Remembering… Robert Sault, Sr.
The following are excerpts from the Eulogy given by Peggy Smith, Granddaughter, at Grandpa’s funeral on November 29th 1996.
He was born on July 10, 1898 to a farming family in Valance. Grandpa tells that the small farm was bought for $100.00 and he recalls watching his father work on a walking plow. His father died when he was 12 and his mother struggled to provide for him and his two older sisters. There were no death benefits, social assistance or subsidized housing in those days. The world was a lot different then and one of the remarkable things about Grandpa’s life is the incredible change he witnessed.
When he was born, Queen Victoria sat on the throne of Britain and the Tsars still ruled Russia. He was 5 when Orville and Wilbur Wright flew the first aircraft and he said that the airplane was the most amazing change he had seen. He was 10 when Ford started producing the Model T. when he was born there was no penicillin, no antibiotics, no insulin, or heart transplants. It took 3 weeks to travel to England. There were no telephones, electric lights, radios, TVs, or computers. He saw two world wars, the Holocaust, and the Russian Revolution. He lived through the Depression. He saw formation of the United Nations and men walk on the moon. He raised 6 children and buried an infant son. He had 124 descendants including step grandchildren that he lovingly counted as his own. He never wrote a book, or ran for office, or became wealthy, but he was rich beyond compare and he left each of us with a special and enduring legacy. And it’s that legacy that I want to talk about.
His life was grounded in honesty and the values of family and hard work. Wayne and Ann gave me “A Farmers Creed” that epitomizes so much of his life. One line ‘I believe that by my toil I am giving more to the world than I am taking from it’ fits him so well. He was always there, steady and constant in his approach to life, sure of where he belonged and what his life was about.
He was a simple man, content with simple things. He appreciated thoughtfulness and being remembered more than big gifts; and time spent with him more than almost anything else. His appreciation showed, as he told each of us who visited about a pie Aunt Jean had brought up, or homemade soup that Charlotte brought in, or a turkey pie from Sandra. He raved about Muriel’s stew and hot biscuits. He like chocolate and mints, dressing with gravy, and fish and chips when Helen brought them.
He believed in God. His was not a questioning, searching quest for the divine – it was just faith. God is! The afterlife is! Not long ago I sat with him for an evening reading the Psalms and parts of the New Testament. His favourite, Psalm 1:
Happy is the man who has not followed the counsel of the wicked, rather his delight is the law of the Lord… He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season.Psalm 1
He recited them as I read – word for word, so many of them, learned as a child. He had recently come across a little book, the price of a few pennies still marked in it. Given to him when he was quite small for verses he had learned in Sunday School.
Grandpa knew about love. He loved Grandma. They were married for 55 years. Grandpa said their wedding day was the most beautiful day there ever was. They were married on a Wednesday. Grandpa said that was a fashionable day for a wedding in 1921. I’ve gone into the house to find them sitting on the sofa holding hands. When she was in the hospital for the last time I was there when he held her hand and recited part of a Robert Browning poem, “…come along with me, the best is yet to be”. He loved his children and even if occasionally impatient in his recent limitations, was always grateful for the care they gave him. He often compared his good fortune to others who didn’t have so many around to care for them. He loved his grandchildren, great and great-great grandchildren. He knew them, asked about them.
Grandpa had some wonderful sayings. As kids if we sneezed he would tell us our brains were dusty; and he’d recite “If wishes were horses then beggars would ride, if cowflops were pancakes we’d eat till we died”. He could sing too:
“Betsy the heifer, the queen of all cows,
In the morning she give pasteurized,
At night she gives homogenized.
Betsy the heifer, the queen of all cows.”
He had a great sense of humour. Recently a homemaker, one of his favourites, who laughingly told this story, was trying to retrieve something from under the bed with him in the bed. “Wait a minute,” he said, “Hand me the beeper”. “Why do you need the beeper?”, she asked. “Well, if you get stuck under there one of us had better be able to call for help.”
Grandpa had an amazing memory. He knew the names of all his great and great-great grandchildren and their birthdates. He was an encyclopedia of local history, of both his family and other families. If you mentioned a local name to him he could tell you who their parents and grandparents were, who their in-laws were, who they all married, who their children were, and where they lived. It has been a gift to the family that right up to the end Grandpa’s memory and wits never failed him.
Grandpa is a part of some wonderful memories: Christmas dinners, and Christmas Eve get-togethers, and a cedar Christmas tree. Sometimes the lane would be blocked with snow and we had to walk into the farmhouse from the road. Grandpa hitching up the horses to the sleigh, with sleigh bells, to take us for a ride over the fresh snow. And rides to the end of the lane with the milk cans.
He gave us a foundation of values, especially the importance of family. He modeled hard work, love of land, faith in something bigger than yourself, the value of simple things, the importance of being, just being with those important to you. He loved us and celebrated our joys and was sad for our troubles. He worried about us and especially in this last year or so was very articulate about his love and appreciation of us. A rich, rich legacy – more valuable than all the world
Contributing Author: Debbie Cragg
Source: Kilbride Chronicles, Issue 7, page 54
Transcribed by: Lyndsey Innes