HARRISON, William Wesley “Wes”
1935 ~ 2021
It is with sadness that we announce the peaceful passing of Wes Harrison January 1, 2021 in Leduc Salem Manor at the age of 85 years.
Wes will be remembered by his wife, Shirley; sons, Rick (Kerri), Brian (Colleen); and daughter, Lori; as well as his loving grandchildren, nieces, nephews, relatives and friends. Wes is also survived by his brothers, Barry (Doreen) and Doug (Eleanor).
Wes was predeceased by his parents, WJ and Thelma; brothers, Alan, Gordon, Blaine; and niece, Darlene.
Wes and Shirley were school sweethearts, married in 1957, and celebrated 63 happy years together travelling the world with Imperial Oil and raising a family. Wes was a devoted husband, father, grandpa, and oilman and loved to contribute to the church and his community. After 37 years with Imperial Oil, Wes “retired” to community service work and was active in many areas including The Ambulance Society, The Lakeland Lodge and Housing, The Hospital Foundation, United Church Board and served as a councillor for the Town of Grand Centre for several terms, and many other volunteer boards and committees.
Summer fun included hours on the lake, enjoying the sunshine, driving the boat, and teaching the whole beach how to waterski. Winter was filled skidooing with the family and endless nights at the curling rink for league play, bonspiels and eventually competing at the NACA senior championship level. The family would like to recognize the excellent care Wes received at Salem Manor Nursing Home.
A private family memorial service will be held January 9, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. officiated by Reverend Leigh Sinclair. Those wishing to join by virtual attendance can find a link on the Serenity Funeral Service webpage in his obituary at www.serenity.ca or type in the following link in your web browser (https://distantlink.com/SerenityLeduc-Wetaskiwin.html). If you are attending the virtual service, the family has asked that everyone leaves their name in the condolence section on Wes’s online obituary.
Interment will be in the Harrison Family plot at the Graysville Manitoba Cemetery at a later date.
Memorial Donations may be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation (5241 Calgary Trail NW #144, Edmonton, AB T6H 5G8) Serenity Funeral Service Leduc (780.980.3688)
Eulogy – Wes Harrison
Wes was born August, 1935 to William John, WJ, and Thelma Harrison on the farm in Graysville Manitoba, near Carmen, 60 miles southwest of Winnipeg. He was the third of six boys, Alan, Barry, Wes, Gordon, Blaine and Doug. Farming in those days was the way of life for majority of people, including my dad and my moms family, the Coates. Each lived about 5 miles from Graysville, but not in the same direction.
Wes attended Graysville school where he excelled in many areas, grades, sports, friendships – and getting into trouble with the teachers,…. Mom says that Dad, even in early school years had that twinkle in his eye, the mischievous grin, the humor… And yes, that is where Mom and Dad first met –he was in grade 2 and she was in grade 1. It was here in Graysville that Dad seeded a lot of his life long friendships, including Peter Unrah with whom they maintained their friendship for 80 years. Dad loved people – and he was true to his friends and colleagues his entire life.
Farming in Manitoba in the 40s and 50s was hard work and you certainly did not get rich quick. Dad and his brothers were hard working farm boys, with Dad learning and honing his strong mechanical and problem solving aptitudes early in his teen years. This served him well his whole life, both in his personal life and career. In fact he entered and won the Manitoba Tractor Club provincial championship in the early 50s. Something about plowing a perfect furrow with a single bottom plow, backing up a hay wagon, taking apart a carburetor and reassembling it (and get the tractor to run), and a few other things. Pretty big thing the time in my opinion, considering everyone farmed. True to his nature I only discovered this story and his accomplishment very much later in my life. You see the prize for that Tractor Club championship was the tool box in the garage us kids used to repair our bikes and our cars as we grew up. It was in my teens I found the plaque that had long ago fell off the toolbox stating Manitoba Tractor Club Champion. Dad was not a boastful man. His actions were his reputation. By the way – he would not fix our broken bikes and cars – but simply point to the tool and teach us how to fix our own problems… We also had to clean the tool and put it back in the correct spot That’s one of my positive memories.
