Shea’s uncle passed away last week, rather suddenly after a year-long battle with cancer (that’s a weird way to describe it but that’s how it went.)
I was honoured to be asked to do the eulogy by his widow and since we happened to be in Weyburn last weekend, we were able to go out to Creelman to hear some stories from Ken’s family to help me write it. (This was useful as I didn’t know him nearly as well as the three other family members I’ve been able to eulogize in the past.)
Eulogy for Ken Thompson
There are a lot of ideas about what the true purpose of life is. Some believe we’re on this planet to make as many friends as we can or to make as much money as possible. Some think that we need to accomplish something that will leave a legacy and some think that the best legacy a person can leave is their family.
No matter what you believe the purpose of life to be, one thing that will help you to succeed is if you approach life as something to be enjoyed. And in talking with his family the past week and hearing many of the stories about him, it’s very clear that Ken was somebody who not only enjoyed life but helped the people around him enjoy life too.
For example, Elsie shared the story of how her and Ken met. She was on a date with someone else and they went to pick up Ken who didn’t have his license at the time. She was immediately attracted to Ken who was clearly a much more interesting, fun-loving fellow than her “boring” date.
And when you talk about enjoying life, there’s perhaps no better example than the story of Ken, making sure that James, Deana and Marsh got rides in a helicopter when a seismic crew operated out of their farm when the kids were younger. I’m sure the kids all looked like this but the pilot said it was Ken’s eyes that were the most like saucers during his ride!
Enjoying life can mean enjoying specific things and Ken really enjoyed…ice water. (You thought we were going to say something else, didn’t you?) But many of Ken’s funniest stories seem to involve ice water – from the time he decided to waterski – not too long after the ice had melted on a northern lake. Joan says she’d never seen someone actually turn blue before but she saw it that time!
And we all know how much Ken loved ice fishing. He loved it so much he would stay out right to the very end of the season. Deana remembers the story of being with her dad and his truck starting to go through the ice. He calmly told her to stand on the seat and not get wet from the rising water while he went to get someone to pull the truck out of the ice. (She also remembers being told *not* to tell her mom about that so perhaps Elsie wouldn’t have thought of that as an enjoyable experience in the same way that Ken and Deana did.)
James has many fond memories of hunting with his dad. Ken never turned down a hunting trip and was known to be a great shot who even bagged two beer, sorry, I mean, *deer* with a single bullet one time!
We slipped up in that last section when we said “beer” instead of “deer” but it was an honest mistake as Ken’s love of beer was well-known. Many of his most memorable stories involve beer – whether it was Dennis telling of the night Ken got left behind in the bar while they were living in Calgary. Ken had to walk many miles home, arriving just in time to watch Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. I guess you could say that was “one small step for man, one giant hike for Ken!”
Ken enjoyed visiting Stoughton Bar. One time he enjoyed it so much that him and a buddy ended up getting in the wrong car and since the keys were in the ignition, bringing that one home instead of Elsie’s! When Elsie arrived home, she asked Ken where her car was and only then did he realise what had happened. A quick trip back to town, a swap was made and the owner of the other car was never the wiser.
Jason and I have a favourite story about Ken and beer as well. When we got married in Creelman, a friend in Calgary who worked at a brewery offered us a free keg. Uncle Ken was so excited, he showed up at mom and dad’s farm with a mug that can only be described as keg-sized!
Unfortunately, the beer we’d been given was not his cherished Molson Canadian and it was pretty clear it didn’t agree with him. On the other hand, Joan’s flower bed bloomed particularly well the following year!
Although Ken loved his beer, that shouldn’t define him in our memories. He also loved camping and fishing and hunting as well as all the time spent over many years farming with Lloyd and more recently with James. He was extremely mechanical and could fix anything. He loved to tease people and especially kids. The first thing Marsh and I both said when asked for stories about Ken was how he always told us we were having “gopher meat” when we had supper at his house, no matter what Elsie was actually serving (although I have to say Elsie always made great tasting gopher meat!) He traveled often with many hunting and camping trips north. He lived in Calgary visited BC and California and even took a trip to Hawaii as a young man although we suspect if he hit the beach, it was in jeans and cowboy boots!
They say that you don’t truly enjoy life until you realise how short it can be. Although Ken had lived a full, enjoyable life, in some ways, the last year after he got his cancer diagnosis when he really embraced life in a new way. He booked a seasonal site at Moosomin Regional Park and bought a pontoon boat which he enjoyed immensely.
We started off by saying that there are a number of things that people think are the purpose of life. Ken accomplished many of them. He had numerous friends, many of whom knew him as “Jackpine”. He wasn’t a millionaire (at least as far as I know!) but he always had enough money to raise his family, buy a case of beer and, after his mineral rights came in a few years back, spend money a bit more freely. It’s true there won’t be any statues erected to his legacy (unless Molson realises they’ve lost a great customer) but Ken does leave a legacy in terms of his family who will carry his memory with them going forward.
Life is short. The minute you’re born, you begin dying and you never know how much time you have. Ken’s life is a reminder that we all need to enjoy the time that we have, the experiences we’re offered and the people we get to share it with.
Here’s to Ken…