Gerald Louis Rich passed away on May 10, 2017 at the age of 87 years, surrounded by his family.
He was born Nov. 17, 1929.
Gerald is survived by: his children, Juanita [Laurence], Greg [Jeannie], Crosby [Linda], Cynthia [Ken], Mary Lou [Rob], and Shawn [Rhonda]; his 15 grandchildren, Christopher, Michelle, Shawna, Kristen, Roy, Chance, Mandy, Jody, Danielle, Jamie, Sydni, Mac, Nigel, Lyndon and Cameron; his 27 great-grandchildren Kesha, Kelsi, Ethan, Nancy, Caul, Naomi, Dadon, Shayce, Shadon, Kyle, Kindra, Cassie, Callie, Jordyn, Gracey, Ryder, Zandyr, Traxtyn, Scotlynd, Aria, Kirsten, Kaylee, Keira, Lauren, Myles, Maria, Nick, and Liam; and one great-great-granddaughter, Ryaen.
He also leaves to mourn: his stepchildren Doug, Sharon and Brian and their families; his brothers Ken and Purdy; and his close friend, Connie.
That is quite a legacy that he has left.
He was predeceased by: his wife, Lorraine; his mother, Lucille; his father, Gere; his grandparents, Ernest and Eldya; his granddaughter, Tracy; and his uncle, Louis.
Gerald was raised by his grandparents, Ernest and Eldya Rich, and aunts and uncles, and came to High Prairie from Yakima Valley, Washington when he was six weeks old.
Gerald attended school at Prairie Echo and Poplar View. He only completed Grade 8, but he was successful and hardworking and far surpassed his formal education in knowledge and ability. He was always a math whiz, calculating in his head.
When he finished school, his first jobs were the building of the Alaska Highway, mill work, tree cutting and seismic.
He married Louisa Hayden in 1949. They raised six children on the Rich homestead north of High Prairie and they purchased it in 1954. This land was originally homesteaded in 1913 by the Richs.
While farming, Gerald usually had other jobs to supplement their income, while Louisa looked after things at home. Some of Gerald’s jobs over the years were: cutting and hauling pulpwood in Peavine and south of Valleyview, Ike’s Garage, Prairie Farm Assistance, crop insurance adjuster, and Alberta Rural Development Association. He was on the Wheat Board, Alberta Development Board, Slave Lake Basin Committee and Farming for the Future.
Because of his love and interest in the beef industry, he became part of the Peace River Stockgrowers and later on the Prairie River Feeders Association. He was also on the Heart River Housing Foundation Board for many years and was part of the building committee for the current Prairie Echo Hall.
In the late 1960s, Gerald, along with partners Rollie Johnson and George Bennett, founded the Delta Livestock Company, which bought and sold cattle.
Gerald and his sons, Greg and Crosby, started Rich Livestock Hauling in 1986. They hauled cattle as far south as Brooks, Alta. and as far north as Fort Vermilion and into eastern British Columbia.
Gerald first farmed on the old Rich homestead but when the course of the West Prairie River was altered it causing flooding. He purchased land that was higher and drier from his uncle, Louis Rich. This land was located in an incredible wooded area known as the Pines. On the north end of the property, adjacent to the Pines, Gerald and Louisa built a beautiful log home and started spending more time riding horses and going on trail rides with their close friends, the McKnights, Laughlins, and the Jenkins.
Eventually, Gerald and Louisa divorced. After several years, Gerald remarried Lorraine Janelle Halldorson on June 29, 1988 in a little church near Drumheller that “fits 1,000 people, but only sox at a time”. They shared many interests and a deep love.
In 1992, Gerald learned of his biological father, Gere Conrad, who lived in Yakima Valley. At that time, Gere traveled to High Prairie to meet Gerald and his family. Later on in the same year, Gerald and Lorraine traveled to visit Gere and his family in Washington. At this time Gerald and Lorraine were semi-retired and spent many happy years doing the things they loved: snowmobiling, quadding, old time dancing, and time out at the lake in their Winagami cabin.
Gerald really liked to fish and purchased a boat. He was always looking for someone to go out on the water with him to fish. Gerald and Lorraine’s favourite pastime was traveling and purchasing antiques, often at auctions. Gerald could never pass up a good bargain. One time they had over 300 hurricane lamps that they had collected. That could have been because Lorraine’s favourite comment at an auction was, “Just one more bid, we might get it.”
They also spent many fun times with their good friends, Don Gordon and Ruby Calliou. Sadly, Lorraine developed dementia in 2009 and passed away in 2012.
After Lorraine passed away, Trapper, Gerald’s four-legged companion, was of great comfort to him. It was comical to watch Gerald and Trapper. He would set a piece of bacon on his knee, and wait to see what Trapper would do. As Trapper got closer, he would ask him, “You wouldn’t steal a senior citizen’s bacon, would you?”
At this time, Gerald sold his home and cabin and bought an RV trailer and started camping in Joussard. Gerald lived in the lodge for a short while but found it wasn’t for him, so he moved to Joussard and lived with Greg and Jeannie, where he enjoyed his cattle, time outdoors and time with Trapper.
Over the last weeks when Gerald was in the hospital, his children began to write down some of the lasting memories they had of their father:
* Dad worked hard all of his life and instilled a good work ethic in all of his kids.
* Moonshine adventures under the guidance of Mike Kushner.
* Gatherings and fun times with the Laughlin family.
* Meals and time spent with the Joe and Harvey Lizee families.
* Our first TV in 1964 when dad loved watching Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday night, and Ed Sullivan and Bonanza on Sunday nights. Hawaii 5-0 was another of his favourites.
* When the weather came on TV at supper time, the kids learned quickly to cease conversation at the table so that dad could check the forecast.
* His children always appreciated their dad’s humour. Lots of laughter remembered by all of them.
* Our world was much smaller back then and we had a close relationship with several of our nearest neighbors: Rosie and Bubbin Cox, Mike and Hilda Poloz, Nick and Mary Kosar, and the Marx families.
* There was always room for another person at the table and his kids always knew that if someone needed a meal or a place to stay they could bring them home. Some of them stayed and became a part of the family: Rick Jackson, Tom McNabb, Jerry Northcott, Roger Gauthier, foster children Angus Courtoreille and Gail Belcourt.
* His long stride and his quick step. It will be hard to fill his boots.
* Rogers’s Golden Syrup and margarine mixed together on his dinner plate and spread on bread for dessert.
* Joining him in the field for meals and always letting us dig behind his truck seat for a treat. Sometimes we would find a treat that we couldn’t have.
* When dad would give us tea he always gave us a choice of long tea or short tea.
* Phenomenal talent of stringing together colourful words not found in the dictionary, when working with the cattle.
* His self-taught building and repair skills.
* His beautiful blue eyes.
Gerald left this world a better place which is evident when you see his many traits within his children. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends.
The funeral for Gerald Rich was held May 15 at St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church in High Prairie with Rev. George Okoye officiating. Words of remembrance were delivered by Robert Nichol. The cross bearer was Kristin Rich; candle bearers were Michelle Smith and Shawna Billings.
Pallbearers were Jody Cox, Mac McCue, Nigel Nichol, Cameron Rich, Chance Rich, Lyndon Rich, Jamie Rich and Christopher Strebchuk. Honourary pallbearers were Sydni McCue, Roy Nielson and Tracy Rich.
Interment followed in St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church Cemetery in High Prairie.