Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Tribute to My Father-In-Law

The following is the eulogy I wrote and delivered at my father-in-law's funeral.  He passed away three years ago today.

It is my great honour to pay tribute to a wonderful man, my father-in-law, Irvin Crozier. The family has asked me to speak to you today, on their behalf, about Irvin’s life, his interests, his vocation, his hobbies and accomplishments. 
Irvin Bain Crozier, was born September 05, 1921 at the Crozier homestead in Rosebank, to William Crozier and his wife Mary Bain. Irvin was the youngest of five children, namely: Annie, Eva, Andrew, and Wilfred.

 It appears that the first five years of his life, his oldest sister Annie, did the majority of his upbringing. When Uncle John Woodland came courting Annie, the story goes that Irvin ran down the driveway, chasing the car, yelling that John could not take his Annie away from him.

Early musical talents surfaced in young Irvin, and his sister Eva attempted to bring this ability to the forefront in teaching him piano. Apparently Irvin froze at his first piano recital, and that coupled with the thought of having his older sister telling him what to do, shortened Irvin’s career as a concert pianist. He often reminisced in later years, and regretted having not continued on. As a young man Irvin did learn the Hawaiian guitar and all his life loved to sing in his wonderful tenor voice.

Irvin completed public school at Rosebank. High school meant that Irvin had to go in to Renfrew and board, which he did. Unfortunately because of loneliness, illness, an overly strict disciplinarian teacher and the failure to grasp the concept of computing square roots…… overwhelmed, Irvin dropped out of school in Grade nine.  He returned to work on his father’s dairy farm for his teen years.

As young as twelve, Irvin was displaying considerable mechanical aptitude. He was basically self-taught. He took things apart and focused on putting them back together, discovering how things functioned and endeavoured to improve the efficiency of whatever implement or motor he was working on.

He early on learned to drive the truck to deliver the farm’s milk to the cheese factory. Apparently he drove long before being eligible for a license, while his father sat in the back holding the milk cans in place. One particular incident involved a hill, a stray cow and a lack of brakes on the truck. You can well imagine the outcome, but both Irvin and the cow survived. Whether there was crying over spilled milk, was not recorded. One thing I’m sure is that Irvin did his first brake job that same day.

Flat feet and the fact he was a farm lad, helping to feed a country at war, kept Irvin from enlisting into the Canadian army in World War II. 
In his twenties, Irvin began to take note of a particular young red haired lass, a niece of his brother-in-law, John Woodland, from the Cardinal area.  Irvin set his cap to win her affections. He often said he’d do whatever it took to win her over. Well this seemed to be a case of unrequited love. Young Dorothy played hard to get. She thought Irvin was kind of a shy awkward lad, and she had her sights on greener pastures. Irvin must have been a convincing and tenacious fellow, because Dorothy’s greener pastures were soon located in Northcote.

Irvin Crozier and Dorothy Woodland exchanged their wedding vows on September 21st 1946 in the Cardinal Holiness Movement Church. For their honeymoon the young couple drove to Niagara, to see the sights they’d only heard about.

Prior to his marriage Irvin had purchased the Northcote farm, with the aid of his father. This became the home base for Irvin and Dorothy. But for the first years of their life together, they led quite a nomadic existence, as Irvin entered into road construction work for his new father-in-law, Victor Woodland. Roadwork took them as far away as Lindsey. While on the job, Dorothy and Irvin lived in a small homemade portable trailer. 
The arrival of their first daughter Gayle, forced the young family to return to a more permanent home in the year after their marriage. Dorothy remembers there being a few pigs, a horse, and all of the young cattle from brother Wilfred’s operation, on the home farm in the early years.
Wilfred and Irvin purchased a portable sawmill between them and began sawing lumber wherever there was a need. Apparently this mill saw action as far away as Chalk River. Eventually it was set up permanently across the road from Wilfred’s farm. Dorothy recalls how the two young wives ran the dairy operation, while the husbands were away working their sawmill.  

This purchase was the first of several that the two brother’s made as partners.  Dorothy recalls with some chagrin, that Irvin tended not to consult her prior to making these purchases, and several of them were definitely against her wishes. Equipment included a bulldozer, a snowplough, a Case combine, square baler, and a ……..television. Ah the television….. Irvin always had an eye for new gadgets. Tom Meek had this particular item set up in his back room, and it caught Irvin’s attention. Home it came and took up residence in the kitchen. Was Dorothy consulted in this matter? Apparently not. Now meal times with the growing family had to be shared with snowy black and white actors and newscasters, much to Irvin’s delight and Dorothy’s disapproval.

During the 50’s, Irvin continued with the sawmill. As well he began snowploughing in the winter. He had a gravel truck which he gerryrigged with used grader blades scavenged from Harry Gibbons, the road superintendent, which he welded to the truck. As well, the purchase of a Case combine, made fall a busy time, as Irvin and Wilfred custom-combined grain for the many farms in the Renfrew area. Irvin also did some township roadwork in the summer months.

Six more children arrived in this time frame, Gwen, Lilly, Leah, Stewart (at last a son to take over the farm), Kathy and Caroline. 

