There once was a man who always had a sparkle in his eyes.
He was that special type of guy that EVERYONE LOVED.
He treated everyone the same – young or old, black or white or brown, fat or thin, quiet or outgoing, religious or not, rich or poor – with RESPECT.
He LAUGHED easily at anything and everything, and TEASED everyone mercilessly. Children loved him. Strangers meeting him for the first time loved him. He paid special attention to each and every person he met. In the picture below, you can see his total attentiveness when talking to people, even to young children.
Probably, he will be best remembered for his sayings. We called them Pete-isms.
“Honest to God” was a common one, but there were two versions.
When finding something ridiculously dumb, it was “Honest to GOD“, shaking his head.
If he was trying to convince you of something, it was “Honest-to-God, the bear was right behind me, Honest-to-God!”, his eyes wide and shining.
If he found something hard to believe, it was “Honest Not?”, eyebrows raised.
If someone was alarmed about something that might affect him negatively, his usual response was,
“SOOO what?” or
“And sooo What?”
He rarely got angry, and when he did it was more with a tone of voice and facial expression than anything else.
“Boyyyy…”, he would grunt, and purse his lips.
Then anyone knew they had better stop whatever it was they were doing. If it was less of an infraction, he would just give a little growl with those pursed lips. “Hmmm…” meant it was time to move on to another conversation. TONE was everything.
WORK was his measure of success. Not what type of job you had but how hard you physically worked. He worked as a farmer for many years, then when he retired and moved to the city, he worked as a Commissionaire for 25 years. When he was 80, we asked him when he was going to retire. He said,
“Oh, maybe when I’m 85.”
But still after he retired, he worked in the yard everyday, meticulously weeding his large garden, watering his flowers with “Holy Water” (rain water), mowing and trimming, and shovelling snow. Neighbors said you could eat off his driveway, it was so clean.
Once I invited him and my Mother to join my date and I for a special event at the auditorium. He was 62 years old at the time. He said he would enjoy going with us. I thought that I had better mention that my date was Black. Without a moment’s hesitation, he gave the most priceless answer.
“So?” he said, “I’m White.”
MODEST to a fault would describe him well. When we tried to do a tribute to him on his 70th Birthday Party, he said,
“That’s enough… I’m not GOD!” But, to many of us, he WAS!
We had a party for him twenty years later on his 90th Birthday complete with a beautifully home-made cake by his granddaughter, and the Great Cribbage Tournament of 2013. See the tiny cribbage board on the cake?
How we laughed as Nephew G, a character in his own right, acted as the official Cribbage Tournament Announcer in the following video:
He was a man who enjoyed life, and always had a ready laugh.
He had a philosophy of just… ENJOYING A SIMPLE LIFE.
This man, my DAD, died one month ago at 93 years young.
He was a MASTER CRIBBAGE player and a MASTER FISHERMAN. We all have many funny stories of fishing trips with this man.
One time, we went to Montreal Lake to go Ice Fishing. It was my first time. I stayed in the nice warm fishing shack, with a wood stove, dangling my line down the deep ice hole. All of a sudden there was a tug on my line. Excited, I started screaming and yelling. My brothers and Dad came rushing in as I struggled to haul up the line hand over hand.
“Pull!”, they shouted, “Harder!”
Finally Dad pushed through reaching for the line,
“Here, give it to me, I’ll pull it up for you.”
“No, I want to do it myself!” I said. He didn’t argue.
I pulled with all my might, my arms aching from the weight. It must be a big one, I thought to myself, proudly. They continued to shout at me to pull harder, all of them so eager to grab it and pull it up themselves. Finally, up out of the ice hole the fish came – TAIL FIRST! Everyone was astounded. The hook was in its mouth, but it must of fought and wiggled and twisted until I yanked just when the tail was in the hole. This was definitely a first. We all burst out laughing, and Dad, scratching his head, says,
“First time I saw that!”
My brother gave a tribute to Dad at his Memorial Service. He described the Service as a Celebration of Life, for Pete, Dad, Grandpa, Great Grandpa, Uncle and for all of us… OUR FRIEND.
He said PETE would not want us to mourn; he would want us to just continue on in Happy Times. That’s just who He was.
He was simply THE MAN. He was a Man that drew you into his friendship. Relatives or Friend… everyone got the same KINDNESS and CARE. It’s hard to really put a finger on it; it was just that ALL ENJOYED being around HIM and he loved All and Life itself.
