Elmer George was born in a house, that acted as a hospital at the north end of Chesley on Thursday, October 11, 1928. He was welcomed into this world by proud parents George and Pearl (Johnson) Ward as well as older sisters Beulah and Stella. The Ward family resided and operated a 100-acre mix farm a mile and a quarter north of Scone in Elderslie Township. They had seven cows that they milked by hand, three horses, pigs, chickens, and laying hens, and rotated their crops. Elmer worked hard and developed an excellent work ethic that would remain with him for the remainder of his life. Some of his childhood memories included building sheaves at the young age of eight, as well as making their own butter, curing their own meat, and helping his parents with their ample garden.
Elmer and his sisters walked the mile and a quarter to school in Scone and on occasion were allowed to ride one of the horses, which I am told would promptly turn around and head back home (on their own) after dropping off their passengers. Although Elmer loved school and excelled in math, his parents were pretty adamant that his future was as a farmer. Sadly, Elmer was not allowed to pursue high school. As a teenager, Elmer became involved with Junior Farmers, where he experienced his first trip to Toronto. This was a highlight for him, as he had never experienced life off the farm. By 16, Elmer was working for Reed Hastie, a cattle drover. His tasks included doing chores, cleaning stables, and transporting cattle and pigs to Toronto. He worked long hours, often from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and if he was lucky was given supper. All this for $5 a day.
Like most teenagers, Elmer appreciated new technology. In his era, that included motor vehicles. He first learned to drive in a 1937 Chev. Although his parents were stuck in their ways, in time, Elmer was able to convince them to buy a tractor. This progressive approach remained with him his entire life, as he adapted to cell phones and computers later in life. His motto was, “Keep up or be left behind.” In his youth, Saturday nights were special. This was the evening when they often went to town and occasionally were allowed a treat, with his favourite being an ice cream cone. No surprise, his love of ice cream remained a favourite treat throughout his entire life.
In 1943, the Ward family moved to the south end of Chesley and settled on the “Krug farm.” Several years later, in 1950, Elmer was first introduced to his future wife. Elda was 15, seven years his junior, and had just moved in with her sisters, who were neighbours of the Wards. Elmer was drawn to her at first sight, and they visited regularly, but being the gentleman he was Elmer knew she was too young for a serious relationship. They went their separate ways and Elda pursued business college in Guelph. However, she reconnected upon completion, asking Elmer if he would join her at her graduation. Elmer was ecstatic and immediately dumped his girlfriend at the time. As they say, the rest is history and the couple was wed two years later on Saturday, June 4, 1955, at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Chesley by The Rev. McClennan.
Elmer and Elda called the Krug farm home, and in time began their family, welcoming Vernon (1956), Wayne (1959), Murray (1960), and Elaine (1966). Elmer continued to operate the mixed farm until 1966 when an opportunity arose for the couple to purchase the Pro Hardware Store in Chesley. In 1971, Elmer received a job opportunity too good to pass up, so the couple sold the store and Elmer went to work at Douglas Point. Unfortunately, Elmer never fit into the work environment here, and moved on to Preston Metal & Roofing, as a salesman in 1973. By this time, the Wards had built their new home, across the road from the farm, where Elmer operated a true hobby farm. He liked variety and experimenting, so each year often meant raising a new, and different type of animal. As a salesman, Elmer covered a large service area and excelled at his job. He was a great people person and an amazing listener, building many lifelong friendships along the way. He remained in this role until his retirement, at the age of 65, in 1993.
After the children left home, Elmer and Elda called several communities home, including stops in Durham, Wasaga Beach, and Tillsonburg, before returning closer to home and settling in Hanover. Elmer had a variety of hobbies including a passion for carpentry, home renovations, and really, building anything. Together with Elda, they enjoyed spending a great deal of time in their vegetable garden, playing cards, dancing, and socializing, with Elda often taking the lead. In their retirement, they enjoyed travelling more, hitting the road with their 5th-wheel trailer. They explored the East Coast and spent several winters in the warm confines of Arizona and Texas. Elmer was also known to live a very active lifestyle. He loved to walk, and ride his bike and was always watching what he ate. Elmer’s grandchildren fondly recall “Poppy’s Porridge”. However, he did have his weaknesses when it came to food. Elmer’s soft spot was pie. Honestly, he loved every single kind of pie and ice cream, and even in his final days, his eyes would light up when pie arrived on his hospital tray.
Sadly, Elmer’s world was turned upside down in 2015, when he lost the love of his life, Elda. He tried to adapt to life without her but struggled, and soon made the decision to move north to be closer to family, calling Englehart home. Here, he enjoyed a slower pace of life, and could often be found sitting out on the deck soaking up the sun. Although not a big reader, Elmer would pick up any farming magazine and enjoyed Chicken Soup novels and Reader’s Digest. He was not big on television either, with the exception of The Price is Right! Elmer cherished his grandchildren and more recently, his great-grandchildren. When the kids were little they often could be found crawling all over him – they truly adored him. Elmer was very good to them, and always tried to motivate and inspire them. He was a kind, compassionate, and gentle man who always worked hard and was a gifted listener. Although a man of few words, when he said something it was usually important and meaningful. He always encouraged others to enjoy their lives and do the things they wanted before it was too late.
Elmer’s health has declined in the last couple of years, and sadly he passed away at Blanche River Health, Englehart on Saturday, September 2, 2023, in his 95th year.
Loving father of Vernon (Diane) of Airdrie, Alberta, Wayne (Linea) of New Cuyama, California, Murray (Jennifer) of Collingwood, and Elaine (David) Brears of Englehart. Cherished grandfather of Christina (Eric), Erin (Will), Candace (Ghazi), Olivia, Emma, Ryan, Zackary, Calista (Tyler), Jasmin (Sarah), Nicole (Graham), Bradey (Mackayla), Travis (Karah), Tristan (Cass) and great-grandfather of Lennon, Charlie, Luna, Sami, Lillya, Luciano, Bodhi, Aylin, Colt, and Sutton. Elmer will be fondly remembered by his sisters-in-law Elva, Merle, Leone, and brothers-in-law Richard and Tom. He was predeceased by his beloved wife, Elda (Middleton), sisters Beulah (Ab) Jones, and Stella Whitehouse, and his parents George and Pearl (Johnson) Ward.
A private graveside service will be held with inurnment to follow in Chesley Cemetery.
Memorial donations to Blanche River Health Foundation or the Alzheimer Society would be appreciated as expressions of sympathy.