Carl Gordon Wathke was born on Lot 13, Concession 12 of Sullivan Township on Monday, May 27, 1935. He was welcomed by his parents Enoch John and Sarah “Sadie” Justine (Batterman) Wathke, along with older brothers Henry (1925), Wallace (1927), George (1931), Stewart (1933). The Wathke’s home was built by Carl’s grandfather, August, from 1900 – 1904 and remains in the family until this day. In 1938, the family was made complete with the arrival of Maurice.
The boys had many daily chores including helping their father in the barn. They fed hay, chop, cleaned the stables, and then put down fresh bedding. The work was never-ending but many hands made light work! When not in the barn Carl could often be found out in the bush cutting firewood, as the Wathke family used this to supplement income. In those days, a cord of wood was $6, imagine! It wasn’t all work and no play though, as many memories were made making maple syrup each spring. Carl also enjoyed playing baseball, sledding in the winter months, as well as visiting family. Other childhood memories included the arrival of a telephone in the family home in 1948 and hydro in 1952.
In his memoirs, Carl joked that at the onset he did NOT like school very much, but he ended up going for 62 years! 🙂 He attended S.S. #8 Sullivan (Sharon School) before needing some encouragement from his parents to attend high school in Chesley. Carl’s father, Enoch, made the commute a little easier in 1949 when he bought the first “school bus” which transported kids from Sullivan to Chesley for high school. Sadly, Enoch passed away suddenly in 1951, Carl was only 16. Sadie encouraged the boys to remain in school and that they did. Away from the books, Carl enjoyed playing on the school basketball team where his height didn’t hurt, as he played Centre.
In the fall of 1954, with encouragement from Mom, Carl attended Normal School in Stratford, graduating in May of the following year. He was immediately offered a job at USS (Union School Section) #16 “Beattie’s School” where he began teaching in September of 1955. His starting yearly salary? $2,400. Carl moved often in the early years as teachers were scarce, and he enjoyed the different experiences in different areas. In 1956, Carl took a job at Victoria Public School in Owen Sound, before he applied to a “Want-Ad” in the Globe & Mail for a job opportunity in Kapuskasing. In 1960, he began at Diamond Jubilee Public School in Kapuskasing, now making $5,100. Who knew then that that would forever change Carl’s life? In his own words, Carl stated, ‘My “single” life had the beginning of its “demise” in December 1960, in St. Mark’s Anglican Church, Kapuskasing. I was worshipping at the Anglican Church when Gwen’s mother, with an eagle eye for a possible son-in-law, introduced me to her daughter Gwen, who just returned home to work in the local hospital as a registered nurse; as the old saying goes, “The Rest Is History.” While dating Carl had taken a principal’s position in Wellesley and Gwen had enrolled at the University of Ottawa Public Health Program, so to say they managed a long-distance relationship would not be an understatement. The young couple wed on Saturday, July 7, 1962 at the same St. Mark’s Anglican Church where they first met.
They soon called Guelph home where Carl worked at King George SR, Public School, and Gwen at the local health unit when Carol arrived. In 1964, the Wathke family returned to Carl’s roots and the Chesley area where he began teaching at Wiarton High School. An avid learner, Carl continued summer school and completed his BA at Wilfrid Laurier University 1964. From 1965 – 1967, Carl taught at Chesley District High School; during this time their second daughter, Kathy arrived. By 1967, Carl returned to elementary school and settled at James A. Magee Public School in Hanover where he taught Geography almost exclusively to grade 7’s and 8’s. Shortly after, the Wathke family was made complete with the arrival of Margot. In addition to creating life-long relationships with a variety of staff and students, Carl loved the many “field trips” whereby the students (and Carl) got to get outdoors and explore God’s beautiful earth. In 1975, the Wathke’s purchased a farm in Arran Township before building a new home on the farm property in 1983. Retirement for Carl came on June 28, 1989, when Gwen in cahoots with the staff organized a limo ride (with a full course breakfast and champagne…) to his final day of school. It was a very memorable day for a variety of reasons; however, all good things must come to an end and Carl proceeded to the next stage of life, retirement.
