|Don celebrated his 90th
birthday on March 14, 2004 with many family and friends. He remained
active and independent until a few days before he passed away November
1, 2005 with double pneumonia.
Below are rememberances of his youngest brother Murray, posted here for its historically significant content that provides a look into life and people in Saskatchewan in the 1930s.
|December 1, 2005
To all of Don's family,
Knowing how my brother's death & related events affect me - that tells me something of how you, who have other kinds of closeness to him, are affected.
As someone living far from Weyburn, I want to tell you how much my son Don & I appreciated those days, after November 1, together there with you.
Death comes with its certainty, but with time-of-arrival left vague. Even as the calendar tells us something of its approach, when the sad moment arrives we have to deal with it as best we can. Which means with all the human warmth we can muster.
Like most, my son & I have long periods of preoccupation with the tribulations of life, so to the clan in the west we in Montreal & Halifax are rather distant folks. The summer of 2002, when we came west with his family to celebrate Don's 50th/my 75th year, would have reminded you that this does not put you at a safe distance from the occasional descent from the Montreal-Halifax outposts. And now, during the 1st week of November, the extended family shared our sadness. Douglas family shortcomings notwithstanding, we're not such a bad bunch. Don & I felt a great warmth from you, a valued feeling to receive.
Having both a brother & a son named Don leads at times to confusion. Given the prominence of the French language where I live, I fell into the habit of dealing with that confusion by referring to them as 'Don frere' & 'Don fils'. It's hard to give up one of those.
It's nice that one of his grandchildren, David Lindsey Shaw Douglas, carries on the 2nd name of 'Don frere'. A memorable name that is - the maternal grandfather of 'Don frere', builder of that impressive long red sheep barn that was a landmark far & wide, that my generation grew up with. That in 1999 Ross & Bruce recorded for posterity on those great mugs commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the 1899 establishment by Albert H. Shaw of the Shaw's Ranch farm.
As for the 1st of the given names of 'Don frere', up to my son Donald James there has been a 'Donald' in every generation of the Douglas family. From my Uncle Don (eldest son of our grandparents John Henry & Clara Jane Douglas, eldest brother of my father William Wallace Douglas), going back into the Scottish mists of time. So maybe one of you will decide to keep that string going. Speaking of names, after the big brother of my generation, Albert Bruce Douglas, it's Albert Edwin Douglas & Devon Albert Douglas who share the honor of keeping that link to Albert H. Shaw going, now for 4 generations.
When you are the 'baby' in a family of 5 brothers, very early on you get very used to having brothers. Of these, the #1 & #3 brothers, Albert & Jack, had the bad luck to die prematurely, neither quite making it to 60yrs. Until 2004 it felt good that of the original 5, with Elmer, Don & me still around there were 3 of us keeping each other company. With the death last year of my closest brother, & now of my oldest brother, that leaves me feeling particularly lonely.
The end of the days of D.S.Douglas after a long eventful life, rich in the true sense of the term, had been clearly marching towards us. There was his 90th birthday, for which we had that wonderful celebration in 2004. Certainly 'Don frere' saw it's approach clearly, as to me he often referred to having lived too long. A statement which confirms that not everything my brother said was right!! During that long life he would have made mistakes, like everyone of us does. Albert Shaw was prone to unjustified strong opinions, a trait which 'Don frere' & I were not free of. But whatever his mistakes, those were secondary because I saw, & I felt, the warm & generous actions he made so freely during his life. As a thoughtful & ever helpful son to his parents & mine, Clara & Will Douglas, parents who had a damned difficult life now largely forgotten. Don as Evelyn's steadfast, caring husband from the age of 21. As father/grandfather/great-grandfather/uncle to those around him, in the innumerable ways that only you can know.
Among the accomplishments of his life, Don forged with his 'big' brother Albert a truly remarkable, close partnership that carried them successfully through the immensely difficult economic circumstances of the 'dirty thirties'. A partnership with which I lived, grew up in &, most important, learned from. A partnership that worked exceptionally, providing the basis to start the considerable expansion of the original farm. It worked right up to that sad day of Albert's premature death in the spring of 1971. When the pair long known around the McTaggart district simply (as earlier had been painted on the side of their truck) as the "Douglas Brothers" had been farming together, from 1931, for an impressive 40 yrs. From the time of Albert's funeral I will never forget the emotion in Don's voice when he said 'goodbye' to his brother, his partner of by then 57 yrs.
