Stephen “Ross” was born in Chesley on Friday, 7 July 1950. He was the oldest child of Chester and Elizabeth (Kaufman) Gabert and was later followed by sisters Valerie (1953) and Judy (1956). The Gabert family resided on the family farm on Sideroad 5, south of Desboro. Ross attended public school in Desboro before traveling by bus to O.S.C.V.I. in Owen Sound for his secondary education.
In his senior year, when riding the bus, Ross offered a young grade 9 student a seat beside him. Who knew then that this young lady would later become his wife? Four years later the young couple wed on Saturday, February 5, 1972, at St. John’s Anglican Church in Desboro. Their first home was in Holland Centre where they welcomed their daughter Sherrie later that same year. By this time Ross had begun his 5-year apprenticeship with the Ministry of Transportation while attending Centennial Trade school in Toronto.
In 1973, Ross graduated having obtained an Inter- provincial Class A mechanic license and took a job with Ontario Paper Products in Northern Ontario. Ruth and Sherrie joined him in Manitouwadge (170 miles northeast of Thunder Bay) where they quickly settled in. In 1975, Ross and Ruth welcomed their second child, John. Later that year the family returned home to Desboro. By 1977 jobs in southern Ontario were scarce and Ross returned to northern Ontario to work for Great Lakes Forest Products. Unfortunately, Ruth and the children were not able to join him on a permanent basis and remained in Desboro. This did not stop Ross and Ruth from adding their third child to their family with Mark’s arrival in 1978.
During the next three years, Ross continued to work in the north away from his young family. Letters, weekly party line radio telephone calls (highly entertaining for all listeners) and visits home over the holidays allowed them to stay in touch. More time together was achieved by having the entire family travel north every summer to be with Ross. Ross transformed a school bus into a motorhome decades before it was fashionable, christening it “The Screaming Chicken”. Every May 24 weekend, Ross would travel home to Desboro to help pack the family up, including Wolly dog, and moved them north with him. Countless memories and stories have been told of the summers spent deep in the woods, off grid, living on a lake 80 miles south of Sioux Lookout. The children saw a variety of wildlife (bears), got to explore the beautiful forest and lakes, and of course got spoiled by their parents and many of Ross’ friends and co-workers who relished the opportunity to spend time with the family.
In 1981, Ross returned permanently to Desboro to help raise his family. In the coming years, he spent time working at White’s Farm Equipment, as well as for Wayne Maluskie, and finally Harold Sutherland Construction. Sadly, Ross suffered a serious workplace accident in the late 80’s which physically forced him to slow down. Although a setback, Ross’s determination enabled him to open R & R Mobile Repairs. Working out of his small shop at home, Ross could fix anything that showed up in his driveway.
He traveled much of Grey-Bruce fixing everything and anything, often taking jobs that others would not touch. When time allowed, Ross enjoyed mentoring apprentices and had several of them work for him throughout the years. He had a kind heart and liked to help whenever he could. It often meant a discount for customers when they needed it. Ross could never say “no”! When not working on client’s vehicles, he could often be found puttering around in his shop working on hobbies – often automobile related. Simply said, he LOVED cars.
Ross was an avid fan of short track racing. In fact, he was the 6-cylinder champion at Jackpot Speedway in 1969. In the following years, Ross enjoyed watching, with his sons, the races at Williams Lake and Sauble Speedway. Often helping by working on the race cars. He was also an avid fan of steam shows, tractor pulls, and flea markets. Of course, he was always looking for something and rarely came home empty-handed… just ask Ruth! During these outings, Ross loved interacting with people. He enjoyed the small talk and the opportunity to learn and share with others. However, his family was quick to point out that although Ross loved people, he hated crowds! In fact, his family could not remember a Christmas Dinner whereby Ross remained at the table for the entire meal. He came, he ate, he left!
Ross loved his family dearly and would do anything to support them. Like all relationships, there was tough love along the way. Ross always gave the kids “Eccentric Teenager (ET)” quarters so that they could call home to update him and Ruth on their whereabouts or ask for a ride home. Another thing Ross couldn’t stand for was lying. He often said to the kids, “never lie to me because I will never know how to stick up for you”. What a true statement and as can be expected Ross was always there for his kids. In later years, he enjoyed his time with his grandchildren. The fact that he was Santa’s brother didn’t hurt either. Lol! As his family put it, Ross was a big gruff teddy bear always looking to give of himself and his talents. They also joked that he was a collector of strays… and that could include dogs, cats, or people! Absolutely no one got turned away.
In his free time Ross loved to read. He enjoyed any science fiction but was also fond of technical books and magazines. Countless evenings Ross could be found sitting at the kitchen table with his chin resting in his hand reading. Now if you came back a couple of hours later, he was usually in the same position but now sleeping. When it came to television, Ross had similar interests. Once again, he was drawn to sci-fi, documentaries, and the Discovery Channel. Ross loved to learn and had no intentions of ever stopping. He also enjoyed music and loved to listen to a wide variety. It included everything from heavy metal to classical. Ross also used music as a tool for payback. If you kept him up at night with your loud music, he made sure to repay the favour the next morning when you were trying to get some shut eye. Ross also loved the opportunity to eat out, not necessarily for the food, but instead to interact with the people. The Desboro Tavern, Kettles, and most recently Sherry’s Cafe in Chatsworth were his favourite places over the years. As you can tell, Ross favoured the small, locally owned places. Here he first enjoyed his coffee (a must-have) before small talk with a fellow diner, often getting in some jokes and comically giving the other person a bit of a hard time. It was all in good fun, and Ross loved these opportunities to interact with others.
Ross exterior often fooled people as he was a big teddy bear. Although he may come across as gruff and angry, he never raised his voice and always avoided confrontation. If he was cross, you would hear a big “pufff”, and he would turn and stomp away. More importantly, Ross was a thoughtful, giving man who was always there to help you, no matter what. Like most of us, he was determined and strong-willed. He was well-respected and admired by his family and friends. As Ruth puts it, their philosophy in life was “Our life, our way!”
Sadly, Ross was diagnosed with cancer. This represented another challenge in his life. That said, he was not going to just sit back and take a back seat to the disease. Ross was progressive in exploring all options of treatments. He made the best of each day and enjoyed time spent with family and friends. Ross died on Sunday, September 12, 2021, in his 72nd year.
Beloved husband of Ruth (Johnson). Loving father of Sherrie (Ron) Olscamp of Kingston, John, and Mark (Tanya Coburn), all of Desboro. Ross will be fondly remembered by his grandchildren Nina, Sam, Stephanie, Taylor, Ethan, Emily, and Isaiah as well as his former daughter-in-law Kathryn Gerber. He was predeceased by his sisters Val Stahls, Judy Stevens and his parents, Chester and Betty (Kaufman) Gabert.
Visitation will be held at Rhody Family Funeral Home, Chesley on Friday, September 17, 2021, from 6 – 8 p.m. All are welcome. Inurnment in Desboro Cemetery to follow at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations to the Chesley Hospital Foundation would be appreciated as expressions of sympathy.