Celebration of Life
Obituary of Blair Crandall
Blair Crandall, a resident of Dawson Creek, BC and Ponoka, AB passed away on May 27, 2018 in Grande Prairie, AB at the age 69 years.
Arnold Blair Crandall was born on Saturday, January 22, 1949 at 7:22pm in the Ponoka Hospital in Ponoka, Alberta, to his father Delbert and mother Nola. He was 7 pounds 4 ounces and 20 and a half inches long. According to his baby book, his first words were “car” and “tractor”. Blair was the eldest of five children and also the eldest grandchild and great-grandchild on both sides of the family. His siblings that followed were Brenda in 1951, Marilyn in 1954, Cody in 1961 and Alva in 1965. His grandparents on the Crandall side were Alva and Ada and on the Friestad side were Joseph and Verle. Del and Nola were living with Alva and Ada when they brought Blair home in the coldest part of Winter. They stayed there until Spring, when Alva purchased a quarter section in the Hazel Hill District of Ponoka County for his son, daughter-in-law and grandson to live on.
Right from the start, Blair loved the farm – it was in his blood. At an early age, he was working right along with the men in harvesting the fields and tending to the livestock. Going to school was always an interference as it meant less time on the tractor. He loved nothing more than waking up in the morning to the sound of the tractor plowing up that beautiful number one black soil. In1954, Blair started school and went through until 1965. Grade 10 was started but not completed. In the early days, Del started a cattle hauling business and Blair learned to drive by riding along and watching how his Dad did it. In those days, the trucks had no power-steering and most had a transmission with multiple gears – so for a young boy to learn how to drive just by observation was quite a feat. He earned his Class One Drivers’ Licence with Air Ticket by the age of 16. Many a trip was spent hauling gravel and running heavy equipment while working for the County of Ponoka as they improved the area’s roads. Being mechanically-inclined, he could do most of his own equipment repairs.
Some of Blair’s fondest childhood memories were when Del began running Professional Chuckwagon in 1958 through to 1960. He raced in Central Alberta including the Calgary Stampede and into the USA including Cheyenne and Casper, Wyoming and Great Falls, Montana. Blair and his sisters spent many a night sleeping in the hay lofts of the horse barns as they went on the circuit too. Learning how to care for the horses and to harness them became second nature.
Family and friends were very important to Blair and he stayed connected to those of most importance to him until the end. To say that he looked up to and admired his Grandpa Alva and Uncle Glen was an understatement. Both men made impact on Blair at a young age and he always longed to be close to them. Some of his best memories were of working side-by-side withthese two men farming the soil that had been in the Crandall family for many years. They taught Blair the value of a dollar and that a typical day meant being up by sunrise and working until sunset – all the while attaining more farmland to produce number one crops. Del and Nola moved into town in 1961 and rented a small house. To leave his beloved childhood farm left a life-long impact on Blair. Even into his adult years, his heart was always with the original farm and he often dreamt of the opportunity to buy it back.
By this time, his Grandpa Alva and Grandma Ada were running their own business, a lumber yard, and Blair used to spend time there. Watching the Ponoka Stampede Parade from the Lumberyard was a highlight. Summers were spent outside playing and helping in the garden or in the fields. Some of his best memories were of Grandma Ada or Nola bringing out homemade lunches to the field. Hot thermoses of coffee with rich cows’ cream and sandwiches wrapped in wax paper and pie for desert. Food always tasted so good in the outside air with the rumble of the tractor in the background and the smell of fresh-cut clover. Grandpa and Grandma Friestad and Uncle Glen and Aunt Dorthea Crandall were also important fixtures in Blair’s life, along with cousins Miles and Carla. Gull Lake and Pigeon Lake were close by as well for picnics.
In the Summer of 1966 when Blair was 17 years old, they moved up North to the Peace River Country as Del secured a job working on the construction of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam. Blair left a good job in Ponoka working for Myrle Gee and Jewel Kraft running heavy equipment and driving truck to follow his parents and younger siblings up North. As the eldest child, he always felt a responsibility to help look after his family. Come Christmas time, there were always gifts under the Christmas Tree from Blair for younger siblings Cody and Alva, who were still toddlers. He found steady employment working on the railroad, driving water truck and running farm equipment for George Stewart and Gavin Rosie.
In 1968, Nola won a Homesteaders Land Draw and the family began clearing the half-section of bush located in Alberta, northeast of Dawson Creek, to make it their home in hopes of it raising a crop. Many years of hard work picking rock and roots and breaking the land ensued to turn the clay gumbo into land that would produce number one wheat or barley. Blair took the Homestead over from Del in 1971 and made it his own.
Blair started driving truck for Rempel Trail hauling fuel out of Dawson Creek in July, 1969 at the age of twenty. He drove hundreds of miles for Rempel Trail and made lifelong friendships with the dispatchers and fellow drivers. He then switched over to hauling logs in the Tumbler Ridge/Puggins Mountain area in 1979. His trucking career also included road building and gravel hauling up North on the Beaufort Sea. They flew him in via a small chartered airplane and back out in the Winter of 1975 for that job. Blair always had a passion for airplanes and flying. He began taking his pilot’s licence in the early 1970’s. He racked up quite a bit of instructed flying time and always loved the Boeing Stearman Biplane. But, the need to make a living interfered and he never did finish the training.
