Family & friends celebrate the life of James Earl Riehl – a life truly well lived.
Jim – Earl to many and Taw to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren – passed away peacefully in his sleep on Wed., July 1st at Sudbury’s St. Joseph’s Villa, 2 days shy of his 93rd birthday.
The family thanks the Villa staff for their tender care. Special thanks to Vicky, Jim’s favourite nurse. A thank you to the people at Red Oak Villa where Jim lived for 2 years.
He is survived by Winifred (Jeffery), his beloved wife for the past 64 years and their 4 children.
Daughter Elaine, predeceased in 1949 at the age of 3.
Daughter Pamela (James McVey) of Hanmer and their 3 children – Andrea of Kitchener & daughter Kelsea (16); Kristina (Ryan McDougall) of Cambridge & sons Quinn (3) and Calvin (1); James (Erica) of Fort Myers, Florida & children Tyler (11), Eric (2),Raymond (19) and Kiara (10).
Daughter Patricia Smith of Dowling and her 2 children – Angela (Guy Roberge) & son Gabriel (10 mos.); Adam – all of Toronto.
Son Waynne and his 3 daughters – Lisa (John Purvis); Paula (predeceased, 2004); Carla – all of Whitehorse, Yukon.
Jim, born July 3rd, 1916, was one of 7 children of Richard and Louise (Williamson) of Dauphin, Manitoba. Of the 6 boys, only Clifford (Dauphin) and Lloyd (Prince George) survive. Predeceased by sister Violet McCallum (Dauphin), Harry (Dauphin), Gordon (Azilda) and Allan (Flin Flon). ‘Uncle Earl’ is also survived by many nieces, nephews and their families.
The first home Jim remembered was a prairie sod house with dirt floors. His family loved animals and the farm overflowed with dogs, horses, squirrels, tame crows – even a pet elk. Jim excelled in track & field, but baseball was his passion. Though he loved learning, he had to leave school after the 8th grade to help his family financially. He found work on local farms – milking cows, cutting wood, threshing, trapping and even doing some rodeoing – a boy doing the work of a grown man.
At 16, during the Depression, he rode the rails to Winnipeg and beyond. He found work as the medic in a logging camp, filling in for the doctor who only came to camp once a week. ‘None of us kids dared wiggle a tooth in his presence. He would be on us like a shot to yank it out.’ Old habits died hard.
Athletic and muscular, there wasn’t a job he wouldn’t tackle. In 1937, he heard through a friend that there were good jobs in the mines of Sudbury and Falconbridge bosses were happy to hire another Prairie farm boy because they knew how to work.
When WWII broke out, Jim was proud to serve his country in the 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade as a mechanic. He found himself stationed in Southern England in 1941 and saw active duty in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. He was part of a precision marching team that performed throughout Europe.
In Tunbridge Wells, England, Jim met Winnie. For both of them, it was love at first sight. They married in June 1945 and returned to Sudbury to raise their family, purchasing a log farmhouse on Skead Road – a house they lived in for more than 60 years.
Besides working at Falconbridge Nickel Mines, Jim raised chickens. With Winnie and the kids in tow, he did the Garson egg run every Friday night through the 50s. He built a greenhouse and sold flowers, veggies and plants. With partners Clarence Ruff & Esko Rantala, he built and operated a small tourist business in Huntsville. He enjoyed his camp on Lake Wahnapitae and wrote a much-loved column (Over the Back Fence) for the Nickel Centre Gazette and the Northern Life about gardening, beekeeping and life in simpler times. He was the family’s MacGyver and there was nothing he couldn’t fix. If no tool was available to get a job done, he would invent one. Though not formally educated, he had the mind of an engineer and saved his employer millions devising a method of repairing the mine’s huge converters rather than replacing them. He retired as the foreman of the Riggers and Pipefitters.
Dad was a quiet man, good-humoured… but didn’t suffer fools. He made tow ropes for the local ski-hill, carved and painted his own fishing lures, kept bees, bowled and curled through his late 80s and never threw anything out! He was a passionate fisherman and hunter (member of the Westkag Hunt Club on Manitoulin), loved boxing on TV, Yukon visits to see his son & family, his garden, poetry, but most of all – his family.
His grandchildren remember the hand-carved bird whistles, the magic Halloween pumpkins he grew with their names miraculously carved inthem and being taught the finer points of cribbage.
He was so much more than the frail old man, shuffling down the hallways at the Villa. He will be missed so much… but we know there are loved ones on the other side, welcoming him home.
Honouring Jim’s wishes, there will be direct cremation and no funeral. No flowers please.
Donations on Jim’s behalf to Paula Joan Riehl’s Memorial Fund (through the Yukon Foundation) would be appreciated. The fund assists under-privileged children embarking on international travel.