Tomorrow, May 1st, and again I and my brothers, Murray and Neale remember our father, Edward Richard Unruh who died on the first day of May 2008. We miss this man. Our memories are different and the same. We remember the same gentlemen whose good traits became more pronounced over the years. Some of our recollections differ only because of the age spread between us. I am five years older than Murray and eleven years older than Neale. Each of us hold memories unique to our special years with our dad.
I was born in 1942 and dad was uniformed within the Royal Canadian Air Force. When WWII ended, employment was scarce unless you were farming. For a little while Dad and mom operated a Coffee Shop in the small prairie town of Hepburn, Saskatchewan until they made the decision to try the employment opportunities the industrialized communities in the Niagara district of Ontario. They moved to St. Catharines. To make that move they had to say goodbye to Dad’s parents, Cornelius and Katharine Unruh, and to Dad’s middle brother Harry and his wife Anne. His older brother Neale and his wife Agnes had already settled in British Columbia.
At the time of the move I was almost five years old and mom was pregnant with Murray. My recollection serves up poverty and living with family for a time, then a rented third floor apartment in St. Paul St., St. Catharines, then Dad working in the Ontario Paper Mill, followed by work at Thompson Products (GM parts), and finally Anthes Imperial (making furnaces). We moved from rental home to rental home during my years from age 6 to age 12. Then mom and dad were able to afford to purchase a home of their own when I was thirteen. They paid $10,000. In this home I grew through my teens and went to College. Many years later when my dad was 70 years old, they sold the house for $68,000. It has taken them all of his working life to pay off that house at $100 per month.
Dad had managed a grade 11 education in Hepburn. He lived without a sense of entitlement to anything except a fair wage for diligent work. He worked hard, always. He worked in the astonishing heat of a foundry, in the lofty cab of an overhead crane, and on his knees screwing in pieces to complete a furnace. Up and down, from knees to standing position countless times each day for 25 years. And Murray and I asked him one time, “Dad, why did you stay at that job?” He unintentionally humbled us with his honest response. “I did it for my boys.”
He was a good man yet when he was 35 years old, he decided to deliberately choose to become a Christian. Our family faithfully attended church each Sunday as well as meetings specific to our ages. The Christian influence of peers and the quiet but sincere example of our parents shaped all three sons, and we each in our turns became involved in full-time Christian service. Nothing seemed to mean more to our parents than the knowledge that their sons served God.
And perhaps the lasting memory my father has left me, is that of his love for our mother, his sweetheart. She was always that to him. He encouraged her, supported her, protected her, helped her and loved her unmistakably. It only became difficult for him when her dementia was so acute and she was a patient in an extended care facility and he was still healthy and able to live in his own apartment. He found it incredibly difficult to see his loved one that way, and to know how to spend time with her. He at last asked Murray to accompany him when he visited. That was the comfort he required. Dear mom, Tina Unruh, died in November 2007 and six months later Dad, true to his word followed her in a typical quiet way. As the extended family stood at my mom’s coffin, dad spoke to her, saying, “Good night Sweetheart. I’ll be seeing you soon.” He was 93 years of age when he turned to walk to his couch and had a weak spell and lay down on his carpet and went to sleep.
The dear man loved our wives, Neale’s Kathy, Murray’s Diane, and my Christine. He loved them. They knew it, understood it, returned it. He is home now. That speaks to our family hope and faith. We are all on the journey from here to there. Jesus made this possible for us.
(I will forever be grateful to Murray and Diane who were the primary caregivers to Mom and Dad during all those years that Neale and I were long distances away.)