January 16, 1922 – January 29, 2016
Leslie Pitt was born on January 16, 1922 in Toronto, Ontario. He was the oldest of his siblings who included Harry, Irene, and Bert. He lived near Eugenia in his early years, but the family eventually settled on a farm in the Markdale area. Les was in grade three when he first met Jean, at Lauriston Public School. As teenagers several years later, and in the shadow of war, the romance of a life-time began.
As soon as he was old enough, Les enlisted into the Royal Canadian Air Force. Not wanting to waste a golden opportunity, he upgraded his education and soon became a Flight Instructor and was stationed at bases in Gander, Newfoundland and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. It was during this time that Les and Jean planned to be married on his first leave back in Toronto, which happened to be on New Year’s Eve, 1942. However, the wedding was delayed many hours as his train was stuck in a terrible blizzard in eastern Canada. With no cell phones to let Jean know, his bride-to-be anxiously met a number of trains that did not bear her fiancé. But finally the groom arrived and the wedding proceeded. Les and Jean would have celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary this past New Year’s Eve, 2015.
Soon after the marriage, Les was stationed in Assiniboia Saskatchewan and the young couple moved west. It was during his time at this base that structural defects resulted in some tragic plane accidents, when the wings folded up while in the air, trapping the doomed men inside. It was a worrisome time, but the default was eventually determined to be glue that could not handle the Canadian winter temperatures. Les was finally sent to England to await combat deployment which never occurred as the war ended with V-E Day on May 8, 1945 and he returned safely to Jean.
For the two years following the war, Les and Jean lived with her brother Rusty, gaining farming experience in order to claim farmland under the Veteran’s Land Act. Daughter Sharon was born, and the little family settled on the Grey-Bruce County Line near Chesley. Jean’s sister Ina, with husband Jim Boynton, settled on the adjacent farm and the two families worked the land together. Over the next few years Sharon became big sister to Ron, Maurine and Brian. And Les soon became involved as a Trustee with the Board of Education and encouraged his children to do their best in school.
In the early 50’s family medical bills mounted at a time when there was no Health Care so Les sought employment off the farm. It was then he began his long career with the United Cooperatives of Ontario. He ran the farm supply store and feed mill in Elmwood for many years, and was well respected by area farmers. Before retiring, he spent shorter stints at both the Chesley and Paisley Co-ops. Of course, during all those years, he continued helping Jean with the farm work in the evenings and on weekends.
Les supported the community as a trustee of the rural School Board for many years. He also spent many years on the Board of the Grey & Bruce Mutual Insurance Company. But his biggest community commitment was his many years on the Board of the Ontario Federation of Cerebral Palsy, including his time as President of the OFCP from 1984-1986. This involved many trips to Toronto meetings and constant advocating for more services for the physically handicapped. Les was a driving force for the creation of Participation Lodge at Holland Centre, and Brian was the first resident to move in, when it opened in 1982.
But life was not all work and no play. Les was a square dance enthusiast. He loved the music, the dancing, and the dear friends who were part of the Hanover club. Over the decades, Les and Jean attended every National Square Dance Convention across Canada, from 1978 to 2008. Les loved travelling, and besides traversing Canada many times, he and Jean visited Alaska, Australia, Barbados, England, Florida, the Grand Canyon, Hawaii and Costa Rica. The latter trip was with ten family members, and other trips were with Ron and wife Marilyn, or with close friends. Les was also an avid reader, with tastes turning to historical fiction and non-fiction, mysteries, westerns and biographies. Les enjoyed many family games of baseball, volleyball and ping pong. He also enjoyed board games and golf. But it was card games that he most loved. It did not matter how late or early it was, or how tired he was, he was always ready for a game of cards … euchre, ‘marbles’, cribbage, ‘up the river’, it did not matter. If someone expressed interest, the game would be set up in moments.
Les was the cherished father of Sharon (Rev. Ralph) Schmidt of R.R. #2 Desboro, Ron (Marilyn) Pitt of Calgary and Maurine (John) Gillberry of Milton. Dear grandfather to Rob (Stephanie) and Krista (Jason), Jill (Jason) and Erin (Adam), Danielle and Megan. Precious great-grandfather to Joshua, Ryan, Tylie, Gavin, Avery, Quinn, Jackson and Myka. Les will be remembered by his brother, Bert (Beverly) Osborne and brother-in-law, Keith (Leora) Wilson. Les was predeceased by son, Brian, brother, Harry (Ruth) Osborne, sister Irene (Ross) Baumber, brothers-in-law, Harold (May) Wilson, David Wilson, sisters-in-law, Dorothy (Archie) Young and Ina (Jim) Boynton.
Les was a family man, a strong community member, and an untiring advocate for the physically challenged in our area. He was a gentleman and a loving husband for 73 years. Les will be fondly remembered by family and friends for his sense of humour, his optimism and his overall zeal for life.
The family will receive friends and relatives at Rhody Family Funeral Home, Chesley on Saturday, February 6, 2016 from 12 noon until the celebration of Les’ life at 2 p.m. Inurnment in Chesley Cemetery at a later date.
In Les’ memory, memorial donations may be made to Participation Lodge or to the charity of your choice.
For more information about this obituary visit http://www.rhodyfamily.com.