In 1954 at the age of 19 Dad followed the harvest west, planning to earn some extra money as a hired hand. Harvest was early all along the way so he came all the way to Alberta with Kenny Stephenson and Lyle Owen two adventurous friends from the Graysville area. Kenny was posted to Cold Lake base, and Dad and Lyle dropped him off there and proceeded to Devon Alberta where Dad had a distant cousin Harvey Harrison and a first cousin Betty who was married to Norm Stewart, an Imperial Oil employee. There was no work in Devon but Norm said head out to Drayton Valley where they had just discovered the Pembina field. 1954.
Boom town Drayton Valley in the mid 50s was skid shacks, mud and hard work – and Dad’s farm boy work ethic thrived. And there were good paying jobs. Dad got work with Mobil Oil. Brothers Barry and Alan followed him out with Barry and his wife Doreen establishing a family and career in Drayton Valley. Initially they all lived in a two room skid shack where they hot bunked working shift work. Dad applied for a permanent job with Imperial Oil and began his career with Imperial Oil in Devon in January, 1957.
On a long change days off in May of 1957 Dad went back to Graysville and married his school sweetheart Shirley. First born Rick came in 1961, with me Brian 1963 and Lori in 1969.
Dad had a successful 37 year career with Imperial oil. 1963 saw a move to Swan Hills with Dad transferring to the new Judy Creek Gas Conservation plant. Here he completed his instrumentation and electronics certificates. In the 13 years we were in Swan Hills Dad would advance his career to Foreman level. Dad and Mom were heavily involved in the growing community of Swan Hills contributing significantly to the United Church, curling club, putting us kids in hockey and figure skating, just to name a few. I know they left their mark on Swan Hills, the town and the people they touched. A transfer to Calgary working on the Beaufort Sea Tuk Gas project, and then an overseas Expat stint to Libya North Africa and finally to Cold Lake Alberta in 1980 where he was part of the Operations team to advance the Heavy Oil Pilot projects and ultimately the world class Imperial Oil Cold Lake Production Projects.
Dads professional life was mostly unknown to me until I started my career with Imperial oil in 1986. It was then that I began to realize the “size of his shoes – so to speak.” Many people who I crossed paths in my time at Imperial Oil and knew my Dad would expound his positive approach and contributions He mentored and influenced a lot of careers for a lot of people.
The 80s and 90s in Cold Lake are filled with many memories with Dad and Mom again heavily involved in the church, community and social activities. Boating in the summer teaching the whole beach how to water ski, and curling/bonspeiling in the winter. In 1992 Dad and Mom “retired” from Imperial Oil and Dad became even more involved in service to his church and community. Dad never campaigned nor went door to door – but was elected 3 terms to Grand Centre town council. His reputation, business acumen and personality is what got him elected. When they successfully voted to merge the three towns into the City of Cold Lake, Dad decided it was time for others to take the lead and “retired” from politics. In 2003 he was named Oilman of the Year for the Lakeland Oilman’s Society – a testament to his contributions to his service and community. I cannot remember all the committees and boards he volunteered for – there were so many: The United Church Boards, The Ambulance Society, Lakeland Lodge and Housing, the Hospital Foundation to name a few.
Dad and Mom also enjoyed a number of personal trips in retirement – Arizona with Pete and Jean Unrah, cross Canada in their RV with Jack and Pat Mills, and a memorable trip to Newfoundland, to name a few. Dad enjoyed seeing new people and new places. They even had a place in Arizona for a few years where Dad really enjoyed the hot weather.
In 2006 Dad and mom moved to Leduc, into their next phase of life where they continued with their service to the church and community.
Wherever they were Dad was never far from reaching out to family and friends and always keeping in touch. He attended as many Imperial Oil Annuitant club activities as they could and he was on the board as President and Past President for a number of years. Whenever they travelled dad would take the long way around to stop and visit some friend/past colleague or long lost family member in any of the towns that were near to where they were going.
Dad moved into Salem manor in 2016 after a stroke compromised his health. But he still had his twinkle in his eye, his keen wit and sense of humor. We enjoyed the last 5 years with his company even with his limitations.
In early 2020 mom was able to join Dad in the manor, in the same room. I remember asking him if he’d like mom to be his roommate now – he paused, thought a bit and replied “well I’m not sure – she probably still snores some…..”. Still had his wit, and twinkle in his eye.
Dad you were a good man. You touched many people in very positive ways. RIP.