* A Photo-Tribute is forthcoming, please check back soon*
My Dad was born Feb 14 1943, to Blanche and Bob Parkes, in the village of Irby England, located in Northwest England. He was born at his Grandparents farm, where his 16 year old Mother, Edith Blanche (Tudor) lived while his 21 year old father, Bob, was off at war in the British infantry. His father was one of the blessed men who came home to his family after the war ended in 1945. As the war ended and the years moved forward, Dad had three younger siblings, Sylvia, Ken and Larry.
Work was scarce in England, and the family was sponsored by a friend to come to Canada in hopes of a better future. In 1955, the young Parkes family got on a ship and headed west to the docks of Montreal via the St Lawrence Seaway. When Dad was asked how long that voyage was, he couldn't recall, so his response was "seemed like a hell of a long time, and it was miserable! I was sicker than a dog"! The family was in Montreal for a little over a year. Grandpa was a house painter; Grandma was at home with the children. At this time they were a family of five (Larry hadn't been born yet) living in a one room apartment above a store, with another family of four. He recalled the mothers "bickering", sleeping on hard floors, and eating a lot of jelly sandwiches or bacon and its drippings on bread. Over the next few years, they migrated west by car as Grandpa could find work from town to town, at times living in the car. Dad remembered there was always a meal for the kids and his Dad but often his Mom would go without. They settled in Surrey, BC where Grandpa found permanent work. In 1959, Dad quit school. He was offered a paid apprenticeship position to become a journeyman carpenter. His parents needed some help with paying bills and he had an opportunity to learn a trade and help his folks.
In 1963, Dad met his future wife, Darlene. She was outside walking her two small children from her first marriage, Rose-Anne and Rick. Dad and a friend were riding their motorbikes and they went blasting past her and kicked up dust. Apparently, she was not impressed and cursed them both out. Dad came back to her to apologize, she asked for a ride and the rest became history! He proposed to her at a drive up A&W and they were married in January 1964. Mary-Lynne was born a year later and four years after that baby sister Elizabeth was born. Dad was supporting a wife and 4 children by age 26! He received his journeyman's certification, took on odd jobs and also worked the graveyard shifts as a guard at the maximum security BC Penitentiary for a couple of years. In the early 1970s he went on to work and teach carpentry skills to inmates in the rehabilitation program at the Matsqui medium security penitentiary. The program would build homes and transfer and install these homes throughout the interior region of BC onto Indigineous reservations.
Sometime in the mid 1980s, he started working for Allied Windows, Aluminum and Siding. He was a supervisor and was responsible for ordering, overseeing and at times, when "the young kids don't know what they're doing", installing large pieces of glass for windows into the numerous high-rises throughout the lower mainland of BC. This position would take him through to his retirement in 2009.
Over the years when asked about his life he was always humble and matter of fact about a lot of his experiences. Sharing his memories and thoughts he would open up sharing good, great, difficult, sad and bad times because real life is messy and Dad was a very down to earth person. He would say "Life hasn't always been very easy, but you just get on with it and make the best of what you're given, because every day is a good day". Dad was patient to a fault, throughout his life letting his heart rule over reason at times - likely too often for his own good. I've said that to him and he would agree with me, saying "Just trying to keep the peace". Dad was gentle, kind, humble, funny, dry humored, loving, social and always willing to listen, forgive and see the good in people or a given situation. If you met Dad, you either liked Dad, or you loved him! You simply couldn't help yourself. If he could help you out, he would. He always thought of others ahead of himself, he never wanted to be a bother.
He loved nature and bird watching, and he was an avid reader on all sorts of wildlife, particularly Canadian wildlife, wolves, polar bears and whales. He had a lot of literature and he could talk facts on many of these animals. He enjoyed reading and watching information on military history, from the two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. He retained facts and information and could have a good conversation about it. But not many knew how well read he was - he wasn't a showy man. If you asked, or started a conversation, then he would share what he learned through reading. He was very interested in current affairs, news, politics, and again, if you didn't really spend time with him, if you didn't try to engage in these topics, you'd never know how clever he was. He and my husband James had many conversations together about the military, James’ experiences and historical events that both my Grandfathers took part in. He was always interested in his son-in-law Frank's career as well, but situations didn’t afford them a lot of time together over the years to talk with each other. Dad could talk and definitely had his opinion on current political issues. He just never shared his opinion unless you started the conversation. He'd sit and listen to others first, then he might state his thoughts, if you showed him you were interested in how he felt. I never realized Dad was a hockey and football fan while growing up. He, James and at times our sons enjoyed sharing sporting events, live or TV. I said to him once, "Dad, I didn't know you were a sports fan?" and he responded with "Well, I was either too busy when you were all kids and later on, well, you know how your Mother was"! Then he'd laugh and say, “I hope she is not listening!”
Dad enjoyed camping and RVing. He, Mom and their dog Remi absolutely loved spending time together going places. A lot of times they'd head up to Hope from New Westminster for a weekend. They had good connections and friends that they'd meet up there. Dad told us often they would be "gifted" salmon from indigenous folks, which was actually illegal for them to have. He told us a story of clearing out his large plastic supply box on the back of the RV to fill it with river water and drove home with two live Salmon swimming in this box driving on the TransCanada highway back home. A famous quote from Dad before he’d start reminiscing was "Well, you know your Mother ..." Mom was definitely the spice in his life! They enjoyed exploring the Othello tunnels, trips to Cold lake Alberta to see the Juhasz family and trips out to Portage la Prairie, MB to see the Tutte family. One year they drove up to Green Lake BC to spend time at the original Tuttehut, I have great memories of that summer 1998!
