Obituary – Virgil Conrad Garrett
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With sadness, we announce the death of Virgil Conrad Garrett, 97, on August 26, 2019 at Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital in Perth, ON. Virgil was born at home on April 3, 1922 in Zealand, ON to William and Myrtle Garrett, their second of three children. There was a spring snowstorm and his Dad took the buggy over to fetch his Aunt Jessie to help with the birth.
Virgil went to the local one room schoolhouse Oso SS Number 3, just up the road from his parent’s farm in Zealand. In the 1930s, all the school kids participated in an annual school fair sponsored by the T. Eaton Company of Toronto. They grew various grains and raised a calf, which they walked to and from Zealand to the fair in Sharbot Lake, about 7 miles, a long way with a less than cooperative calf. In 1931 Virgil was named Champion Pupil for his area. Since there was no high school in those days, most pupils from local farms finished Grade 8 and started working.
The summer after Virgil finished Grade 8, he was sent to stay with his Great Aunt and Uncle, Arthur and Marion Rooks on their farm outside Napanee. The Rooks had no children of their own and were happy to have a young lad to help out. This is where Virgil learned all about beekeeping, since Arthur Rooks had 178 hives of bees on his property at that time. That was the summer he also learned to play baseball and he came back home with plans to start a local ball team. Over the winter he made a bat out of wood and a ball out of twine and leather. And the next summer the local Zealand boys started playing ball. He and his cousin Harris also decided to become beekeepers and ordered a hive each, which were shipped to them by train. They borrowed a honey extractor from John Conboy. Virgil’s hive was mild-tempered and didn’t produce much honey. Harris’ hive, on the other hand was aggressive, but produced a lot of honey. After that summer, Harris decided beekeeping was not his thing and sold his hive to Virgil who went on to have almost 50 hives at Roscoe’s farm. He sold the honey locally and enjoyed taking little jars of it around to the local seniors in Sharbot Lake.
In 1943, romance blossomed, when Virgil met a new public school teacher, Beryl Sansome, at a dance in Sharbot Lake. Things moved along and in 1947, they married. Needing a steady job, Virgil joined the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1948 where he worked as a bridge carpenter on the Toronto Bridges and Building gang for 9 years, commuting to Toronto during the week. He also started building a house in Sharbot Lake. Since Virgil had a wood lot, he and his brother Roscoe cut his trees and brought them over to his cousin Ralph’s sawmill where they sawed and milled them. Virgil started work on the house in 1949 and moved into it in 1953 with Beryl and their new baby daughter Anne.
Soon Virgil and Beryl had a second daughter, Jane, and he started looking for a job closer to home. He had heard that the janitor at the new high school was retiring and thought that might be a good opportunity for work near home. So, he went to talk to the Principal, who convinced him to go back to high school with the goal of becoming a teacher himself. Virgil finished grades 11 and 12 in 1957 at the age of 35. He then did a two-year Industrial Arts program at the Ontario College of Education in Toronto, graduating in 1959. He went on to teach Industrial Arts at Sharbot Lake High School (extending his qualifications with a specialist certificate in 1965) until his retirement in 1984.
Virgil always had a project (or two) on the go. In the early 60s he was talking to a fellow teacher in Perth who suggested he should buy a Model T Ford and restore it. While the Tin Lizzie he bought, was mostly complete, it was missing some parts and wasn’t running. Over the years, he scoured the local area for missing pieces, while he worked on restoring it and getting it running. He re-upholstered the seats, found running lights and other missing pieces, cleaned up the body work and rebuilt the engine. His last ride in it was in 2016 up to the Legion for the celebration of 70 years as a Mason.
Virgil was always a strong supporter of his community. He served as a volunteer fireman, was a lifetime member of the choir at Sharbot Lake United Church, and President of the 39ers Seniors Club. He was to be seen most Saturdays at the Farmer’s Market by the beach. He joined the Frontenac Masonic Lodge in 1946 and, after his retirement, was the Deputy District Grand Master. He also achieved higher degrees of Masonry within the York Rite.
Virgil taught generations of students the importance of safety in the shop and there are probably a lot of fingers still on hands as a result. Like all good teachers, he enjoyed figuring out what motivated each individual to learn. As much as possible, he let students choose their projects and guided them in techniques to a successful end result. There are numerous homes in the area with hand-crafted wooden clocks, gun cabinets, tables, sewing tables, corner cupboards, chairs, and even a violin, all made during Virgil’s regular classes or at night school.
Virgil was pre-deceased by his wife Beryl in 2017 and his brother Roscoe and sister Buelah in 2015. He is survived by his daughters Anne Garrett (Peter Jarvis) and Jane McFarlane (Ian), his grandchildren Duncan McFarlane (Cecilia Livingston), Heather McFarlane and Stuart McFarlane, his nephews and nieces Marion Clark, Peter Garrett, David Peterson and Lorraine Jaffray.
Visitation will be Saturday August 31st at 11am at Goodfellow’s Funeral Home in Parham, ON followed by a Funeral Service at 12pm, Rev. Jean Brown officiating. Donations to Sharbot Lake United Church or a charity of your choice would be appreciated by the family.