Sunday, November 4, 2012

Granddad Orr

My dad's dad was an amazing man.  He had a very gentle spirit.  He had come to Canada as a small child from England and settled near Oungre, right by the US border.  His parents homesteaded and his mother ran a store while his father was a carpenter.  In fact, my grandfather came from a long line of carpenters.  When he was in his early teens, H.A. Rogers came by and held a gospel meeting and he was baptized, as were his parents.  Brother Rogers operated a market garden and he worked for him for a time, and was mentored by him.  He travelled with him for a time, and then would preach and lead singing. He loved singing and could sing through the hymn book. (Grandpa's sister, Nellie, married H.A. Rogers' son, Alonzo.)

Grandpa worked as a carpenter, as his father had, and supported himself but also travelled throughout southern Saskatchewan, serving the church.  He married my grandmother on July 14, 1930. My dad was born in Minton in 1931, but they also lived in Horse Creek, Radville, Perryville area, Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, Biggar, Wawota and Vancouver.  I'm sure I missed some communities.  He helped organize the first Bible schools held in rural Saskatchewan - the first one was held in Minton and also served on the first board of directors for Radville Christian College.  He built most of the homes that they lived in; my cousin and his family still live in the home he built in Saskatoon.

All of this was while he was still a young man.  When I knew my grandfather he was much older.  He suffered at least two strokes and a heart attack, and eventually died from a reoccurence of the cancer that he had some years earlier. He was always very quiet, and had a dry sense of humour.  He would say something that was really quite funny, but if you didn't catch it, he'd never let on.  He was really, really good at crokinole - he had practiced for hours after his strokes so that he could get his fine motor control back.  He also was ambidextrous.  He likely started out being left-handed but had that whipped out of him at school when he was forced to switch to his right hand.  However I do know that he would hammer with one hand and if it got tired or if it was more convenient, he'd switch to the other hand without even really noticing.

He was a bit of a picky eater.  He didn't eat any sort of poultry.  I think that was as a result of being a travelling preacher during the depression, when you could always kill a chicken to feed a guest.  As well, having esophageal cancer meant that he had difficulty swallowing and for many years lived off the really healthy milkshakes that Grandma made for him.  However, he also had a nervous stomach, and would be sick to his stomach before every time he preached.  It's really amazing then to think that he preached all the time from his early teens to his death; many times preaching 3 or 4 times on a Sunday. He was also very shy - it was very difficult for him to preach; but he really felt that he was called to do so.  For many years he also preached on the radio - he converted many people not only through the gospel meetings that he held but also through his radio preaching.

Grandpa really knew his Bible. I remember one time at Heritage Camp when we were all memorizing James 1.  It was my job to copy out the chapter so that it could be posted on a tree, so that as we were doing our chores or whatever, we could learn the next verse.  I copied it out and took it to Grandpa to show him.  He didn't have a Bible in hand, but he read down it, and pointed out that I had missed a verse - and then quoted the missing verse to me! Grandpa and Grandma read the Bible together at the breakfast table every morning, and he spent many hours in the word - reading it, and studying it.

Grandpa loved and was loved by many, many people.  When I first started teaching, I met many older people who told me how they had been converted by my grandfather and felt that they owed a great deal to him.  He was really good at maturing people in Christ.  He had a great deal of wisdom.  Although he was limited by his poor health for much of his later years, he didn't let it slow him down.


Ian said...

Wilfred Orr was the preacher in Saskatoon for a short while when the church building was on 8th Street. I remember him picking me up to go berry picking east of Sutherland and he could spot Saskatoon bushes way before I could. It was his way of relaxing and getting away from the city for a short while, but at the same time I gained a lot of respect for someone who would take time to include me in an outing like this.

John Orr said...

Thanks May

I remember a few things about grandpa but one which goes with your story about heritage. When Grandpa was on his death bed literally I was working in Yellowknife and mom asked me to come down and see Grandpa before he passed on. I came down to Wawota and Grandma asked me to go in and read from the scriptures to Grandpa who at the time was not lucid all the time. I don't recall the scripture but as I read I missed a line and Grandpa who I thought was asleep reached out to touch my leg to tell me that I had missed the line.

When I travelled as a young man as part of a singing group from WCC I was approached by many people across western Canada and north western states telling me of how Grandpa had helped them in their walk with God.

dormit in pace