 1962 was a momentus year for the Crozier family. In March the youngest daughter arrived and then a decision was made to enter the rapidly developing dairy industry. A barn was taken down, the existing barn gutted, refitted and an addition put on the end of it. Twenty Holsteins and the accompanying milk quota were purchased from a Mr. Gould. Later more quota was purchased from another neighbour. Irvin and his family milked cattle until June of 1974. The daily grind of dairy farming, rising financial concerns, coupled with the fact that the only son was more interested in calculus than cow manure, led to the decision to sell the farm.

Always ready for a new endeavour, Irvin began working for his nephew Grant in the construction business. Irvin quickly adapted to the manipulation of the backhoe in excavating holes for basements, digging trenches and whatever other sod-turning adventures Grant undertook. Irvin loved operating equipment and became extremely adept at handling the delicate controls.

Irvin and Dorothy purchased land in Harvey’s Crescent and had a new modular home erected just prior to moving off the farm. This was to become their retirement home, which they lived in until the fall of 2000. 
As well as working for Grant, Irvin began driving school bus, just to keep himself out of trouble night and morning. He prided himself in only having kicked one student off the bus in his bus driving career. I cannot imagine what that child could have done to irk the normally calm complacent Irvin to that point.

Irvin stayed on with Grant until 1993, when he officially retired. However he was often seen at the Crozier garage for the next few years, puttering on equipment and catching up on the gossip. Well perhaps gossip is a strong word, but no one liked a human interest story better than Irvin. Over the years I knew Irvin, I too grew to know many of the characters in Renfrew, solely from his anecdotes. 
During their early retirement years, Irvin and Dorothy took advantage of the time and resources and did a lot of traveling and sightseeing around North America.

Two events that I particularly remember spending with Irvin, were a trip to the east coast together on our first anniversary and the a day together at the Pembroke ploughing match.
In the winter of 2000, Irvin fell and broke his back. As well, the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease were beginning to exhibit, making the upkeep of a house and acre lot too burdensome a task for Irvin. A difficult decision was made, the house put on the market. Irvin and Dorothy left the Renfrew area, to live in the basement apartment of daughter Leah and son-in-law Randy’s house. For the Renfrew born and bred lad, this was a difficult move, leaving his friends, acquaintances, home, tools and equipment behind and beginning life in a new environment, in his late seventies. 
On January 15th, 2008, Irvin went home to heaven to be with his Lord and Saviour and his waiting family. Irvin’s death brings to a close, another generation of the Crozier clan, a son, grandson, and great grandson of the hardy pioneering stock who settled in the Renfrew area nearly two centuries ago.

We spent an evening in the Broadview nursing home, reminiscing on Irvin’s life. Unfortunately, of those present, I actually spent the fewest years with Irvin, however those were great years. Irvin was the best father-in-law a man could hope to have. Eighteen years ago, I asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage (she made me do it). His only concession was that I never make her cry. To my brother-in-laws, who also married Crozier women, you know what a hopeless endeavour that was, is and ever more shall be.

Clearly he could see that his daughter had married a complete mechanical neophyte, who in spite of this insisted on trying to be a farmer. Irvin spent a lot of time in Addison (no doubt shaking his head and muttering why, why why?). He helped drive equipment, fix equipment and helped update our old farmhouse, that defied renovations to the very day we sold it. 

Now Irvin never fancied himself a carpenter, but that didn’t stop his efforts. I still recall us hanging a ceiling fan, which required cutting into the upstairs floor. A curious kitten discovered Irvin’s hearing aid, and dropped it into the opening. But for the whistle it emitted, that hearing aid would have forever gone missing, until some future generation decided to do some further renovations. 
Probably our most difficult endeavour together was the building of a set of stairs, complete with a landing from our dining room to the upstairs loft, which we had converted from an old woodshed. We spent an entire day, measuring, cutting and nailing, only to discover we were an inch out of measure on the top step --- perhaps we needed son Stewart to have done the final calculations for us. I have a picture of Irvin and me, with the landing nailed in place and the first runner on the wall. It tells all, again its that why, why.... WHY look on his face!

Irvin loved to read and watch television. He loved to keep abreast of world events and loved to discuss world issues. He loved watching his favourite televangelists, and hearing all the Christian broadcasts available. These were pastimes that became increasingly difficult as his disease robbed him of his ability to listen and concentrate. 
Irvin loved his sweets and hated his greens (rabbit food he always referred to it as). I know we are to have new bodies in heaven, but I really hope somebody greeted Irvin with a big slice of angel food cake (although I know he’d prefer chocolate), and I hope that in between choruses, he’s been given the task of tinkering with the hydraulic rams that open and close the pearly gates. 

  To a loving husband, father and grandfather, we loved you and we will miss you. And so we say a temporary goodbye to a man we were all fortunate enough to know. A man who has left a rich legacy for his family and friends, a man who made this world a better place just by his quiet, caring manner, his faith and his love for those around him.

And that is about all I have to say today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.


  1. It was so nice to read this. I think I lost some on the day because of emotion. It is well-done and a treasure. Thanks, Phil.

  2. The memories of Mr. Irvin Crozier will never be forgotten.



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