Saturday, September 15, 2012

George Ross-Smith 1937-2012

George on left, with Isaac Grimmer, Martha McMahon and Wally Bradley stooking hay
      Pender Island lost long-time resident and retired farmer George Ross-Smith on Wednesday, September 5th 2012 at Saanich Peninsula Hospital. George was just over a month from his 75th birthday, and although his health had declined in recent years it was still a shock to hear of his passing.
      George Alfred Ross-Smith was born October 14th, 1937 in Cornwall, Ontario. In 1947 George's father Ashton bought the big Menzies farm on Pender Island and moved the family to the farm, a few years before Pender Island had electricity. George loved the freedom of the farm and the island, causing a bit of a stir with his brother Ian whenever he could. George spent many an hour chasing sheep back to the farm in his childhood, as we all know how sheep ignore fences.
      In his teens, George went to Montreal and became an electrician. He married Marilyn in 1963, and next year they would have been celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary. In 1965 George and Marilyn and their growing family moved from Montreal to Pender Island. There was a lot of work for young people on the island at the time with the new Magic Lake Estates development. George worked as an electrician on the project, and he later worked in Vancouver on the construction of the Bentall Buildings. After that he worked for the Ministry of Transportation, later with JJM, maintaining the roads of Pender Island.
      George was also a farmer. George raised cattle and sheep, and produced hay on the Ross-Smith Farm for many years. At first he worked on the road crew full time, and managed to farm when he could make the time. He often spoke of how he looked forward to retirement so that he could farm full time. He especially liked the hay season and would spend many hours on his tractor, mowing, raking and baling. Many island children had their farm experience with George, helping lift bales onto the wagon and getting a good old fashioned hay ride to the big barn at the back of the farm. He also was a great help to those with small hay fields and no equipment. George would methodically move his tractor and equipment to the various acreages to make sure the hay was cut. George would help out if someone needed thistles cut, or a field tilled for a market garden. George was more than a farmer, he was a farmer's farmer. He would help anyone out. He taught newer farmers various skills. When he wasn't physically able to do the tractor work anymore, or keep livestock anymore, he allowed other farmers to cut hay and keep livestock on his farm.
      George also took a great interest in community. George was a member of the Royal Canadian Legion for 52 years. For many years George was a member of the Farmers' Institute, and he took a special interest in the Fall Fair. George volunteered as one of Angus McMonnie's assistants for the famous fall fair barbeque, back to when it first started. Even in later years as George passed the torch to the younger barbeque cooks, he would still show up and enjoy helping where he could. When the fair moved to the current site at the Community Hall next to his farm, George allowed parking in his hay field for several years, taking the time to mow the field a second time just before the fair. He helped set up and take down and enjoyed it very much. But the first year he would not allow parking there because he said when the Hall was built, there was not enough parking spaces allotted. Of course, he was right. That first year the parking was a bit of a disaster as cars went far and wide up and down roads. George just wanted to prove his point. George had also written to the Agricultural Land Commission to ensure that the Hall land remained in the ALR, which it does with the understanding that the Hall will support agriculture. George was also supportive of the Community Garden which is located on Ross-Smith Farm, which he tilled for them when he was physically able.
      There will be a graveside service at Pender Island Cemetery 12:00 pm Saturday September 15, 2012. A celebration of life will follow at the Royal Canadian Legion on Pender Island.
George second from right at Fall Fair BBQ, with left to right Aaron Grimmer, Michael Bradley, unknown, Fred Wiercyski , photo by Kelly Irving.
      George was predeceased by his son Scott. He is survived by his wife Marilyn, son Randall (Soinia) daughter Catherine, grandsons Geoffrey, Nicholas, Jorden, J. J and granddaughter Britney. He is also survived by his sister Jean (Wally) Bradley and brother Ian, and many nieces and nephews. George was a true island character, an independent soul who had a wide circle of friends and interests. He will be dearly missed.

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