Friday, May 1, 2015


May 1st is the anniversary of my Dad's death. I cannot own him by myself. We are three sons of Edward Richard Unruh. Our father passed away on May 1, 2008.

Murray, Neale and I will remember him with pleasure today. Such a good man, a gentle man he was. Faithful, constant, loving in a reserved manner appropriate to his generation I suppose. Through the years, even as he aged, he seemed enduring, unchanging, always there when I visited, or Neale visited or when Murray regularly took him for a coffee at Horton's. Murray and Diane know our lasting gratitude for their years of loving care. Even during the last years when Mom's dementia required her care in a nursing facility, Dad remained in his apartment, looking after most of his own needs. And then he was gone, quietly, peacefully.

Like millions of other men, Dad distinguished himself, as son, a husband, and a father. I would like you to know him. He was born the last of four children to Cornelius K. Unruh and his wife Katherine. His childhood home was the prairie town of Hepburn, Saskatchewan, where he acquired a grade eleven education. Then he began to work at numerous jobs. Edward, fell in love with Tina Martha (Doerksen) Willems, four years younger than himself. Willems was her step family surname. Doerksen was on her birth certificate from Montana where her birth father Isaac Doerksen died when she was two years of age. Their love took them happily through 66 years until Mom passed away. In his twenties he owned and operated a 'filling' station as it was called (gas station). Together, Mom And Dad set up a coffee shop on the main street. Then WWII happened and Dad enlisted in the Canadian Air Force, which was an exceptional act in a town of Mennonite pacifists. He was an airplane mechanic. When the war was over, they looked at the future for their family, measured employment options, and the many factory jobs in Ontario seemed attractive. Dad, Mom and me at age four, moved to St. Catharines. Dad worked for Thompson Products, Ontario Paper Mill and finally Anthes Imperial, where he remained for over forty years. Anthes built furnaces and dad worked in the heat of the foundry, in the cab of an aerial crane, and then for decades on the assembly line. He often came home exhausted. He would clean up and settle down with his newspaper, sometimes draped over his face as he napped on the sofa. His work ethic was a commendable model for his three boys. Well into our own manhood, one day we asked him why he stayed at such difficult work for so long. A six-word reply revealed the man. “I did it for my boys.”

He purchased a family home before he turned forty years of age. He took his family to a rented cottage for summer vacations. He took us for Sunday afternoon car rides. He sang with us. He yodeled. He was proud of us. He loved our Mother. When we married, his love for our brides gave them a strong sense of comfort in an extended family. He trusted in God, and he supported all three of us as we took on Christian service vocations.

Dad never took a leadership position at church. If he was asked to be on committees or boards he declined. He knew his strengths and limitations. He enjoyed serving but the service had to be in the areas of comfort and competence. Smart man. Private man. Honorable man.

In November 2007, our Mom passed away. The night before the memorial service as our family stood together at her coffin, Dad said, "Goodnight sweetheart, I'll see you soon." His loss was profound, we are sure of that. Yet Dad was stoic. Mom had been ill for several years and it was time for her to go. Perhaps a man knows when it is his time as well. One evening six months later, he enjoyed a dinner at Murray and Diane's home. Beth and Eric were there, as were their daughters Selah and Karis. After the meal Murray drove him home. Before bed, a nurse arrived to dispense medication but found Dad lying on the floor. With no evident bruises, it was supposed that he felt unwell and was heading for the couch, but lay down on the rug and died there.

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