William John “Jack” McKenzie Sweiger was born on January 9th, 1933 in Elderslie Township to Kenzie and Wilmetta (Calhoun) Sweiger. He joined older sister Islay (1924) and was later followed by younger sister Shirley (1934). The Sweiger family resided on the 10th Concession of Elderslie Township, where they engaged in mixed farming. The children attended S.S. #11 before moving on to high school. Unfortunately, the high school had recently burned down and had to be relocated to the Chesley Hotel. How convenient! Jack liked to play pool. Jack’s stay in high school was short, however, as Jack told it when his pants were ink-stained by a leaking pen in his pocket, he decided that his school days were over. He then began farming with his father – a man he greatly admired and respected. Over the years they raised a variety of animals, including pigs, chickens, cows, and turkeys.
It was during this time that Jack’s relationship with Doris Clements really began to take shape. Having first met when attending Sunday School and Bible School, they had known each other since childhood. It was during his teenage years that Jack professed that he was “going to marry that girl” and that he did on November 1, 1952 in the Clements family home in Dobbinton. Once married, Jack and Doris purchased the farm from Doris’ mother and called it home. They welcomed sons Tim in 1953, Ted in 1954, Tom in 1955, Terry in 1956, and last but not least, Todd in 1962.
It was in 1963 that Jack was severely injured in a car accident. Unfortunately, he broke his back and spent the next four months and four days in hospital. Although the doctors thought he would never walk again they were eventually able to fuse his vertebrae together. After a lengthy recovery period, Jack was able to return to farming and establish a beef farming operation with his wife and sons.
Jack was not all work and no play. He and Doris enjoyed playing cards with friends and neighbours and square dancing with other couples in Hanover. Their interest in harness racing took them throughout Southwestern Ontario, and at one point they even owned their own horse named “Clement Hanover”. Jack was known to throw a few bucks down on these races and usually fared rather well. In 1968, they purchased the cottage at Pike Bay where they spent countless days entertaining friends and family. Jack was an avid fisherman. Whenever possible, he and Doris would go out fishing. He loved the challenge of reeling in smallmouth bass and when it came to eating his catch, his favourite line was “perch taste like candy!” For many years, Jack and Doris would also head out from Lion’s Head to go fishing for salmon. The beauty of the Niagara Escarpment added additional enjoyment for Jack. When not using the boat for fishing, Jack could be found on Pike Bay, teaching his children, grandchildren, and other people’s children how to water ski. Finally, who could forget his love of cards (poker, solo, bridge or euchre)? He absolutely enjoyed winning. During the early years of his marriage, Jack was a frequent participant in the many card games, which occurred at the Dobbinton Store.
As the boys grew older, they worked closely with Jack and Doris on the farm. Business meetings were often held during lunch at the kitchen table where everyone enjoyed delicious meals prepared by Doris. The food was so good that the Sweiger sons would keep details from their spouses. Jack loved his sons dearly and worked hard to instill the values that had been passed down to him. He included them in the decision-making, continually grooming them on the ever-changing landscape that was agriculture. Jack was a pioneer in the industry and led the way by being one of the first individuals to build a slatted floor barn in 1976. It was in the 80’s that he moved away from the Massey brand of farm equipment and began to buy green machines only. Jack’s main passion on the farm always remained the cattle. Eventually, Sweigers sold their cattle and moved into cash cropping. When, at the age of 78, Jack retired from farming, this did not mean that he was totally out of the picture. On numerous occasions, he helped his boys with tractor work during the planting and harvest seasons. In fact, as recently as last year’s harvest, he drove the grain buggy.
Retirement allowed Jack and Doris to spend more time together and do some travelling. For many years, often spending November into April in the sunny south, they called Florida (mainly North Fort Myers) their winter home. They loved the opportunity to host friends and family there. As well, they enjoyed travelling on numerous cruises. Upon returning home, once planting and harvest seasons were over, much of their time was spent at the cottage in Pike Bay.
Jack was a hardworking, honest, caring man who was a great listener. He had an excellent memory, was witty, and had a good sense of humour. Other than when he lost at cards, he was generally a happy individual. Jack was extremely proud of his family. He absolutely loved hearing about their successes. He kept a close eye on commodity markets and what was happening on the farm. When not spending time with friends and family he enjoyed taking in a Leafs’ or Blue Jays’ game on TV. In his younger years, he was an active member of the Chesley Curling Club. His other activities included snowmobiling, attending dances with Doris, reading (newspapers, farm publications, history), and listening to music. He was known to like his beef (especially steak) and had a fondness for anything sweet (particularly dessert or chocolate). His drink of choice was Rum and Coke, or maybe a Manhattan.
Sadly, Jack’s health began to give him issues in February 2019 and he was hospitalized in Florida. On May 16th, in Owen Sound, he underwent surgery for gallbladder removal. Unfortunately, complications arose and he died suddenly on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 in his 87th year.
Beloved husband of Doris. Loving father of Tim (Pearl), Ted (Connie), Tom (Karen), Terry (Louise) and Todd (Janice). Jack will be dearly missed by his grandchildren Trevor (Leigh-Anne), Tori (Greg), Tina (Cory), Scott (Jessica), Sarah, Tyson (Megan), Tyler, Kenzie (Alyssa), Kayla (Nicole), Karlee (Mark) and great-grandchildren Rachel, Lucas, Connor, Madison, Devin, Lana and Leah. He will be fondly remembered by his sister Shirley. Jack was predeceased by his sister Islay and his parents Kenzie and Wilmetta Sweiger.
Visitation will be held at Rhody Family Funeral Home, Chesley on Friday from 2 – 4 and 7 – 9 p.m. A memorial service celebrating Jack’s life will be held at St. John’s United Church, Chesley on Saturday, May 25, 2019 at 2 p.m., with visitation one hour prior to the service. Inurnment in Chesley Cemetery at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations to the Chesley Hospital Foundation or the charity of your choice would be appreciated as expressions of sympathy.