The Influencers: My Grandfather

My Grandfather was a “Southern gentleman” from North Carolina who brought his well-honed tobacco-growing skills to Canada at a time when the industry was just starting up.  There he met my grandmother, married and established several farms on the rich sandy soils of southern Ontario.  He always supported the church and went for Sunday drives around the countryside in his Cadillac.  He never seemed to get mad, loved squirrel-hunting in the local woods and fishing in the nearby reservoir.  Sometimes he took the whole family out to Long Point  on Lake Erie on the “Lazy ‘D’”, his small cabin cruiser which he was quite proud of.  He was a man who loved life, always getting up at the crack of dawn to “get that fresh air before someone else did.”

One of the things I remember most about my grandfather was that, as a farmer, he always did everything himself.  On a farm it’s much quicker to do that than wait for help from a nearby town, so you learn to fix everything yourself and be independent.  I think I inherited some of his thirst for learning different skills, and I owe him for opening my mind in that way.

Grandad was lucky; he sold his farms and retired to a small town just before the bottom fell out of the tobacco industry.  Before he moved to his new house he had several spruce trees from his farm’s woodlot milled up into planks, which he then used to panel his family room and make furniture with.  I personally thought this was the coolest thing, and started making stuff myself in my basement.  He bought me my first drill, which I still have, and gave me his old skillsaw, which I used until it died.  It was my grandfather who I credit with inspiring me to make furniture at a young age, which I eventually turned into a career.

I can still hear his slow-talking Southern drawl whenever I think back on the wonderful times we grandkids had on the farm.   He was a great man who was well respected in the community, always willing to help and never shying away from a task.  He was just as comfortable in tar-stained overalls as he was in a white suit and Fedora.  I learned so much from him and feel fortunate to have had such a solid role model in my life.  He’s been gone for 35 years but will always be with me.  Thank you for everything, Cooper DeMent!