Thursday, January 27, 2011

dr. a. r. elliott

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{Red with his mother, Josephine}

I'm not sure this is the proper forum, but I wanted to take a moment to talk about a very special man in my life, if I may. In summary:

Redmond Elliott
October 3, 1925 to January 18, 2011
(that which is in quotations is from his printed eulogy, written collectively by his brother, wife and children)

Red was raised on a farm in Camrose Alberta, or rather just outside of what was then the small town of Camrose. "He served in the Royal Canadian Navy in the north Atlantic during the last years of the Second World War" Red's father had himself served in the First World War, surviving the battle of Passchendaele (albeit losing the sight of one eye) and went on to train new servicemen for WWII. After the war, "Red was able to fulfill his childhood desire to become a veterinarian through the programs offered to returned servicemen, graduating with his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph in 1950. The day after convocation he married Frances Hall of Guelph and they returned together to Camrose where he established a large and small animal veterinary practice" Years after the wedding Red poked fun at how Frances would only marry him once she was sure he had received his diploma -- you can't move across the country with a drop-out after all. "Red worked as a vet in and around the Camrose area for the next 28 years. His practice was attached to their modest farmhouse (which saw many expansions over the years) which was just down the lane from his parent's house. Much of the Elliott farmland was later converted into school grounds for the Camrose Composite High School. 

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"Red was also a life-long farmer, expressing his love of the land and that vocation by engaging in at various times dairy and beef cattle operations. He was particularly interested in animal nutrition and used that expertise effectively both as a veterinarian and as a farmer. After leaving active vet practice, Red worked for several years as an agricultural consultant with the Sampson Band Enterprises beef farming operation in Hobbema, later 'retiring' to farming full time." 

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"An embodiment of the spirit of service, Red remained actively involved in his community until the present. He held several positions within his church, was a longtime member of Rotary, was involved for nearly 60 years in what is now the Camrose Regional Exhibition... a founding director of the Canadian Bull Congress and served as a CESO (Canadian Executive Services Overseas) volunteer twice, in southern India and Hungary."

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{While in southern India}

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"Red loved his family and was always interested in young people. There was generally an extra place at the table when the kids were growing up and even after they left home Fran and Red served as substitute parents for a series of students from Hong Kong, some of whom later invited them back for a visit. Red shared his love of horses and the farm with his kids and grandkids. He took great pride in the accomplishments of his family, big and small."

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{Frances and Red Elliott}

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"Although a hard and dogged worker, Red also knew how to have fun and his grins transformed his face. He loved to dance, not only with Fran and his granddaughters, but also made a point of asking every woman in the room, particularly those who lacked a partner. In his latter years, Parkinson's disease cramped his style and made every day a brave testament to his determination to keep enjoying life." He carried his illness with humility and dignity.

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Red left this world with five children, eleven grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren. My feelings towards this man, Poppa, are so overwhelming full of love and respect I don't know how to begin explaining the impact he has had on my life. Growing up, Red was a giant. He had the largest, strongest arms and hands of anyone I knew and his hands were especially skilled in the art of tickling children. His face was always red from the sun and hard work and white whiskers always poked out from his cheeks, even after shaving, causing me to struggle to get away from his scratchy kisses. He loved a solid breakfast and I remember him eating a half a banana and half a grapefruit religiously every morning with his shredded wheat. Neither he or my grandmother ever thought I was eating enough in comparison to their hard-working, country diets.

During my stays at my grandparents house I would run around outside for hours on end, but I would still make it back into the house before Red returned from working on the farm. I would hear his loud footsteps enter the house and he would always go straight to the laundry room to scrub his hands with orange soap, but hands like his never really get clean of all the dirt. When I was young my grandparents had two tabby cats that lived in the house, Big-Mouth and Blue-Eyes. Blue-Eyes was shy and would hide when the grandkids were running around, but there was many a time that I would come downstairs to find Red asleep on the couch, with Blue-Eyes not far away, breathing in sync. The dust in that room sparkled in the late afternoon sunshine. That was my favorite place on earth, but that's a different story.

Red called my grandmother 'Boss' and she called him 'Boss' right back. He would tease her under his breath at the kitchen table and would be all smiles if she gave him enough acknowledgment to tell him to cut it out. He never stopped recounting to my mom the time he and my grandmother came to watch my karate class; Red beamed with pride and amusement at the young male foe dodging this way and that to get away from me.

One cold Easter Sunday Red took some of us grandkids out to the farm in the morning to check on any calves that had been born overnight. One cow was struggling with the birth of her calf and I watched in the dark and the cold as Red pulled the calf out with huge chains. The calf fell to the straw covered ground, a slimy, shivering mess, and the cow began to lick her clean. There was so much steam coming from her nostrils, I had never seen anything like it -- just another day for Red, wiping his brow and on to the next creature in need.

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{Farming partner Rob, with Red}

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Red read my blog everyday and I'm sorry that he can't read this. I'm sorry sometimes we don't properly express with words everything that a person means to us. Even now I am having a hard time writing what I am feeling. Knowing that there is so much pain, regret, and sadness being felt by so many of my loved ones is overwhelming.

In Red's late years he lost the appearance of the man he once was. He hunched over, he needed hearing aids, after a car accident a couple years ago he required the use of a walker to get from point A to B. Everything happened much slower. He shook. Words took a lot longer to form and he usually couldn't keep up with the conversation and so would say nothing at all. So many stored up thoughts. I've been sad and angry for years. No man should have to sit quietly and watch as he becomes less and less significant; placed at a table to be out of the way while the family and the world moved on around him. Still, he never complained and he never looked to be in question as to why he was suffering from Parkinson's.

Red Elliott, I hope I can keep sharing your stories and my stories of you, for you are the most honest, hard-working and loving man I have known. If I ever have a child, he or she will be named Elliott, because it' better off to hit the ground running, don't you think?

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Matryoshka said...

Mary, this brought tears to my eyes. What an amazing man to have in your life. Thank you for the reminder to make sure we tell those we love how much we love them while we still can. Lots of love xox

Mary Hudson said...

Thanks A.

Brooke said...

This was so beatiful to read. My grandmother just passed away on January 3, and many of my thoughts are the same ~ I will always remember with a strong sweetness the power of her life and her person.

Red sounded like a wonderful person to have had in your life. The photos of him are stunning.

Mary Hudson said...

Thank you Brooke, I had read some similar sentiments on you blog earlier and found them to be comforting. --In fact all your posts are comforting and calming. Thank you for taking the time to read about mine and Eliz's Poppa.