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June Fritsch

Rhody Family Funeral Home

Elizabeth “June” was born on Saturday, June 9, 1928 in Bentinck Township to Elmer William and Elizabeth “Beth” (Henry) Hatten.

June was the middle child with two brothers, Wallace (1921) and Lorne (1924), being older than her and brother “Jack” (1931) and sister Joyce (1937) being younger. As June wrote in her own hand,

We were all born at home in a frame house on the 14th of Bentinck. The house was cold and every fall, my mother would rip old rags into long strips, and pack it in around the window frames, but somehow the snow would still blow in on the window sill! The water in the kettle on the stove would often be frozen in the morning. We always took a hot water bottle to bed. It was an old whiskey bottle and the thick glass held the heat well. After we were under the quilts, mother would throw an old fur coat over us, and blow out the lamp.

Even though June and her siblings grew up during the dirty 30’s they considered themselves fortunate as they never suffered, always having enough to eat. They picked wild berries and crab apples and canned fruit was their primary dessert. June remembered the first time she had gelatin with orange segments. “It was a real treat!” in addition, the family grew their own vegetables and raised pigs, beef, and chickens. Yet again, June remembered plucking chickens with “cold, cold fingers every fall.”

June’s father owned and drove a big log truck, thus he was seldom home to help with the chores. However, he did slaughter the chickens, which “he was good at.” When he wasn’t hauling logs, racks were put on the truck and the family delivered stove wood. June’s job was to throw the wood, one at a time, onto the truck and then off of the truck at the delivery location. She wrote, “Dad always seemed to find someone to talk to while I did the work!” Funny enough, that was the same big truck June drove when she got her driver’s license at the age of sixteen. This in spite of the fact that every few years the Hatten family bought a new car. Elmer’s two brothers-in-law owned the Ford garage in Chesley, so she figured they must have received a good deal!

At the tender age of just nine years, June was washing Joyce’s baby laundry in a tub that was outside behind the woodshed. Their mother was confined to bed for three months following Joyce’s birth.  The water had to be heated on the woodstove and clothes had to be scrubbed on a washboard. Apparently, June also cooked a meal for the doctor who had come by horse and buggy, although she didn’t remember that.

June only went to school for five years and two or three months.  June had finished Grade 8 by the time she was 12. Throughout that whole time, she only had one teacher. As her older brother Wallace was attending high school, the heavy work of the farm fell to June and Lorne. “I helped work the land with a team of horses, forked manure into the spreader; milked cows; pitched sheaves of grain, coiled hay; and in springtime boiled sap.”

Gathering water for the family and cattle during the summer was always a challenge as their well and stream would both dry up. However, the meadow stream would flood in winter creating a natural skating pond for the children. In the summer, when the meadow was dry, they would gather the beaver grass, allow it to dry and used it to stuff their mattresses.

June met her future husband Ralph when he worked the bush for the two brothers from Conn, Ontario who owned the property next to the Hatten farm. Apparently, June threw snowballs at him as she walked to school! Wallace and Lorne also worked the bush and evenings were filled with music as there was an old-time fiddler. Ralph playing the banjo and Lorne (and June) playing the guitar. In addition to all this music, June also played Lorne’s guitar and sang at school picnics and garden parties along with Marion McManus. In later years, music was made along with Audrey and Philip McGuire which then included the piano as well.

In addition to working on the farm, June also worked, for a couple of months, for the local vet Leo Schuett, answering the phone even though she had never done so before. She also babysat their son and painted a few rooms. Her pay? $70.00 for the two months. That winter, June worked at the local Rubber Factory operating a sewing machine. Summer was spent working on the farm and she returned to the factory in the fall. However, it had changed hands and was then the Silknet Plant. June continued to operate a sewing machine, just working with different material.

At the age of twenty-one, on November 12, 1949, June and Ralph Homer Fritsch were married at the United Church Manse in Elmwood. Their attendants were Marion McManus and Howard Fritsch. The small ceremony was followed by a family dinner, of nineteen, at Scone. The newlyweds borrowed Ralph’s brother Harold’s car for their honeymoon, as Ralph’s car would never have made it! They went as far as Orillia and were away for two nights.

Ralph and June lived with Ralph’s mom and dad for part of a year while their new house at Peabody was built. They were blessed with the birth of Ted on March 26, 1954 and Ken on March 26, 1957. So every year, there was one cake and two presents to celebrate their birthdays! 

To know the Fritsch’s is to know of their love for, and competence with horses. Standardbred racehorses to be exact. June’s favourite horse was Christie Riddle and in 1977 – 1978 she made them $54,000 and $57,000 respectively. This paid for the farm and their home. Not bad! Races were run from Hanover to Ottawa, Windsor, and Belleville. It would come as no surprise then that June’s favourite TV show was “Heartland.” In addition, the Fritschs also raised Herford cattle.

In 1989, Ralph and June built a home in Chesley, facing south. June was so thrilled with this. Sadly though, Ralph only lived a year or two longer, dying in 1990. It was after Ralph’s death that June did a lot of travelling. In a note to her family she wrote,

I’ve had a good life….I’ve been to 10 of Canada’s provinces, and to 36 of the United States. I’ve kissed that Blarney Stone [in Ireland]; and flew into the Grand Canyon in a helicopter. I’ve been into the winner’s circle many times; owned a race horse; saw a blue bird; got an orchid, and played a fiddle!… Life’s been great.

Fulfilled, June passed away at Hanover & District Hospital on Sunday, January 26, 2020 in her 92nd year.

Beloved wife of the late Ralph Fritsch (1990). Loving mother of Ted (Sharon) and Ken, all of R.R. #1 Chesley. Cherished grandmother of Michael (Nancy), Candace (Wes), Andrew (Nicole), Clayton (Kristy), Rachael (James), Kate (Jordan), Charlotte and great-grandmother of Zander, Ty and Grady. Sister-in-law of Shirley Doerr of Hanover and Alvin Zister of Woodstock. June will be fondly remembered by her daughter-in-law Lana Girodat of Neustadt. She was predeceased by brothers Wallace (Mary), Lorne (Beatrice), Jack, sister Joyce Zister and her parents Elmer and Elizabeth (Henry) Hatten.

Visitation will be held at Rhody Family Funeral Home, Chesley on Wednesday from 6 – 9 p.m. where a funeral service celebrating June’s life will be held on Thursday, January 30, 2020 at 11 a.m., with visitation one hour prior to the service. Spring interment in Chesley Cemetery.

Memorial donations to St. John’s United Church or Chesley Hospital Foundation would be appreciated as expressions of sympathy.

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