The Dal-Grotto mission near Eganville has gone quiet and will remain closed pending a resolution in the criminal case against the mission’s healer
They came from across North America, many pulling up to the Dal-Grotto Mission before first light with hopes of making the day’s lineup to see the healer man.
His patients, or followers, many sick and in pain, passed the wait sleeping in their cars or walking the grounds of the mission, which is set on a 300-acre lakeside property south of this old lumber village.
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There was a canteen where they could buy Freezies and candy bars, and at one time a chip wagon with hotdogs. They could also visit the shrine to Jesus or duck inside the fieldstone chapel to pass time in prayer.
The family-run mission once had plans for a motel, fishing boat rentals and bait shop, but they stuck to the moneymaker, healing.
Dal-Grotto Mission was often seen as the last hope for the seriously ill. In exchange for the healer man’s touch, they left cash donations.
Some with terminal cancer credit their remarkable recovery to the “God-given” powers of Richard Dale, who was said to heal simply by holding one’s hand.
Pinned to a message board at the mission, there are other testimonials from anonymous patients expressing thanks for curing them. Bad lungs, ulcers, depression, you name it.
Just like many businesses, Dal-Grotto had rules, including one that you had to sign in before 8 a.m. in order to be seen the same day. Patients were told that if they left the grounds “for any reason” they would go to the end of the line. Some stayed all week, in cars and tents, never leaving the grounds.
They would be treated by Mr. Dale inside an office decorated with likenesses of Jesus Christ, and leave donations in an offering plate on his desk.
But lately, his patients have been arriving only to find a handwritten sign in the window saying the mission is closed until further notice.
Richard Dale, 63, open for business since 1964, and operating under a numbered company, was forced to shut down Jan. 7 after being arrested on charges that he sexually assaulted and extorted a woman at the mission.
Because the alleged sex and extortion crimes happened at the mission, a compound with outbuildings and cabins, his bail conditions forbid him from returning there until the end of his criminal case.
Mr. Dale’s wife, who lives in the family home at the mission, has not seen or heard from him since he was released on bail.
Mr. Dale turned himself in Jan. 7 after a woman, who was treated at a hospital, complained to police. The allegations have not been proven in court and Mr. Dale told the Citizen he intends to plead not guilty.
It’s not the first time the police have come calling.
In 1963, the Ontario Provincial Police investigated Richard Dale’s father, Edmund, after a patient died.
Basil Tracey, a 46-year-old diabetic, died in hospital a week after visiting Edmund, the mission’s founding healer.
Doctors at the time said the Eganville woman may have suffered the deadly stroke after reducing her insulin dosage.
A coroner said she may not have died had she continued to receive “proper medical attention.”
The investigation into the questionable death did not result in criminal charges.
It was Edmund Dale, a dancer who travelled on the U.S. vaudeville circuit along with comics, magicians, musicians and freak shows, who opened the mission after working construction and as a locksmith in Vanier.
His real last name was Dellaire, but he said he had changed it to “a better show business name” for an attempt at a career in Hollywood during the Depression.
Edmund, who died in Toronto in 1986, used to heal his patients in the kitchen of the family home in exchange for cash donations.
“The worse the disease, the easier it is for me to cure,” he told his followers.
And he claimed to have brought hundreds of people back to life, including a Roman Catholic priest who had apparently been dead for five minutes.
Edmund said he first realized he had “a gift from God” when he was a young boy but he kept it secret for fear of being singled out was weird.
But after so many short careers, including factory work and a job at the Ford Motor Co., he went into the healing trade.
Richard Dale took over the family business 45 years ago, and ran the mission much like his father did. But he did make a few tweaks along the way.
His father used to sell prayer cards to patients unable to attend the mission, and they continued to be sold, but the son added a new service.
He told folks he could treat their problems, from chronic illness to business decisions, by simply touching a Polaroid photograph of them. Just mail it in with a note about the problem.
The envelopes started flooding in, and they included cash donations.
The healer’s criminal case returns to court in February, when he’s usually drinking cold beer on a Mexican beach.
The month-long beachside vacation with his wife has been cancelled because bail conditions forbid Mr. Dale from leaving the province.