On February 25, 2010, my beloved husband, Leonard, after a short diagnosed battle with stomach cancer, left this life and entered into heaven. I was so glad to be able to have him home with me. I love him so much and miss him so much.... I have such a huge void in my life.... Our marriage was filled with the typical ups and downs, but we survived... for 21 years. We spent almost that whole time together. We shopped together, holidayed together, and enjoyed our time together. Yes, the last couple of months were stressful for me, but we were together. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way and I know Len felt the same way. Our idea of "fun" was spending it with family... We were fortunate to live nearby to Len's sons and their families and he always made sure that I saw my family as much as possible. I was loved and I loved him! I miss that the most, hearing him tell me that he loves me... It was priceless to me... Then there was his laugh, his joking, his gorgeous hazel eyes....
Here are the eulogies read at Leonard's funeral. The first is from Al Sharpe, Len's oldest friend. They met in foster care over 70 years ago.
I have known Len since 1937. We were both born in 1930. Both victims of the Great Depression. We were wards of the Children's Aid Society. I am 9 months older than Len.
We both arrived in Vandorf, I in 1936, and Len in 1937. He stayed with us for about 7 years, and then he was adopted by a couple from Sharon, ON: Daisy and Arthur Russell. They just adored him.
They lived in an old rambling farm house. Len was lonely, but I happily volunteered to visit him often. The kitchen table was large, and Arthur had built a small, (but large) billiard table underneath. Len became quite a pro at the game! Daisy would often be shouting at us to go out and play, as she wanted to set up the table for supper.... Arthur is coming from work. I could go on and on about Len and I when we were kids, but we would be here for hours.
Arthur owned and operated the BA garage in Sharon. They built a small bungalow beside it. Len's teens and young adult years were lived there. I lived there a couple of times myself!
Len was going south out of Richmond Hill one day when he came across a young lady with a flat tire on her car. He stopped, changed the tire and got her phone number! Into his life came a jewel of a lady called "Marilyn". I was his best man at their wedding in 1956, I think it was?
They finally moved to Queensville and built an extension on the house... they had to as they had three sons and Daisy. Arthur had passed on. We lost Marilyn way too soon in 1981. Ivy and I missed the funeral as we were down East with our family, 2 boys and 2 girls, in our Suburban and trailer. We knew nothing of this, until we arrived home. Ivy phoned Marilyn to tell her about the trip and see how she was. Len told her what happened.
Len was very upset we weren't there, and I lost contact with him for over 20 years.
Len called one day and left his phone number and address. I stopped in on my way back up north and became reacquainted with him for the second time. Ivy and I stopped in to see him and his wife, Beth Ann, many times.
I am very happy that Len and I could sit down and go over our times. Just the two of us. To see the sparkle in his eye and to hear that laugh was golden. The last few times I have visited Len have been hard on me! To see him waiting, he knew he was going, and had wanted to go. Len is gone for now, but Len, I am going to meet up with you for the third time some day!
Good bye for now, Old Buddie.
This Eulogy was written and delivered by Guy Russell, Leonard's oldest son. Leonard was "a wealthy man" when it comes to his family... He and Marilyn had a lot to be proud of in their sons and I'm fortunate that they accepted me as family too.
Eulogy: William Leonard Russell
Leonard William Cowper. That is how our dad entered this world on Saturday, October 11, 1930. The Great Depression was not a great time to be a kid and he had very few good memories of that time. His family was
very poor and he eventually became a ward of the province. Through this very challenging period one bond was struck that has lasted a lifetime. Allan Sharpe was and is dad’s very best friend – a relationship that goes back more than 74 years. Al was a frequent visitor during Dad’s last days and he looked forward to every one of them.
Dad’s big break came on October 14, 1940. That is the day Mr. Arthur Russell, Granddad, picked him up from what would be his last in a string of foster homes. While Dad had few good memories of his life before and while in foster care, his life with the Russells was the start of another chapter. Dad was formally adopted by Granddad in 1944 and was honoured to accept the Russell name.