With the tough times he grew up in, Don of course had no contact then with university. Yet in 1944, along with Albert, he actively encouraged me to go to Queen's to study something called 'chemical engineering', which neither he nor I really knew anything about. But with their sound instincts, Don & Albert encouraged me that this was the thing to do, & that the cost would somehow be managed. Their confidence in me made me feel good when summer job savings got me through 3 yrs without a penny from them. But they were there when I was short for my final year. I sent them (whom I hadn't seen for 3 years) my statement of savings & cost projection, & rec'd by return mail 2 cheques, in equal amounts, each covering half the shortfall. The 'Douglas Brothers' in joint action - as Don & Albert always were. I believe that his contribution to building this exceptional partnership, which still today leaves its benefits to his descendents, is one of Don's great human accomplishments.
Here's a couple of tidbits from my life with 'Don frere' - from the era of my disappearing generation. Tidbits from when Chrissie was a young girl & the rest of you had not yet seen the light of day.
Don was the big brother who passed to me a most important 'companion' of my young days - my pony Daisy. Originally a gift to him from Granddad Shaw, Don later gave Daisy to me. Daisy, who got me to Actonvale school daily, & who is remembered decades later by teachers who (as Chrissie knows) don't remember me!! Upstaged by my own pony!!! Daisy got me 5 miles to McTaggart for my weekly piano lesson with Mr. Bruce Robinson, L.L.C.M. Got me to sleepovers (a term which didn't then exist) in the farm homes of my friends Albert McKeague, Les Rainey, Alec Muller, Nelson Hay, Eddy & Teddy Obst, Rob & Art Weber... In the collection of photos at the reception in the church after the memorial service you saw the one of Don as a boy riding Daisy. The Daisy he later gave to me.
Another tidbit - this one a private financial transaction between 'Don frere' & me, in about 1934 or 35, when I was 7 or 8. Don offered to pay me 5 cents per gopher tail for the gophers I killed, when he knew perfectly well that the going market price was 1 cent/tail. You will know many examples, rather more substantial ones, of the generosity of my brother - but they still won't beat his '5 cents to 1' generosity in those difficult times.
For no particular reason, except to include a story from the modern era, I recall an amusing little incident from the year 'Don frere' bought his Blazer - before SUVs had become commonplace. I was in Weyburn, & as usual Don took this as an excuse to arrange a family dinner get-together. Afterwards, on a warm summer evening, we were all out on the street walking to our various parked cars. Don stopped to climb into his brand new shiny, red Blazer SUV. His grandson Greg, surprised & impressed to see such a snazzy car just purchased, came out with something to tease his grandfather with: "Looking for a girl friend, eh!!!!"
With the 1st good crop Don & Albert harvested they traded in our father's aging 1923 Essex for a beautiful new dark green 1934 Ford V8 4-door sedan. The car Don used to court Evelyn. That Albert used to court Chrissie. That Don & Evelyn used on June 28, 1936 to drive to their secret wedding in Medicine Lake, Montana (secret, to protect Evelyn's job as a nurse in those by-gone sexist days). Right to his final choice, that lovely red Blazer, 'Don frere' never lost his sharp eye for a sharp car. A tendency carried on (exaggerated?) by his namesake nephew, Don.
They say people reveal themselves in small things. Like in the above tidbits. In this category from my brother's life, I attach an email from Steve Douglas - Elmer & Yvonne's oldest grandson, son of the 'Calgary' Murray, companion of Julie Daniel, father of their 2 kids Jessica & Joel. I also rec'd an email from Steve's kid brother Layne (now a Master of Social Work student @ Dalhousie U) which recalled his Uncle Don in much the same fond way. Steve's & Layne's memory of their Uncle Don is one of those revealing small things.
We all have our 'particularities' - the term with which someone who knows me well has used in referring politely(?), (pointedly, is more like it) to my faults. My brother Don had his particularities. But any of us would be doing well if, at the end of our days, we could be recalled with as many lasting accomplishments & generosities, big & small, as for D.S Douglas.
From the first days of January 1931, to November 1, 2005 - that's 75 spring seedings, 75 fall harvests, that this dedicated man of the soil watched over. As he once said goodbye to his big brother Albert, I now say a sad but proud farewell to my last big brother, Don. He made me a most lucky guy.
|November 5, 2005
I'm sorry to learn of Uncle Don's passing and wish I would have sent this email prior to his funeral today.
I don't recall how old I was when our family went to visit the "Weyburn Clan" ( 10-12 ish maybe?) but to this day I still have a strong memory of him. Uncle Don will forever be known to me as the fella that "made those awesome burgers" for us.
We arrived in the middle of the afternoon and were invited to stay for dinner. Uncle Don went to the basement, brought up a box from the freezer and proceeded to flame broil up the best burgers ever. And one was not enough in his mind for a teenage boy. He made sure I had two and likely would have shoved one in my pocket for the ride back to the camp site if he knew Mom wouldn't have busted me for eating them out of house and home. I can still taste them today as I share this with you.
A simple memory but one that shows the impression his friendliness left on me some 15+ years ago.
Please know that this next generation Douglas Clan is with you in spirit today.
Steve, Julie, Jessica, and Joel