My two sons, as eldest grandchildren prepared and read the eulogy at the funeral. It was very well done so I am adding it here so you will have an idea where I come from.
Grandpa was born in 1914, one generation removed from Ontario Pioneers. The house he was born in still stands. And he was a beautiful baby, as we all know. How do we know this? Grandpa told us. How did he know? He knew because he won the ‘Most Beautiful Baby’ contest held in the Tobacco Creek District. Think of that, the most beautiful baby in the Tobacco Creek District… and that was back when there was some real competition!
In 1920 Grandpa started school in Tobacco Creek. Sorry, ‘Tabaca Crick’. Who says Canadians don’t have accents. It was the same school that his mother Blanche began attending in 1894, and it was the same school that all his children would attend some years later. Grandpa was a good student, but the ‘Most Beautiful Baby’ didn’t turn into ‘the best student’. In those days, student’s grades were ranked and printed in the newspaper. Grandpa’s name was not at the top of the list. In fact, Grandma’s grades turned out to have been better. But as Grandpa always said, his exams were harder.
In 1929 Grandpa completed his studies, and started working. And by working, we mean working. He started as a hired man for Vern Devins, and later worked for Geordie Gibson. These years were hard, but he loved them. Or at least he loved talking about them. It was the age of the horse, and Grandpa was a horseman. He lived through the horse age, the steam age, the machine age, the space age, and the computer age, but the age he loved the best was the age of horses.
In 1940, Grandpa married Annie Corden after a whirlwind courtship that lasted just 4 years. Although they lived only a few miles apart their whole lives, they didn’t meet until they were in their twenties, when they started going to ‘House Parties’. House parties were a prairie tradition, a tradition that would be maintained with a new twist by Ron and Darianne, who started the ‘Hot Tub House Party’. I don’t think Grandpa ever attended one of those.
The first time Grandpa went over to meet Grandma’s family, he told them he could play piano. Unfortunately for Grandpa, they had a piano. Let’s just say he wasn’t asked to give an encore.
Grandpa loved to tell how when he was courting Grandma, he was supposed to leave the house by 12:30. So when the clock struck once at 12:30, it was time to go. But it also struck only once at 1:00. And it only struck once at 1:30. So that was an extra hour together! But he really had to be gone by 2:00, or there’d be trouble!
Grandma and Grandpa spent the forties farming. After living briefly in Elmwood, they worked several years managing the Earl Collins place. In 1945 they rented 3 quarters from Bob Cruise, and farmed there for 3 years. They next rented Uncle Sam’s place, and moved there in 1950.
Oh, and by the way, they also had five children; Bob, Joyce, Ken, Ray and Judy.
Grandpa was really proud of all his children, as he had every right to be.
Tragedy struck Grandpa’s family in 1953, when Grandma contracted polio. She spent a year in an iron lung, while Grandpa had to manage a farm, a young family and visits to the hospital. Of course, he had the help of his friends and neighbors, and of his children. He would tell the story of how all the kids would get themselves off to school, except for Judy who was too young for school. He would go out to do the chores, and she would wait for him in the house, standing at the window so they could see each other.
I think the thing that Grandpa was proudest of having done in his life was sticking by Grandma when she needed him the most.
1965 Grandpa’s first grandchild was born in 1965 and today I’m up here reading Grandpa’s eulogy. Grandpa had 30 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and every single one of us has nothing but great memories of Grandpa. He taught us to howl at the moon, he let us follow him around doing chores, he drove us crazy when he had that extra glass of juice Christmas morning before we could open any presents, he convinced us all that if you chewed wheat long enough it would turn into bubble gum (it doesn’t) and of course, he taught us all how to spit. He taught Darianne how to seven-step in the fresh snow, he taught Ron that using your brain was far better than using your back, and I’m afraid he taught Tom to be a farmer. Sorry, Tom, somebody had to do it.
Grandpa loved nothing better than a visit from one of the Alberta relatives. Okay, maybe he liked dancing better, but he really liked it when someone from Alberta came out. One time when Judy and Carrie-Anne were getting ready to head home after a nice visit, Carrie was telling Grandpa what a beautiful day it was for traveling, cool, no rain, but nice and cloudy so the sun wouldn’t be in their eyes. Grandpa said, ‘It’s 5 AM and your heading west. I wouldn’t worry too much about sun in your eyes.’
In 1983 Grandma died, and for a little while the light went out of Grandpa’s eyes. But he recovered, and a few years later he stopped full-time farming and moved into Carman, bringing his house with him. But there was one problem. When the house was on the farm, it faced south, the better to see who was driving by. Now the house was on a nice lot in Carman, but it was facing north. Suddenly, Grandpa’s perfect sense of direction was muddled, and for the first time in his life he only had a pretty good sense of direction, not perfect.
It was around 1987 that we all noticed that Grandpa was spending a lot of time with Marg Keiver. But we didn’t know how much time. After all, Grandpa did have his private side, and he was never one to kiss and tell. In fact, he could keep a secret for years. Mom still doesn’t know what comes after ‘Sally in the garden, siftin’ cinders..’
In 1995, some kids threw a stop sign right through Grandpa’s window in the middle of the night. Pretty stressful for an older man living alone. He called on his neighbor, Moe, and the police came along, investigating, asking questions and so on. Describing it later, Grandpa said it was around this time that he ‘started to feel pretty cool’ Grandpa was the definition of ‘cool’. Never mad, never too up, never too down, he was pretty ‘cool’.
March 15th was Grandpa’s birthday, a birthday that he shared with our sister Cherie. And March 15th 2004 was Grandpa’s 90th birthday, and I think it must have been one of the better birthdays he ever had. We held a big ‘Come and Go Tea’ at the Friendship Centre here in Miami, lots of the ‘Alberta relatives’ were in attendance, and Grandpa got to visit with friends he hadn’t seen in years. He had a great time, and often said how glad he was that everybody got together to visit him while he was still alive, instead of waiting until he died when he couldn’t enjoy their company.
In the spring of 2005, Grandpa’s dearest friend Marg Kiever passed away, and I think for the first time he started to feel old. He still took his nap everyday after lunch, he still loved to hear from friends and family and he still listened to his old-time fiddle music, but I think a little of life’s joy had left him.
And here we are today, remembering Grandpa and what he meant to us. In a strange way, even though we’re all really sad and miss Grandpa already, it’s kind of nice talking about him, remembering stories about him and kind of feeling his presence. And I hope that this feeling of his presence will stay with us all for a long, long time.