Dad grew up on Church Street, across the street from where he passed. He was the third of four children, not an easy time with the depression then World War II following in close order. The three brothers not only shared a room, they shared a bed. Dad had flaming red hair in his youth, which is of course, a trifecta, genetically hard-wired to freckles, temper, and perhaps less recognized determination. Father was doggedly determined in all that he tackled, marriage not excepted – father was an near-perfect husband , both to my mother Noni and second mother Myrna– well, as far as husbands go, perfect at least compared to many of us. Both wonderful ladies and both stuck by him thick or thin, which is perhaps as much a credit to them as him.
Red hair, more famously, is also related to temper. Fortunately fathers natural temper was mellowed by a gentle, artistic bent he inherited from his mother Mary, so he was saved from becoming the surly old curmudgeon his father Alex tended towards. Well, most of the time, no one is perfect.
Father began his career as a chemist at HBM&S, and like others of his generation his first major under taking was building our house at the end of Green Street. Upon completing this, an early observation he made one seasonally warm summer morn was the thriving garden across the fence, next door. This was new to Dad, the family home location on Church Street was not conducive to gardening. With the short stack of the day, smelter smoke would roll down the street with the prevailing wind killing plant life. The neighbour, Gordon Roberts, was an agronomist and avid gardener. Dad was greatly inspired, and started with vegetables. Dad had much to master and one of his early lessons was the importance of thinning, particularly the root crops. Beet greens in particular attracted his attention, and he developed a lifelong love of that most reviled of vegetables, at least by most folk. Now beet greens owe their revulsion to a class of chemicals called geosmins, which have an earthy, muddy flavor, bad enough in itself, but father’s beet greens achieved a special character with grit, in which he placed a special pride. He often offered to adjust the grit to individual taste, even suggesting a shaker of sand grace the table. Dad always made sure that my serving of beet greens was most generous, with plenty of grit.
Riding on his success with vegetables Dad graduated to flowers and flower arranging, and he truly hit his stride with the annual competition of the Flin Flon Horticultural Society. His Japanese theme was a winner and lilies were a particular favorite. He felt that the judges favored gladiolas over lilies, but he was not to be dissuaded from his favorites. Now I am not sure that father ever achieved Grand Aggregate Champion, but he was a contender. My schoolyard friends always found this pursuit a tad effeminate, not their wording exactly, but I managed to salvage some reputation by pointing out that he used to play goal and box, and he had a speedboat with a 10HP Johnson outboard!
Later on dad determined that his efforts at flower arranging would be assisted considerably if he could assemble a portfolio for competition the following year. So he purchased an Asahi Pentax single lens reflex camera, a technological marvel of the day. Japanese cameras were just coming into their own at that time. He joined the Camera Club and gardening was kicked to the curb for a new passion, photography. He was largely self-taught in photofinishing, mounting, and competition of course. Then, and subsequently he achieved many awards for his photography. Sometime thereafter his friend and mentor, Len Gunston, passed and his son Frank who lived in Winnipeg, and was busy in medical engineering inventing the first articulating replacement joints, recruited Dad to assume the Gunston family business. They kept in contact over the years, and dad again benefitted from Frank’s pioneering innovations with his artificial hip replacements.
New management got off to a shaky start. On the first day, one of the first customers, was an adversary from schoolyard days. It ended poorly with a confrontation. My mother Noni stepped in, and graciously suggested Glen go to the dark room. She would call him when needed. This went a long way to assuring business success.
After mother passed Dad renovated and winterized the family cabin at Beaver lake, not Amisk or Denare at the time, and launched into competitive cross country skiing in earnest, with the enthusiasm and dedication that he brought to all his endeavors. There are many stories from this period, but let’s just summarize as “Glen’s Wild Years…Part 2” and leave it at that. At some point though he crossed trails with Myrna, and determined that he had had enough of the hedonistic batchelor lifestyle, and proceeded to court her in earnest. I am told that his initial attempts…shall we say…lacked refinement…but once again he overcame this obstacle and once again he embarked on a new and exciting chapter in his life.
There is a side story of this saga, the tale that has never been told, how exactly Myrna broached the subject with him that she had seven daughters. Which has led to many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I am not sure how many – hundreds I think. Someday maybe we may learn of this, or at least a version. Suffice it to say Glen was so blessed to never be lonely again.
Father was never a travellin’ man by nature, but Myrna inspired him to many new adventures in marathon wilderness canoe trips, hiking the west coast trail, and of course she loved sailing - well for a while – this was a short-lived love affair. We are not certain of the specifics, but there are rumours that Myrna in a moment of panic on the high seas struggled with the concept of “going down with the ship”. Myrna, you weren’t alone in such sentiments, Jane threatened at one point to run away if she had to go sailing again, I did run away, and cousin Ross, he refused to sail at all!
Their travels lead to going south for many winters and ended just last year. Dad loved Mexico and Dad and Myrna have many close Mexican friends in Mazatlan, Davide, Andy, Daniele, Paco, Ivan, to name a few, as well as the sailing, writing, Canadian social communities. Dad did not have any formal Spanish but picked up words as he went. He barked orders on the boat and cussed out the time-share pedlars in fine form. He was quietly thrilled that we donated his boat the Margot Louisa, to the Merchant Marine Academy and has a new lease on life as a training vessel for sailing, navigation, and general seamanship. Dad loved to teach, especially the youngsters, be it sailing, wood-working, photography, gardening – he always took great pleasure and pride in sharing his knowledge.
Well, as I began Dad lived a long and interesting life. He followed his passions as they evolved in the course of his life. Along the way he made many friends, with new friendships evolving as his interests changed, while maintaining the old of course. It has been my observation that his friends often reflected his enthusiasm for whatever his passion at the time, fanatics all. I am sure if each of you take a moment to look around the room you will see what I mean. This is of course the “Flin Flon character” but to Dad’s credit he seemed to attract friends wherever he went.
We will all miss Glen, his enthusiasm and eccentricities of course, but most of all his good heart. Dad was a staunch United Church supporter all his life, starting with the congregation which met in the basement of the old Willowvale school, participated in raising funding, organizing, and building our first neighbourhood church, St. Lukes.
So long Dad