Family man, farmer, Blue Jays aficionado. Born May 13, 1917, in Nottingham, Sask., died April 12, 2013, in Carnduff, Sask., from heart failure, aged 95.
“Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” As a farmer and enthusiastic Blue Jays fan, how true this was for Ken Verity. Every spring, Ken would size up the chances of a return to the glory years for the Jays. As a farmer, he waited anxiously for spring to arrive, watching the fields and fences for the return of the meadowlarks. Ready to get back out on the land, to start again the eternal cycle of sowing and reaping.
Ken came by his love of baseball early, playing ball in a field with the other farm kids. At age six, he was lying in the tall hay, transfixed by a nest of ducklings, when his father drove over him with a swather. Ken lost his leg. Crushed by guilt, his father spent evenings in the barn whittling a “peg-leg” for his son. Ken used the rudimentary prosthesis and tried to return to playing baseball, but it proved impossible.
While his playing days were over, he loved sports, and followed his beloved Jays through all their trials and tribulations. Despite his own challenges, Ken refused to let the accident prevent him from pursuing the life he wanted – to live independently on the land as a “damn good farmer.”
By the age of 30, Ken might have begun to despair of becoming the stereotypical prairie bachelor farmer. But one cold winter Saturday evening, the single men drew straws at card night to see who would get to be the partner of the new, pretty school teacher, Ruth Haygarth. Sixty-five years of marriage, six children, 14 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren were to follow a chilly ride home in his horse-drawn wagon with Ruth. It was a great love story.
Ken’s expectations of his children arose from his embrace of small-town prairie culture: Work hard; pursue education; go to church on Sunday and be honest; listen to others and speak when you have something to say; never turn your back on family; appreciate nature; understand the value of frugality and pay cash whenever possible; participate in sports; and contribute to your community. Ken was not prone to lectures. He let his life serve as the model for his children. Nor was he demonstrative with affection, but through his actions his children knew how much they were loved.
After 95 years of a good life, Ken had made his peace with the world and was ready to meet his maker. He grieved that Ruth would have to go on without him, but was comforted knowing she would be cared for by the family after he was gone. As Ken began to slip away, Ruth climbed into bed with him, holding his hand.
Ken was laid to rest in a prairie graveyard in spring, completing the eternal cycle. Meadowlarks sang as the “The Old Farmer’s Prayer” was read. One of the proud and independent salt-of-the-earth farmers who helped build this country, he was much beloved and will be sorely missed.
Jim Casey is Ken’s son-in-law.
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