Blair met Marilyn Stefanyk in Dawson Creek and they were married on July 4, 1975 exactly 27 years to the day since Del and Nola had been married back in 1948. Blair had been renting a house in town with Merle Shuman to split expenses. After they were married, he and Marilyn purchased a mobile home from Gene Vipond and moved it over to the Kay Hall place North of the Doe River Hall. On August 16, 1977 – the day Elvis Presley died as Blair always remembered it – the mobile home was moved over to the newly purchased Kruger place in East Doe River. In the decades that followed, a total of nine quarters of land were purchased in the East Doe River Area, making Blair one of the biggest farmers in the community. He was a True Albertan and always kept his land in that Province.
Blair and Marilyn had two children, Allison Ann was born on July 11, 1979 and Travis Delbert on August 24, 1982. Allison and Travis grew up helping on the farm – it was just part of daily life. Blair had 200 head of cattle, while grain and hay farming. In 1988, Blair started working in the oil and gas industry for Gerry York to help supplement the farm income. He drove some for Larry Rudy and Garry Remenyk as well.
Blair was truly one of the hardest workers we have ever known. He always seemed to do things “the hard way” and never believed in buying better equipment or machinery – he just continually fixed what he already had. He was known to be a collector of vintage trucks and tractors – his favourite models being the B61 Mack, International Harvestor and John Deere. Blair was very social and could strike up a conversation with just about anyone. He loved to country and western dance and play cards. He also had an interest in vintage cars and model trains. In 1995, Blair purchased his dream car in Saskatchewan – a fully-restored 1956 Buick Special, two-door hard top. He had owned the same car as a young man but it was no longer drivable. This newfound car took him back to his youth and happier times. He spent many years driving the Blue Buick over to car shows in the area and it was part of a few weddings and graduation ceremonies.
Over the years, many life-long friendships were made. Blair did quite a bit of traveling when his farm work allowed. Crandall Family Reunions were always attended both in Canada and in the USA. Trips to Manitou Beach, Saskatchewan; Blaine, Washington; Bellingham, Washington; Grants Pass, Oregon; Great Falls, Montana; and Skagway, Alaska were a few destinations. Blair had a true passion for music – country and western; golden oldies from the 50’s and 60’s; bluegrass and gospel were his favourite genres. Hank Williams SR was his musical idol. Blair had a lot of emotional pain in both his childhood and in his adult life and music was always a healer.
In 1999, an opportunity arose for him to buy a quarter section of land in Ponoka that had belonged to Edith Santee, nee Crandall, a sister to his Grandpa Alva. It had originally beenhomesteaded in 1905 when AJ Crandall, Grandpa Alva’s Grandfather, settled in the area from Washington. He jumped at the chance to once again own land in his beloved Ponoka. In fact, Blair received an award in 2005 from the Province of Alberta as the land had been in the family for 100 years. He was so proud of that moment as both the land and the Crandall family name meant everything.
In July of 2009, Blair and Marilyn separated and were divorced the following year. All nine quarters of land were sold to the Hutterites and Blair ultimately moved down to live on the Santee quarter in Ponoka. Then, in 2011, Blair purchased 500 acres from Wes Clarke in Bay Tree, AB. He often said that he purchased that particular parcel of land in order to stay close to his immediate family who were all living in the North. During this time, Blair applied for Organic Certification on his farmland both in Ponoka and in Bay Tree. Blair had always farmed without the use of chemicals and had beautiful, heavy crops, with hardly a weed in it.
If you wanted to see Blair’s chest puff up and his eyes sparkle with pride – just mention his grandchildren. Travis has two daughters - Arianna born in 2002 and Emelia in 2008. Allison and her husband Ryan, have one son Reid, born in 2015 and one daughter, Elise, born in 2017. Blair and Reid had an extra-special connection. Grandpa Blair often hoped that Reid might be his little farmer in the making and would one day carry on the family tradition.
In Spring of 2017, Blair’s health began to fail him. He was suffering from extreme headaches and lost interest in doing his farmwork due to extreme fatigue. On August 6, 2017, Blair was flown out from the Dawson Creek Hospital to the U of A Hospital in Edmonton and the next day, underwent a 7-hour surgery where they found a malignant brain tumour. He underwent six weeks of radiation therapy at the Cross Cancer Clinic, followed by chemotherapy.
For a man who had never been sick a day in his life – what an absolute shock to have developed such a devastating illness. During the months that followed, Blair lived with Allison and her family and had a brief stay at the Rimoka Lodge. He was transferred from Ponoka to the Beaverlodge Hospital on January 22, 2018, which was his 69th birthday. He remained there until he was transferred to a long-term-care unit in Grande Prairie, where he passed away in the early morning hours of Sunday, May 27.
Blair is survived by his daughter Allison, her husband Ryan MacIvor, and children, Reid and Elise; his son Travis and children Arianna and Emelia; his mother Nola; his sister Brenda and husband Terry Sewell and children Jason and wife Holly Jopling and Corey Sewell and son Nathan; his sister Marilyn Sewell and son Clint and wife Cheryl and children Danielle, Emily and Steven; his brother Cody and wife Audrey; his brother Alva and wife Billie-Jo and children Amy and Cole. Numerous Aunts, Uncles and Cousins in both Canada and the USA.
A Celebration of Blair’s life was held on June 8, 2018 from Reynars Funeral Chapel in Dawson Creek. A Graveside Service was held on June 11, 2018 in the Forest Home Cemetery in Ponoka.
For friends so wishing donations may be made in memory of Blair to the Beaverlodge Hospital Foundation, PO Box 480, Beaverlodge, AB T0H 0C0.
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