By Susan Weisenburger
I can’t believe it has been nearly twenty years since my father in law left his beloved farm in northern AB to make a new home here closer to his children. Ray says that life has a way of marching on in good ways despite hardship that may befall us. The main thing is for families to stick together and stay connected.
Raymond Rudolph Walter was born as the first child on the first day of the year 1936 in Huxley, AB. His grandfathers had immigrated to Canada from North Dakota and Romania. He enjoyed farm life as a boy but his father dreamed of something better for his children. It has been said, “You can take the boy off the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the boy”. This would prove true for Ray. Despite several years of training and working as a teacher Ray longed for his own land. He was determined and able to make that dream become a reality.
In 1955 Alberta was in short supply of teachers. At 19 Ray attended “a one year crash course” in teacher training in Calgary and then went out to work for a few years into the rural communities of Arthurville, Wimborne and Torrington. Realizing he could use a little extra support Ray went back to extend his training in 1959. It was then that he met Faye Watson at an Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship event on the university campus. He remembers being invited to her 18th birthday party in Jan, 1960. Her parents were pastoring a Church of the Nazarene in south Calgary. Ray and Faye were married in July 62′ and lived in Calgary while Ray finished up a four year degree and Faye received her teaching certificate.
Ray’s younger brother Norman was also a farmer and was feeling the squeeze for land in the Huxley area. After the Hutterites had bought up large portions of land in the area Norm found it hard to find ways to expand his farm. In 1962 he took a trip up north to the Peace River country and decided to apply for a homestead. In 63′ he moved on a quarter section of land in Cleardale, AB. Ray went to visit Norman and look over the opportunities for himself. He looked at a half section that had just been put up on a homestead sale. In this case a person did not need to live on the land but had to clear a certain amount in 3 or 4 years in order to secure a Homestead Sale of Agreement. The whole application process took a year but the young couple eventually received word that they had got it! Ray and Faye could not secure teaching positions in Calgary anyway at the time so in 1964 so they relocated to Grande Prairie, AB. Faye’s parents and Ray’s widowed mother would come with them.
Everyone was employed as teachers in Grande Prairie while working the land over the summer holidays in 65′ and 66′. At that point Ray went farming full time and over 30 years the family established homes on five quarter sections of land with mixed farming between Spirit River and Rycroft, with an additional three quarter sections further west. Ray had acquired and broke this into agricultural land between 78′ and 96′. My husband has many memories of helping his dad and his partner Michael Parlee pick rocks and roots in that endeavour!
Tragedy befell the family in June, 1995. Faye had continued her teacher education as well over the years and was then working as principal of the Spirit River Elementary School. When she failed to meet Ray out west with supper during seeding he retraced her usual route to find her. He discovered she had been tragically murdered in the school. Life was marching on a path no one could have ever predicted or quite know how to handle.
All three of Ray and Faye’s children were living and working in the Edmonton area. I had pastored at the First Church of the Nazarene and the whole family had established lasting connections to that congregation. Daryl and I were building a new home in Spruce Grove. Ray remarried a lady from the church whose family had also settled in Spruce. Rays says, “My kids brought me to this area. It was a big change in life for me. I came here to be near my family”. He moved to an acreage north of Spruce in Nov 1996 and then into a senior independent living complex – Villas on the Links – in April of 1999. He says he could never stand the cement jungle of the city and enjoys living on the edge of the golf course. Most people enjoy the Villas although some move because they want more independence and choice around family obligations, while others come to that place in life when they move to receive added care. Ray and Shirley have enjoyed their home at the Villas for over 19 years.
Although the couple live in Spruce Grove much of their life has been lived in Edmonton because of their close association with the church. Ray has kept busy with church boards, farm work in Namao, repair work at the church camp in Harmatten, local church gospel concerts, high school music concerts directed by his son Daryl, as well as serving on the board of directors for the Homeowners of Links Association. Ray now has 7 grandchildren of his own and also serves his new family faithfully with issues around special needs. Becoming snowbirds has never appealed to them although Ray and his brother Gordon once took two months to visit their sister Linda living in Papua New Guinea while working with the Wycliffe Bible Translators.
And there is also Lucy, a long-haired deer chihuahua that Ray arranged a shared custody agreement over. He couldn’t bear to have Daryl and I sell Lucy when she felt like too much and so he arranged to share her. Lucy is loved in both homes and is another way Ray finds to stay connected to his son here in Spruce. They have a good visit each weekend upon pickup.
Ray is a man of faith and would testify that God has been faithful and has made a way for him through the hard times. Life is still good and he feels blessed.
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