In June 2008, Mom died from cancer. Mom never told anyone she had cancer but we all had our suspicions with how her health was declining. When asked, there was always another test being done, Dad couldn’t see it in her because she was his entire world.
Naturally, Dad did not cope well with Mom's death as he had no idea how to look after himself. Mom had done the cooking, shopping and all the day-to-day average tasks. She really was his whole world; they balanced, loved and nurtured each other in some way that many of us outside looking in couldn't comprehend. What they had in their 44 years together worked for them. Dad tried to grieve on his own and he struggled to endure and learn his new life alone. He pretended he was ok and he dragged himself through the motions of life for two years until he broke and was hospitalized.
After a little time to recuperate in hospital the Tutte crew along with Dad decided a fresh start was needed for him and he joined my family in Winnipeg. We welcomed him with loving open arms, and looked forward to years together to become reacquainted. It wasn't easy at first on any of us, and poor Dad was fairly sure he was going to become a snowman, but he discovered that you can actually survive winters in Winnipeg, especially with the warmth of family looking after each other. He lived with us for nearly a year and then he ventured out on his own.
In the 10 beautiful years we had up close with Dad and Papa, there were graduations, a wedding, Christmases, birthdays, anniversaries, sports games, board games, puzzles, laughter, laughter, laughter and yes some tears, for all sorts of reasons. Dad learned how to look after himself, shop, cook, do laundry, socialize and make new friends, particularly his best Manitoba friend and love, Pat! Pat is a beautiful kind gentle lady who filled my Dad's world with joy, company, friendship and love. She enriched his life – breakfasts at the Salisbury House, trips to Assiniboine Park, her homemade perogies and cinnamon buns, and their daily phone conversations. She was such a support for Dad and me during this last year. Dad would want me to tell everyone about her, and say, thank you with love Pat!
Dad battled and beat alcoholism, climbed out of debt and after 60 years, he quit smoking, cold turkey! He was very proud of these facts and we all were very proud of him for accomplishing these feats on his own. Dad decided he needed something more in his life so he worked part time as a greeter at Wal-Mart and he got himself all over Winnipeg - sometimes just for an outing - on the public bus system. He became determined, self assured and took pride in his life.
Dad was proud of his family and particularly his grandchildren. He would express at times that his hope was that "all my grandkids become independent thinkers for their own lives". As his battle with cancer was nearing the end this was a common expression for him. I told him I would pass that along to them.
Dad fought lymphoma for three years. He fought hard and tried all he could to gain extra time here on Earth. This last year was not an easy fight for him. The cocktail of drugs given to him to kill the cancer nearly killed him first, so radiation was tried. The areas that were treated were killed, but this cancer was so strong it simply started growing elsewhere. He never complained about pain, fatigue, frustration or exhaustion. He was a little tired but he smiled and was appreciative, kind and good natured to all of us around him and all the health care providers. He made "cancer friends" during treatments and it would get him down when one of the people he met suddenly stopped coming. He had to be scared, but he never showed it. He was only concerned that he was "needing too much help" from all the people around him. He refused to move into our home once again. He wanted to live at his own place for as long as possible and that is exactly what happened. He made these decisions with our support. He spoke openly, honestly and candidly about his life and end of life wishes. He wanted this very difficult journey to be as easy as possible for the rest of us. He didn't want to bother distant family "with my problems" he would say.
The last month of my Dad's life he shared or expressed thoughts about some of the people he held in his heart. I wrote some of these down in order to be sure they got said.
Quotes from Bob, Dad and Papa:
"I've never felt so important or so much love as I have these last ten years."
"I’m so proud of James and all he's learned and accomplished." (referring to do it yourself projects)
"Tell Mike and Shauna I'm sorry I never put another card in the mail to them, their daughter is a beauty."
“I sure would have loved to talk to Steven about the work he does."
“I’m so proud of the father Dave has become for Damien."
"I'm so thankful for Andrew and Tori’s wedding so I could see Rose, Gary, Damien and Dave. It would have been fantastic to see all of them (the Eheler family), oh well, maybe another time."
“Please tell "Babe" (Rose-Anne) I love her and thank her for always remembering me with pictures of the kids.”
“Tell Rob and Chantelle, they've always had my care my love and my respect.”
“Please thank Andrew, Brad and Nathan for putting up with me hanging around. It’s been great seeing them become men.”
"Damn it, I'm gonna miss Nathan and Mikhaela’s wedding."
"I am so happy for Andrew. I hope this helps his and Tori’s dreams come true.” (Referring to Andrew’s new job)
“Brads got a lot of adventure in him; it'll be interesting to see where life takes him.”
“Beth knows I love her. She's been a strong woman with Frank's career and her family is lucky to have her.”
“Please let Pat know how she filled my life."
"I wish I had tried to spend more time with my kid brother Larry, but I was too wrapped up in my own stuff.
"You are a strong woman, with a soft heart."
The last few days that Dad was still able to talk a bit, he spoke often of his family - his parents and siblins, Sylvia, Ken and Larry. It wasn't always coherent, but I knew where his heart was. His last words to me and James were "Love you guys". James likes to think that Dad's soul is with his good friend Ken Timbres, fishing somewhere! That sounds lovely and peaceful!
Rest in peace dear Dad, you will forever be tucked inside our hearts.
ETHICAL DEATH CARE
Cremation & Life Celebrations
530 St, Mary Avenue - Winnipeg
ROBERT ERIC PARKES
February 14, 1943 - August 25, 2020
Memories, Stories and Condolences
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