In retirement, Carl raised beef cattle on grass which he enjoyed very much! In true Carl fashion, profits were returned to some charitable cause, such as a water well in Ethiopia, or several other projects of Canadian Lutheran World Relief. Carl obtained his school bus driver’s licence using one of his brother Stewart’s school buses. For 15 years he transported local children to and from school daily.
The additional time allowed Carl and Gwen to travel more along with family. This time was known as the “travelling years” whereby they enjoyed six different overseas flights. The most memorable and significant trip however was to the Holy Land, Israel, in 2016. Carl and Gwen traveled with their entire family of sixteen including their great-granddaughter, Georgia Leigh, of only seventeen months. They had their own personal tour bus and an accompanying tour guide for their whole twelve-day stay. This trip created so many memories that will last for years to come. Other adventures took Carl to twenty-one Luther Laymen’s League Conventions throughout North America, as well as several trips to both the Maritime provinces and West to British Columbia.
In 1990, Carl constructed a two-story woodworking shop on their property. Here he spent countless hours working on a variety of creations. White ash was his favourite wood and he had an abundant supply around the farm. Today, many of Carl’s creations can be found in local churches, or in the homes of family and friends. His talents will be treasured and enjoyed for many years to come.
Carl’s faith was strong and ever-present throughout his entire life. From his early days attending St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Marmion Carl knew that the most significant legacy that anyone could have given him was to know Jesus and believe in Jesus as his Saviour. He attended Sunday School, with the yearly Christmas program acting as a highlight for him. Carl was confirmed on May 28, 1950 in Desboro Lutheran Church. and later enjoyed being active in the Young Peoples’ organization, better known as the “Walther League.” In his years away from home he enjoyed Baptist and Anglican church services as his “substitute” and at no time did he ever miss worshipping somewhere. He later became involved with “The Lutheran Laymen’s League” and as mentioned previously attended many conventions, often with Gwen and the girls. In recent years he remained active in the promotion of outreach ministries, and also became involved in The Gideons, and the Queens Bush Rural Ministries. All these commitments were in addition to his active involvement with his own church, Faith Lutheran Church in Desboro. Carl’s most recent honour was receiving the Delta Chi (Servant of Christ) award in 2020 from Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, which recognized his service to the church throughout the years. What an honour!
Carl loved his family dearly and enjoyed spending time with him. It could have been a family outing, a holiday gathering, or attending worship together, it didn’t matter. If he was with family, Carl was happy. He was always there to help, offered encouragement when needed, and was extremely proud of everyone’s accomplishments, especially his grandchildren. Most recently, he enjoyed getting to know the most recent arrivals, his great-grandchildren. Although his time with them was limited, Carl will live on in them through the many stories and life lessons that will be passed down to them.
Carl did not have any regrets. He had no claim to fame, however, his desire for everyone whom he shared Jesus with, was “Believe” in Him, “Trust” Him, “Obey” Him – and we will meet in Heaven where we will live together forever. Carl peacefully went to be with his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, with his wife by his side, on Wednesday, July 21, 2021. He was 86.
Beloved husband of Gwendolyn (Haack) for 59 years. Loving father of Carol and her husband Bill Kuhl of Keady, Kathy and her husband Tom Kuhl of Vineland, and Margot Wathke of Hanover. Cherished grandfather of Mark (Allison), Matthew (Christina), Sarah (Alan Reif), Rachel, Nicholas, Christian, and Nathan and great-grandfather of Georgia Leigh and Ethan Alexander. Carl will be dearly missed by his brothers George (Maxine) of Port Elgin, Maurice (Lois Ann) of Kitchener, and sister-in-law Lloye Wathke of Desboro. He was predeceased by his brothers Harry, Wallace, Stewart, and his parents Enoch and Sadie (Batterman) Wathke.
A public visitation will be held at Rhody Family Funeral Home, Chesley on Sunday, July 25, 2021 from 6 – 8 p.m. A graveside funeral service and committal, officiated by Pastor Brian Dunlop, will be held at Faith Lutheran Cemetery, Desboro on Monday, July 26, 2021 beginning at 11 a.m. All are welcome.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations to Lutheran Hour Ministries, The Gideons or a charity of your choice would be appreciated as expressions of sympathy.