was efficient.”
But Penney and Waldner didn’t just share time together in the mines. Outdoorsmen, they also shared a love of hunting and fishing and they soon bonded over that.
They would often hunt moose and deer together, crossing over into Saskatchewan, where, unlike Manitoba, it was legal for hunters from out of province to kill three deer.
Penney was surprised to find someone with the same hunting skills.
“I figured when I went up there first, being from Newfoundland and Labrador, I wondered if there was anyone who can hunt like I can,” he said. “But I found that he was just as good as what I was out there.”
Meanwhile, Waldner expressed admiration for Penney’s aim.
“I’m going to brag on this guy, he was a fantastic shot,” he said. “That deer, on a dead run, went down, hit right behind the ear."
Penney says he learned to shoot on a .22-calibre rifle, seal hunting with his grandfather.
The two spent three years on the job together until a workplace injury sidelined Waldner and sent him to Winnipeg for rehabilitation.
Penney left the job the following year, before Waldner returned to work, and came home to St. Anthony.
He worked in the fishery, running his own enterprise, the Newfoundland Treasure, for years until he sold the vessel just last year.
Meanwhile, Waldner remained in the Thompson mines until he retired a few years ago.
In the interim, their only communication was a Christmas phone call Waldner placed to Penney sometime, they guess, in the early 1980s.
They also missed an opportunity to reunite when Waldner visited about 25 years ago, but Penney was unavailable, on a fishing trip.
Their paths would not cross again until this June, after Waldner and his wife, Judy, decided to tour Newfoundland and Labrador for the summer. St. Anthony was on the itinerary.
They drove through Labrador, took the ferry across the Strait of Belle Isle and continued to St. Anthony – all unbeknownst to Penney.
They figure they’ll be in touch more frequently after this visit.
“With the texting system, I’ll bother you from time to time,” Waldner joked with Penney. “Especially if I got a moosehorn to brag on.”

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