Some describe him as a ” GENTLE SOUL ”.
ALL PEOPLE WERE SPECIAL TO PETE.
He was a second Dad to all of us (2 brothers farming next to each other), then he became #1 Dad when he married our Mother, EILEEN, in 1979. She was the first woman to change his Long-term BACHELOR Status. THAT was a SPECIAL and STRANGE DAY. Our UNCLE BECAME our DAD.
Now, we wouldn’t have changed that for the WORLD!
Eleven years later, when our Mother died at 62, I told him the news. He got up from the kitchen table, filled his cup with coffee, got the cream from the fridge, opened the microwave, put the cream in the microwave and turned it on, and put his cup of coffee in the fridge. I got up and reversed them. He never even noticed. Finally he said,
“I loved your Mother from the first moment I met her at a country dance in 1946. Your Dad, Frank, was quicker than me, and asked her to dance first, and that was that. I waited 33 years to marry her, and it’s just not fair. We only had 11 years together.” I choked back tears.
There were endless games of cribbage, but he was always the champion. We all remember THOSE Wonderful 3 words of his,
“C’MON, 3 Games. That’s all boy” and…
“Ok, one more!”
Those games were so great. My sisters spent hours playing cribbage with him every night, and we all spent many a night playing Cribbage, Kaiser, or Canasta, cursing and laughing all night long.
Our youngest sister remembers when she was in high school and every morning for 3 cold weeks in the winter Dad went out and brushed the snow off their car and warmed it up for her to drive to school. That ended with a call from the Principal to our Mother that she had been skipping classes that whole time! Eeeeeek! Dad was not pleased, the cheek of that girl, and he never ever let her forget about it either!
“Remember that time you…. !” as he smacked his pursed lips and shook his head, still in disbelief.
Then there was his CHEEKY side. Dad smoked on and off over the years. He had quit smoking at this time, and one afternoon, I just stopped by for tea. As I rang the doorbell and opened the back door, I heard him come out of the bathroom. We had tea in the kitchen as we chatted, and just as I turned to go, I said I better go to the bathroom before I leave. There I saw a cigarette butt in the toilet, but I didn’t say anything. If he wanted to smoke, I figured that was his business.
He must have felt very guilty, because several times after that, for months, he said,
“You caught me, eh? You just had to go to the bathroom… you were almost out the door… I almost got away with it.” Too funny.
Oh, and it was funny when he would say (on Sundays),
“I won’t go out in the yard til later today and the neighbours will think I went to church!”
His last bucket list item was to see a Toronto Blue Jays Baseball game live at the Roger’s Centre in Toronto. So we took him to Ontario. Watching The Toronto Blue Jays Games live at Roger’s Stadium was a BIG MOMENT in his life.
Our cousin got the tickets, and our brother arranged for him to stay at the Skydome Hotel in Rogers Centre with floor to ceiling windows to watch one of the games. Very cool.
While we were in Ontario, we also took him to the African Lion Safari (an absolute MUST SEE in Southern Ontario), and the highlight for him was RIDING an Elephant.
“IMAGINE! I road an ELEPHANT!”, he said, over and over, as if it was barely real to him, “IMAGINE!”.
He got up close and personal with the elephants when they were taken to the lake for their daily bath, just a few feet away from us.
In Toronto, he was mesmerized by the masses of people crossing the street at intersections.
Dad loved FISHING. What he taught us, and how we laughed! The MASTER did teach us all a lesson now and then on winning a dollar for the First, the Most and Biggest Fish! His nephew, G, was his main fishing buddy in the later years, and G wrote on Facebook:
Goin’ Fishing … Gas for Truck and Boat $150. Boat $25,000.
FISHING with your 91 year old Uncle PETE:
Pretty Much sums it up for all of us who spent time with him.
Another time, the boys didn’t get any fish – skunked. As they were driving through Prince Albert, Dad saw that the reserve boys were selling fish.
“Can’t go home with no fish!” he announces, pulling over.
He picked out 2 little fish and one big 25 lb Jackfish. They arrive home and the neighbors are there so he proceeds to tell them how long it took him to pull the big one out of the hole. The STORY got so BIG that he had to get the fish mounted. We were sworn to silence.
Dad told us about being in the NAVY, lying about his age to get in, seeing a bit of the world, and the Torpedo near miss,
“Thought that was The End, Boy oh Boy man.”