Granddad was a blacksmith, a wheelwright and a machinist. Granddad purchased the Sharon Garage in 1943 and that is where Dad got hooked on anything with an engine – and I mean anything. During these adolescent and young adult years Dad was a little wild. Nothing too serious, but nothing that you would even contemplate today.
If Dad’s big break was the day Arthur Russell picked up Dad at the foster home, the mother lode was in 1956 with his marriage to Marilyn Edythe Thornton. I know that the early years were very challenging but mother’s life was always about taking on special projects. Mom and Dad were both driven and neither could “go along for the ride”. Many evenings Dad would arrive home after a late night at the garage. He would have dinner and be sound asleep in his reclining chair soon thereafter.
Some children get to participate in organized sports. If they are fortunate their parents may even be involved in coaching – or not so fortunate as the case may be. Mom and Dad were both committed volunteers. Dad managed and coached minor baseball for years and served as Chairman of the East Gwillimbury association for 8 years. He was also President or Past President of the East Gwillimbury Minor Hockey association for 15 years. I can remember spending many weekends at the rink – playing and/or watching as Dad did his “thing” – Len, Mark and I were the original rink rats.
Oh the rink ....The East Gwillimbury Community Center. Many communities take their facilities for granted but the Town did not have a rink in 1969 and the political leadership of the day was not interested in building one – too expensive. Enter Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad cochaired the East Gwillimbury Community Centre Committee. This group of community activists did the research, identified the funding and put a plan
together to get the rink built. When they delivered the plan and the petition with the support of 80% of the residents of the community, their objective was all but achieved. In an era without the internet and cellular phones, the organization of this group was phenomenal – that was Mom’s contribution along with lobbying provincial officials. Dad – he stirred the pot at the local political level, got the support of the local newspaper and secured the support of other community leaders. What a team!
It was this experience that coloured Dad’s perspective with respect to politicians – not all – but certainly most.
As Dad has said, he and mom had a deal. Dad handled the bills at home. Mom handled the education of the children. Dad, by his own admission was a skin flint – always looking for the good deal. The problem with Dad was that while he could find many ways to stretch a dollar, he could never hang on to any of them. We would all learn later in life that it was the discipline of mother that kept the household stable. Mom had a lot of
support from Albert and Edythe Thornton – Papa and Grandma – probably more than we will ever know.
Dad had a number of passions. As with their community activism there were no half measures.
Antique motor vehicles – a passion taken up from Granddad Russell. Together they stripped and restored a number of vehicles in painstaking detail. Granddad the machinist and Dad the mechanic. Patience. The ultimate trait of a person committed to the restoration of motor vehicles. Dad had it in abundance when it came to his passions and his craft, but he exhibited little of it in other areas. My favourite was the 1902 Northern. A single piston, fire engine red classic that won many “best in show” honours.
Rebuilding of antique motor vehicles was their passion – today it could be a business.
From antique motor vehicles he went on to boating. Mom and Dad purchased a 25 ft Owens cabin cruiser. It was a gorgeous teak vessel that Dad kept shined up like a new penny. As with any passion he added the toys and kept it running like a fine Swiss time piece. He became a member of Power Squadron and learned all things nautical. The Lazy Bones became our summer cottage and was the source of many adventures on
Lake Simcoe, Georgian Bay and the Trent-Severn waterway. Dad always had a sense of humour. On the Lazy Bones we had a dingy. It was for emergency use and for auxiliary transportation. Dad christened it “The Three Dinks”. I was always Dink #1. Len Dink #2. Mark Dink #3. – the Three Dinks. I am not sure everyone got it.
Snowmobiles – Russell’s Garage became a snowmobile dealership. I am not sure if Dad got into the business because it could be a good business or because it stoked another passion. Whatever the motivation there were a lot of perks to being in the snowmobile business. Summers for boating and lots of snowmobiling in the winter. Mother was not big on the snowmobiling part.
