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North Bay's 'Mr. Downtown' dies

Owner of Canada's longest-running shoe store, Ralph Diegal of Deegan's Shoes, was 97

Long-time North Bay downtown business owner Ralph Diegal died March 18 at North Bay Regional Health Centre. He was 97.

With his wife Pat, Diegal was the owner of Deegan's Shoes on Main Street West. Deegan's was Canada's longest-running shoe store, which was in operation for 133 years. More recently, the store shifted focus and was rebranded as Antiques at Deegan's.

See: Ralph Diegel reminisces at 90th birthday celebration

And: 133-year-old North Bay shoe business ending to focus on antiques

And: North Bay home to oldest independent shoe retailer

And: City's oldest business celebrates by issuing coin

At 17 Deegan graduated high school and prepared for post-secondary education, but Ralph lived in a different time when the world was at war and Allied troops pushed the European front on their way to Berlin to end the Second World War. When he was 17, he enlisted.

After three years, fresh from the Second World War, Ralph worked for Price Signs in Sudbury for a few months before being laid off in the winter. Then his uncle, George Deegan, offered him a job for the holiday season of 1946.

For 78 years, Ralph worked at the store, eventually becoming the owner. In 2014, he and his wife Pat Kenzie-Diegel celebrated the store’s 125th anniversary.

“I’ve been incredibly lucky in life,” he told BayToday on his 90th birthday.

Small Town Times' Dave Dale and Nestor Prisco sat down to chat with 'Mr. Downtown' last year, at Antiques at Deegan's.

"We talked about scouts, his youth growing up in Ferris, and Camp Tillicum," said Dale.

— BayToday