He told us about peeling so many Potatoes on ship his fingers were raw, and about how it was cheaper to throw dirty SOCKS overboard then to wash them.
One might say he was lightly travelled… but had a world of KNOWLEDGE.
About 40 years ago, on his farm, Pete had a little GREEN 49 CHEVY that my brother loved. He offered to help with baling just so he could drive that truck back and forth through the fields, 1/2 mile at a time as fast as he could go, taking only one bail of hay at a time, so he could drive more. And Pete would just laugh. One time he took 2 bales cause he didn’t want him to think he was just driving, and getting no work done. Another time he almost rolled his tractor backwards doing a popup wheeley, while swathing 1/2 mile away from the house. But Pete SAW. He drove out to the field, dust a-flying, and my brother got HECK for that.
On his FARM, with the BIG Wheel sitting at the driveway, he built a Ranger Tower for all us neighbor kids to climb up. It had a metal ladder straight up! How we didn’t FALL out of it, we’ll never know.
One year, he set up an old time THRASHING Harvest with Horse-drawn Wagons and Manual Thrashing so we would remember what it was like. Still, he said,
” TOO much work the old way.”
There was ONE more Lesson he taught many of us, especially when we were young and did something foolish (especially the boys, I have to say).
“YOU DOUGH-HEAD…” he would say, “If you had two brains you would be twice as dumb.” (growl HMMPH).
“You MUST be TWINS … ONE CAN’T BE THAT DUMB.”
One night of winter fun turned into a night of terror. A group of us decided to skidoo over to Pete’s farm. We visited and laughed for a while, then the boys begged Pete to come SKIDOOING, just on his farm land. He said no over and over, but finally they convinced him. As he was skidooing, he ran smack into a barbed wire fence, the wire ripping across his throat and tearing him off his skidoo. I was in the skidoo behind him and started screaming as I saw blood pouring from his throat. We quickly got him into the house, where he was holding and blotting a towel to his throat. I insisted that he go to the hospital, but he refused, saying it was just a scratch (you know – trying to be a “tough guy”). The towel was soaked with blood. I pointed at the towel saying it was a lot more than a scratch. At first the boys agreed with him, saying it was nothing, and laughing, but as he continued to bleed badly, they agreed. We got him to the hospital, he got stitches, and the doctor said it was a millimetre away from his carotid artery, in which case he would have bled to death in a few minutes! Scary. I have not been on a snowmobile since then.
As scary as that was, the MOTORCYCLE incidence was as intense in the opposite way – one of the funniest stories I have ever heard. Apparently, the boys went over to visit Pete on the farm, this time with a couple of motorbikes, loaded on the back of a truck. They rode around the farm taking turns showing off a bit. When it was time to leave, they were trying to load the bikes back onto the truck, but having great difficulty. They had placed a board leaning up against the end of the truck bed, but no one could seem to get a bike past about half-way up the board, before either rolling back down again or falling off the side of the board. Pete was watching. Finally, he strolled over confidently,
“Here, get out of the way. I’ll show you boys how to do it!”
He revved up the engine, popped open the throttle and roared straight up the board, onto the truck bed, smashing the front wheel into the back of the cab of the truck, his body hurtling over the truck cab and landing on the hood!!!
Wide-eyed and shocked, the boys ran over. They were amazed when, a little shaken-up, Pete rolled off the hood, stood up and half-smiled.
Relieved, one of the boys, teased him for a change,
“So, that’s how you do it!”
Pete was a Generous Man though. One year he put on a Huge FISH FRY for more then 150 Neighbors and Friends because he ‘Caught Too Many Fish’. He bought a Big 2.5 foot pan with the 5 foot Handle to fry the fish. Hilarious.
He hosted Horse Shoe Tournaments and other Games, and one neighbour went on to represent the Community. Pete was so proud of him.
Our cousins and all the neighbor’s children saw him as a Second Dad too, just like we did, and his farm was truly a second home to all of us, before he married our Mother. We often ate him out of house and home. The cookie tin was always full, and EVERYONE remembers his CANDY DRAWER, filled to the brim with smarties and jelly beans and toffee. It was Kid Heaven. We eagerly took our favourite candy, but respectfully never took more than one or two. Ok, one time – maybe three.
One time we were driving home from fishing and Dad says,
“There goes my Water Truck!
“Someone Stealing it???