Motorcycles – a passion dad had indulged as a teenager and a young adult, but one I think he had to give up after he met mom. At some point dad got back into motorcycles. I think there was a pact between mom and dad that the kids were not to be encouraged to partake. In many respects this was probably very wise. I narrowly escaped serious injury on numerous two wheeled collisions. I would hate to think what might happen with me on a motorcycle.
When mother became ill and with the prognosis no longer in doubt, dad’s passion for motorcycles increased exponentially. We all deal with grief differently, but when mother passed away in 1981 dad was lost – he turned to motorcycles and touring to fill the void. He had joined Retreads, organized rallies and travelled North America extensively. He was as passionate in the customization of his motorcycles as he was in the restoration of his antique automobiles.
Through motorcycle touring he built more relationships. Some we, including dad, all want to forget about. Others were equal to his passion. It is through his touring that he met, pursued (others would say “stalked”) and courted Beth Ann Hazen (nee Folkerts).
Dad and Beth Ann were married July 22, 1988. Based upon previous experience, we of the Russell clan were somewhat sceptical. We did not think it would last – others had come and gone.
Dad and Beth Ann shared a passion for motorcycles and a passion for family. Dad had been virtually lost to us for 7 years but had now found another rock of stability. While Dad and Beth Ann did not have children of their own they adopted ours. One never doubted Beth Ann’s sincerity – but would the marriage last?
Dad and Beth Ann had an intense relationship – at times very stormy. But last it certainly did. Beth Ann knew the history and even Beth Ann was cracking jokes as the milestones rolled around – 5 years – 10 years – 20 years.
My father was not an easy man to live with. I learned to appreciate the depth of that statement in the past 10 or more years. Beth Ann has said to me on many occasions, “Guy, you owe me big time”. Beth Ann, I most certainly do.
There is a very special bond between Beth Ann and Dad – more than just love. I do not know how else to describe it other than it was very special.
Together, Dad and Beth Ann continued with their passions and engaged in others – Bilco was their family; miniature doll houses; and Beth with her jewellery. Through their passions they built a life together replete with friendships that have stood the test of time.
Dad firmly believed in family. He firmly believed in the welfare of his children and his grandchildren. Given his personal life experiences it is easy to understand why.
Each of the children has certainly tested those beliefs but probably no one more than I. Dad finally was able to afford his dream automobile – an Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale – an absolutely gorgeous automobile and he kept it in immaculate condition. Dad had let me drive it this day to Burlington -to impress my girl friend, my future wife Leny. On my way to lunch to pick up Leny, I totalled it. The fact that there were extenuating circumstances – who cares. The fact that I was going to be very late picking up Leny this day -who cares. Dad was going to KILL me. Oh well, it was time to man up. There was only one thing to do – call MOM!
When I finally saw Dad, he asked how I was. I have been subjected to ridicule and teasing over the years – from my two dear brothers more than anyone, but on that day – not a word from Dad.
Some of our fondest memories are of family – family gatherings and family outings.
Family gatherings were always a highlight. There always seemed to be a board game or a card game involved. It did not matter what it was – Cribbage, Hearts, Bugger your Neighbour, Risk, Acquire, Rail Baron. Competitive? No one gave any quarter – no one took any prisoners. Cards – any card game – was the passion in Queensville. Gaming was never Mother’s strength but it was always a source of amusement. Beth Ann was certainly a quick study. Dad was good at just about everything as long it did not have a joy stick. Whether they be the Risk marathons like the “all-nighter” at Aunt Heather’s or the current craze that has lasted almost 20 years – Acquire – gaming is it. At least it was a passion we could all afford!
As Dad’s grandson Travis penned in his Granddad’s obituary, “He started his life during the Great Depression and it ended with all the riches of a loving family.” There was a lot of living in the middle, but it certainly speaks volumes with respect to his life.