This week we said good-bye to Lowell's Grandpa Ola. He was an AMAZING man, and his story can not be told briefly (to pique your interest, he independently farmed BLIND for several years). I have included the slideshow (which is an amazing tribute put together by Lowell, David & Janelle), part of his eulogy (written by Auntie Dawn), as well as pictures. He spent over half of his life blind, and still accomplished more than most sighted people do. He's an incredible inspiration for Lowell, who is losing his vision in the same way Grandpa did. I'm so proud of the man that Lowell is already, and I think his strength of character and faith is following closely in Grandpa's footsteps. We're thrilled that Grandpa is in heaven and can see again (!!!), but we sure will miss him on earth.
Feel free to view the powerful 10 minute slideshow which includes audio from video footage that Lowell took a few years ago...
The first chapter of Ola’s life began at Riviere Qui Barre where Ola and his 14 siblings were raised.
Even back in those days, Ola’s brilliant mind was at work. When he got into trouble for making crooked tracks harrowing with four horses, he made a 12 section harrow drawbar before one was invented. He also made a mechanical wood splitter to speed up the huge task of splitting wood for winter.
A bicycle was built by the four brothers out of buggy wheels, baling wire for spokes and the gears and chains from old machines. When their father died Ola, aged 23, and his brothers farmed with their mother and put most of their younger sisters through school and college. After the harvest in 1945 Ola headed off to Three Hills to attend college but it wasn’t easy. By this time he was already experiencing night blindness and visual limitations from a genetic disorder called Retinitis Pigmentosa that has affected many of his family members. To pay his tuition he worked as night watchman and also at the school dairy. In the summer of 1948 he got ‘rained in’ at Nakamun Bible Camp and traded the gratis of potato peeling for washing dishes so he could spend time with a Loretta Thompson. This provided fertile ground for Ola to use his new honed skills of typing and spelling as letters flew back and forth! By 1952 the relationship with Loretta had blossomed to the point of a lovely June wedding.
They lived at Riviere Qui Barre for the next three years. One daughter, Judy, was born in 1953. In the spring of 1955 while visiting friends in Sedgewick, Ola and Loretta decided to purchase a farm there.
The Sedgewick chapter of Ola’s life provided even harder work and hardships than any previously experienced. During the move Loretta got pneumonia while expecting their second child. Debbie arrived November 30, 1955 but only lived ten days. This was a time of heartache that few of us can even comprehend. When little Judy was three she started steering tractors or trucks on her daddy’s knee to help him get home from the fields at dusk. With their bare hands they picked rocks and roots and were able to build up a herd of over 100 Charolais cows and raise excellent crops on eight quarters of good farmland. All the while Ola was adjusting to losing his sight. Judy always says that her father was independent, resourceful and ingenious. These traits coupled with his selfless wife and faithful daughter team allowed the Sedgewick chapter to unfold as it did.
In 1967 Ola gave up driving on the roads but continued to seed crops by dragging a heavy metal piece from the side of the drill and then driving in that rut the next round to complete each field.
After Loretta’s parents both passed away in 1974, Loretta and Ola moved their farming operation to her father’s Barrhead farm and thus began chapter three. The continuing loss of his eye sight forced him to find more creative ways to continue farming and during this time he made more adapted tools such as a power hack saw, automatic drill press and a radial arm saw to allow him to continue with a measure of independence.
Ola’s pet project was a “calf nursery” where they would put four calves each on as many as four Holstein cows. In order to know his cows apart he invented an ingenious system of putting different sized bells on their necks and by the sound of the bell he knew which animal he was dealing with. To identify the calves, he made twine collars with rings and by feeling those he could tell which cow and where on her udder that calf belonged.
Daughter Judy married Brian in 1974 and they moved to Barrhead to help her parents where they gave Ola his first grandson. In August of 1977 Brian and Judy moved back to Carstairs to begin dairy farming. Four more grandchildren graced Ola’s life in the next seven years and brought much pride and joy. He built several toys for them including a ride-on digging machine and a wooded airplane. During Ola’s years in Barrhead he attended the Alliance Church and also was instrumental in starting a Sight-Handicapped Group where he and Loretta arranged activities such as tours and sports events like lawn bowling.
1993 started the fourth chapter in Ola’s life journey when he and Loretta packed up everything and moved to the Carstairs farm to be near to Judy, Brian and the 5 grandkids. True to form, Ola once again recognized the need for a Sight-Handicapped group in his new community and started another one. Agriculture continued to be a big part of Ola’s life here. It was at this time that they raised quality sheep and goats for the ethnic market and through their animals he made many new and deep friendships. He started attending Bethel Church during this life chapter and was and is an inspiration to all. Ever up to a new challenge, in 1995 Ola accepted an invitation to go on a 3 day trail ride in the West Country on the Ya ha Tinda Ranch. His “Last Ride” was the highlight of his life! He started writing poems about his experiences, and continued reciting his stories at various occasions throughout his senior years.
Chapter five. By 2002, when his balance got too unsteady, Ola realized that he needed to retire from the farm and he moved to Carry Manor in Carstairs while Loretta chose to stay on the farm. Faithfully through the years since that move he and Loretta have checked in with each other by phone at seven o’clock every morning. Ola’s move to Carry Manor brought a change for its residents. Encouraging a gathering time most evenings and to celebrate special occasions resulted in a sense of family among the folks there. During this time Ola tackled a formidable task for an 84 year old blind man. He made his acting debut by taking a lead role in a local play, playing the part of a “sighted” shepherd. He learned his lines by listening to a tape of the whole play and was actually able to prompt other actors quicker than the prompter with a copy of the play could!
He kept very active riding a stationary bike and putting many miles on while walking the foot path around the Memorial Park north of his apartment. In 2007 he clocked over 170 miles, and the past three summers increasingly more miles. People will long remember his stooped figure pulling a blind-man’s walker with its “Alberta Arm”, (his last invention at age 86), making their daily journey around the park.
Even after major hip surgery he didn’t slow down but would be out on the path at 7 AM cheerfully greeting any one he met, knowing many of the “regulars” by voice. Ola participated in the Carstairs Walking Program this winter, and was excited about adding his daily miles to the “community total” to finish one more personal goal before he turned 90 in May.
Although he suffered many painful falls in his life due to his eyesight, he never gave up his independence, and after 89 ½ years of great health, and a final courageous battle with complications from his last broken leg, he came to the end of his journey on this earth. At exactly 11:12 AM on Sunday, January 23rd, Ola joyfully embarked on the sixth chapter of his life. He was given almost 24 hours to say his good byes so he had time to pray for and bless those with him before he went home to meet His Lord.
2 Timothy 4:7, “He fought the good fight, he finished the race, he kept the faith. Now there is in store for him the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award to him…”