“NOPE, he said, “Just one of the neighbor boys borrowing it. Couldn’t tell who it was, they went by too fast.” Too Funny. He was a Kind Man, and Shared all he had to help out.
He never said a word about it, but in his younger days, Dad was an Avid and Good Baseball Player. When we asked him about it, he said,
“I wasn’t that good.”
But apparently he is in The Saskatchewan Hall of Fame for Baseball. One of his grandsons followed in his footsteps and was drafted to The San Francisco Giants. He was also extremely proud of another grandson, who is a successful Hockey Goalie.
KIDS LOVED DAD. “IMAGINE!”was his favorite word, with eyes sparkling. His Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren were always dazzled by Grandpa Pete. “Imagine That!” he would say to them. And if they walked by his chair, he would reach out and grab an arm or leg, as they squealed with delight.
CARD NIGHTS and Crib Games are BIG in OUR family. Oh HOW COMPETITIVE it could be! We played hundreds – no, thousands – of games with this MAN. His hearty laugh was contagious.
Always compelled to WORK at something (as if gardening and mowing and shoveling snow wasn’t enough), in his later years, he began making miniature buildings, recreating the whole old Farm and Homesteads. His detailed workmanship was second to none.
Then of course, he wanted small implements, so my brother drove around town searching. 6 Farm Dealerships, 5 hours, and $1100 later, my brother bought them all including the tiny grain auger Dad said he would not find.
The MAN, PETE.
He gave us So MANY MEMORIES, So MUCH HUMOUR, INFINITE WISDOM and priceless Life Lessons.
My Sister read her Poem to Dad at the service:
You told us you were going, it wasn’t a surprise
As you lay there quietly and gently closed your eyes.
You told us not to worry, everything will be alright
You said I’m really tired now and peacefully slipped into the night.
Now everything is final, everything is real
I never wanted this day to come, I don’t know how to feel.
I certainly am not angry, you taught us oh so much
I know we’ll never feel your skin again or embrace your warming touch.
For all of us that knew you, it had always been your mission
To have plenty of days away from work, so you could “Go-a-fishin”
Cutting the grass or shoveling the walk,
I remember the postman said “you have the cleanest yard on the block.”
You were a person of integrity, a fine upstanding man,
Always helping your neighbors, doing everything you can.
Then there were the cribbage games, “15-2; 15-4”
You are the almighty Master, we all KNOW that for sure!
We know you loved your gardening and farming on your land.
I can see you sitting on your tractor, boy oh boy – you sure looked grand.
We are all so very blessed with the many years we had,
And no one is more proud than us, to be able to call you “OUR DAD”
Your hearty laugh has filled our souls,
We hear your voice as we reach our goals.
With so many “Pete-isms” each of us remember
I could go on and on from now until September.
“HONEST TO GOD”, one of the best,
We all pray your soul has the most peaceful rest.
Written with Love by Connie Hollick
His Grand-Daughter posted this on Facebook:
Hard to say it, but… bye Grandpa Pete. See that sparkle in his eye? We could always count on it being there. Somehow it was even there when he was grouchy! He made everyone smile with his infectious laugh. I had the privilege of living with him for a couple of months, and I am glad I got to know him on a deeper level. We shared a lively discussion of the craziness of the Young & Restless characters every day while I was there – so fun. And when I was really, really little, I have a favourite memory of the “candy drawer” he kept especially for the kids way back when he had his farm. All such good memories. I will miss him. This photo was taken when he was 91, laughing with my daughter, his great-grand-daughter, and his great grand-sons.
In the last few years of his life, our sister devoted every waking minute to looking after Dad, sacrificing her business, her time, and her private life. Dad was a Humble Man, and he was extremely grateful for the security she provided him. He knew he could count on her to take care of everything.
With his wonderful Sense of Humour, Dad treated every person he met in the same respectful way. We would all do well to learn the LESSONS he demonstrated so naturally.
This man wasn’t just highly respected, he was loved by everyone who met him.
The FINAL words of our DAD, PETE…
”HMMM…. YOU KNOW… IT MUST BE PRETTY GOOD ON THE OTHER SIDE …
NO ONE EVER SEEMS TO COME BACK TO COMPLAIN.”
Like this image, there are only a few people in this world that sparkle and shine. He was one of them…
There once was a man with a sparkle in his eyes…
P.S If you have any “Pete stories” you would like share, please do. I’m sure all of us would love to hear them.