Bachelor farmer, dry wit, uncle. Born Nov. 19, 1929, in West Gwillimbury, Ont., died Jan. 7, 2013, in Innisfil, Ont., of heart failure, aged 83.
Dyce Sturgeon was among the last of a vanishing breed of bachelor farmers who were once common in rural Canada. Usually the family’s youngest son, they remained on the family farm taking care of their parents and farming without ever marrying. With social and economic change in agriculture, they have virtually disappeared.
Dyce was the the middle child of William Sturgeon and Transvaaletta Mitchell’s five children. He was born on the 14th concession of West Gwillimbury township north of Toronto. His unusual first name came from a Toronto criminal lawyer admired by his father.
Dyce attended Steeles Corner School, where he was a bit of a mischief maker. He informed his new teacher one year that he was actually in the grade ahead. And he almost drowned as a child in the Humber River near his uncle’s farm in Kleinberg when he decided that he could swim without the benefit of any previous lessons.
He went to high school in nearby Bradford for several years, but eventually decided to farm with his father. The morning and evening milkings and constant labour of a small farm were to be the focus of his life for the next four decades. Dyce seldom left the farm except to attend church and do business in Bradford.
It may have seemed a limited life to some, but he enjoyed the landscape of rural Ontario and its farm animals – particularly his horses.
He kept abreast of the world with two daily newspapers and a generous selection of weekly newspapers and magazines. He always enjoyed political debate with friends and family, and talking about family and local history.
Dyce liked word play, particularly puns and dry jokes. A future husband of one of his nieces once asked if a barn cat had a name. “Yes,” he responded. The name of the cat still remains unknown.
After his father’s death in 1971, he became chief caregiver for his mother, who lived in the Sturgeon family home until her death at 98.
In the mid-1980s, Dyce sold his milking contract and did some cash cropping. With the additional spare time, he and his brother Bob began rebuilding antique tractors. Most often, these started as a truckload of scrap parts. They also continued to serve as custodians of the small Presbyterian cemetery at Coulson’s Hill where so many of their family are buried.
In his late 70s, Dyce began to suffer from heart problems. A second heart attack last November, just after his 83rd birthday, began a rapid decline in health. His last days were spent at his brother’s home, where he passed the afternoons looking at the farm across the road where he had spent his entire life and which had been in his family’s name since 1838.
Dyce Sturgeon was the most reticent of men, and always shied away from the spotlight. He took comfort in his daily Bible reading and would have taken quiet pride in the passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew read at his funeral about a “good and faithful servant.”
Richard Blanchard is Dyce’s nephew.