Remembering Dad, who is the reason we are at the Manse


This photo of Dad was taken not long before he died, for a newspaper article about the stone fence that he was building up at the family farm at Gelert in Haliburton County. It captures his kindliness and his open spirit, and I will be forever grateful to reporter/photographer Lance Crossley for taking it.

Today has been a hard one, because it comes with the burden of sad memory. It was 10 years ago this day – Dec. 11, 2004 – that my dad, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, died. My mind has kept flashing back to that terrible December day of his sudden death, to how the shock and grief instantly overwhelmed the lives of my mum, Lorna, and my sister and brothers and me.

us six at the Manse

My family – Dad, Mum and us kids, from left me, Melanie, John and Ken – in the Manse years.

But one of the most important things you can do when a loved one dies, both for yourself and to honour that loved one, is to keep front of mind all the good memories you have of your times together. And that’s mainly what I was thinking about as I drove home to the Manse in little Queensborough tonight after work, welcoming the quiet of the car and the darkness around me to just think about Dad. And especially to think about all the good times our family had right here at the Manse, where we moved when he was a young man and a newly ordained United Church minister and, as I’ve said before, all the world was young. Tonight as I drove past the row of old maple trees out on Queensborough Road west of the village, I was thinking about all the early-spring evenings back in those days of the 1960s and early ’70s when Dad would bring his half-ton truck and a truckload of kids – his own and a bunch of others from the neighbourhood (there’s a photo in this post that should give you an image of that) – to gather sap from those trees, which he tapped every spring to make maple syrup.

shovelling snow

That’s me (in the orange coat), my younger brother Ken, my dad, and Finnigan the dog shovelling snow at the Manse back in the early 1970s.

If it weren’t for Dad, I wouldn’t be on this earth, of course; but more specifically, if it weren’t for Dad having been posted here when he became a minister, I would not have grown up in Queensborough – and I would not have returned here, to this same village and this same house, as an adult, many years later.

Things happen for a reason, don’t they?

I think mainly what I’d like to say tonight is how much I have appreciated, in the almost three years since Raymond and I bought the Manse, the memories that people in the area have been kind enough to share with me about my dad. So often those memories are of him pitching in and helping out in this rural farming community. Pitching in, helping out, and working very, very hard are what Dad was all about, as I wrote in this piece about him. I’ve heard about the time he helped out one farmer, laid up and unable to work, by cleaning all the manure out of the barn. About how he was in the thick of the mess and gore, doing what had to be done, after a horrible fire destroyed a barn and the livestock in it. About him up on the roof of a maple-syrup boiling-house in his “minister clothes,” doing repairs. About him trying to find a way to make sure the long-haired hippie kids at the Rock Acres Peace Festival were doing all right. About him teaching a very nice young couple of back-to-the-land city folk the old-fashioned art of cutting hay with a scythe.

I hear stories like that all the time. My dad is remembered fondly around here by those who knew him. Those stories are a gift, appreciated more than people probably know even as they share them with me.

And Dad’s life was in turn a gift to those around him. His kindness and faith and good humour, his intellectual curiosity and rigorous honesty, his hard work and ever-present willingness to help, made him a friend to many, and a model to more. I am so very proud of him.

And happy, this night, to be in the place where once upon a time, when all the world was young, he brought his young family to live and grow. The Manse was a happy, happy place in those times. I hope it brings Dad joy to know that it still is.

8 thoughts on “Remembering Dad, who is the reason we are at the Manse

    • Doris, thank you for your kind words. I was so pleased to hear from you, especially since you knew my dad from way back when he was just starting out in Queensborough.As for the power of sharing memories – well, we both know about that, don’t we?

  1. My Dad died on New Year’s Eve 2003, and I still miss him, especially when I go back to the farm in Saskatchewan where his spirit inhabits every field and tree. I sympathize with you, Katherine.

    • Thank you so much, Elinor, and my sympathies to you in return. I know exactly what you mean about the spirit of your father being in every field and tree; it is just like that at our farm. A little bit sad, but also joyous, really; I’m sure our dads, who both loved their farms, would be – and are – happy that we still find their spirit there.

  2. What a good picture of your Dad Katherine. I remember when your Dad and Allan would do some work together , Bobbie always called them the Preacher and the Bear. It is a sad time of year to lose someone. Christmas always makes me lonely for Bernice and Bobbie.

    • Oh, Barb, I miss Bernice and Bobbie too. Last Sunday in church at St. Andrew’s, where Raymond and I sit in the middle fairly far to the front, I found myself thinking that if I just looked back over my right shoulder I’d see Ken and Bernice sitting there. Somehow I felt that she was there with our little congregation in spirit. (And meanwhile, Bobbie must have been in the choir in spirit!) It is so good to have pictures and happy memories of our loved ones, and you brought back one such happy memory of my dad with “the Preacher and the Bear.” Thank you!

  3. This is my 3rd contribution to your blog tonight but I couldn’t let it wait even if I have to get up in 4 hours. I’m pretty sure I knew your dad. I’m glad I went through the various sections of your site until this one because the wonderful photo of your dad pretty well confirms my contention. In the late 1990s and early 2000s my daughter and I did wedding videos in the Cobourg and Port Hope area. We did 2 weddings at Canton United Church in the Village of Canton just north of Port Hope. At both those ceremonies, a Reverend Sedgwick was the officiate. When I saw your name and started contributing to Meanwhile, at the Manse several months ago, I wondered if there could be a relationship and now that I’ve investigated your blog enough to arrive at this page and see your father’s photo, I’m pretty certain he’s the guy. And now to sleep – goodnight.

    • Well my goodness gracious – how about that? Yes indeed, my dad, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, was the minister at the Hope Township pastoral charge – with churches in the hamlets of Welcome, Garden Hill and, yes, Canton – for 11 years prior to his retirement in 1997. I am so tickled that you met him, Douglas!

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