Note: Moved to Calgary from Brandon Manitoba in 1922.
AYLESWORTH - Robert Wesley passed away in Calgary on Saturday, August 18th, 2001. Wes was born in Brandon Manitoba on April 21st, 1915, but lived most of his life in Calgary with his precious wife Agnes and their family. He was dearly loved and will be missed by his children Bob (Arlene), Sam (Diane), Tom, Carol (Al), Sigrid (Glen), Allen (Wendy), Art (Debbie) and Frank (Mary Ann). He was a wonderful grandfather to Ken, Dean, Debbie, Sam Jr., Derek, Suzanne, Janet, Paul, Mark, Christie, Keona, Karla, Tim, Angela, Don, Shawn, Dave, Angie and Natalie. His great grandchildren numbered fifteen and included Robbie, Jordan, Andrea, Rachel, Sherry, Carly, William, Mary, Sarah, Jessica, Julia, Alison, Michaela, Matthew and Meghan. Wes is also survived by his sisters-in-law, Olga Chesney, Rosemary Nickle and Diana Nickle, and many nephews and nieces. Agnes and Wes were married in March of 1937 and shared a truly amazing life together for more than sixty years, before her death in 1998. Their door was always open for children in need of love and support, and to the many people who called them friends. Wes was constantly busy with one project or another and loved to spend time at the family cabin. He was always ready for adventure and together with Agnes travelled to many exciting places. He career included seventeen years with Coca Cola, many years with Purity 99 Oil and Gas and a stint in the Canadian Army as a Tank Core Instructor during WWII. He was active in the Masonic Lodge and the Al Azhar Shrine throughout his life. A strong and dependable friend, Wes could always be counted on to lend a hand. His sense of humour will be missed.
A special thank you to the staff at Foothills Hospital (Cardiac Ward) for their genuine concern and attention.
A memorial service will be held at St. Edmunds Anglican Church, 8336 - 34th Avenue NW, Calgary, on Wednesday, August 22nd at 2:00 pm.
If so desired, a memorial tribute may be made directly to the Agnes and Wes Aylesworth Fund (to support services for children) at The Calgary Foundation, #1920, 540 - 5th Avenue SW, Calgary, Alberta T2P 0M2
ROBERT WESLEY AYLESWORTH
1915 - 2001
"An Ordinary Man, But an Extraordinary Man"
Wes Aylesworth was by his own definition, an ordinary man. And in many ways he was just that .His accomplishments in life did not make him particularly famous, but to those who came to know him, he was as famous as a man needs to be. No mountains or monuments bare his name but the legacy he leaves is proudly shared by all of us here today. How do you take the details of a man's life and mould them into a few minutes of dialogue that offer a sense of his contributions and the difference that he made? Perhaps by starting at the beginning .
Dad was a guy who lost his mother before he hardly knew her at six years of age, and was riding the rails at the age of fourteen looking for a place to belong. Little more than a boy, in the depths of the Great Depression, Wes travelled with the circus, made his way from soup kitchen to soup kitchen, and worked in the relief camps of the day where he took his turn as a "powder monkey" at the building of the #1 Highway near Gap Lake. It was in the work camps that he first met his future brothers-in-law, Sam and Carl Nickle. Not long after, Wes joined his Bowness friend, Ray Warren on a double date with two young ladies from Calgary named Nancy Rippen and Agnes Nickle. As blind dates often go, this wasn't a straight forward affair but in the end, Dad won the heart of his future bride.
During their courtship, Dad drove taxi while Agnes served tables in her fathers' short lived restaurant, "The Chez Rhez"". Agnes could see that this humorous, confident, self reliant young fellow was her choice for what turned out to be a long and eventful marriage. They shared vows in 1937 and spent over 60 years building their dreams together. Their first nest was the root cellar of Nancy and Benny Mikkelson. This first taste of Bowness living lasted only a matter of months until Wes found a job with Coca Cola that took them back to the city. To the day he died, Wes was proud of his 17 years at Coke, which started with him washing trucks, working the bottling machine, driving a route and selling to the store owners and ending up as a special sales supervisor.
With a good stable job (paying almost $2,600/yr.), his stint in the army behind him, and a family that was quickly growing, Wes wanted a home of their own. Rather than take the generous offering of his father-in-law to assist with the purchase of a fine home in Elbow Park, Wes and Agnes decided what they really wanted was a place to raise chickens and children. Much to the dismay of many relatives, the home on Hillside Avenue in Bowness was purchased complete with a chicken coup. The year was 1947 and Wes had bitten off a small home in need of many improvements, a piece of ground that was full of rocks, a family that already numbered five and the adventure was well under way. What was a chicken farm without chickens? Dad headed into Calgary early the first spring and purchased 100 chickens from Pringles Hatchery and transported them home on a Calgary Municipal Railway Streetcar, including the second fare that was due at the Shouldice Bridge. Life in rural Bowness was not without challenge. Work was good at Coke but it meant a six day work week that started at 6:00 AM with the two block hike to the streetcar loop at Bowness Park or a two mile race if you were late and had to beat the streetcar to Shouldice Bridge. It wasn't unusual for Dad to get home at 9:00 PM or later. Although the kids didn't see much of him during the week, they always looked forward to seeing him on Sunday. It was well understood by each of the Aylesworth clan, that there was chores to do and participation was not optional! I personally remember the Sunday when I had not finished digging the post holes as requested by Dad earlier that week. Rather that berate me, he moved a chair near the location of the holes to be dug and had me watch him do my work on his only day off .a lesson learned.
Wes Aylesworth was a builder. He took something from little or nothing and found a way to make it special. From the home in Bowness where he eventually added two rooms (plus the second bathroom which he didn't add until after the kids had all moved out!!!) to the almost famous garage he built out of scrap lumber and Coca Cola signs, things were always improving. Wes spent all the money he could arrange to buy a small cabin on Lake Winderemere, only to soon realize that with eight kids, he would have to buy an adjacent bunkhouse to accommodate them all. Before long, both cabins were being improved to mothers demanding specifications and a boathouse was being added on as well. Even while he was busy with the constant projects in his own life, Wes found time to give of himself to help build his community. One such contribution began with a plebiscite in Bowness to consider mixed drinking within the town. Wes arrived home from work to find mother gloating that she had voted NO to the plebiscite which her and dad had debated. Dad realized he just had time to get to the polling station before it closed to cast his YES ballot Mixed drinking was approved in Bowness by one vote Fathers! From his three years on town council to the work bees he participated in that added more space to Parkway School, repairs to the local scout hall and the digging of the well and pouring of the footings for this very church, dad was always available. If you need more convincing, look around this church at the fifty plus members of his direct family and you'll see that he was definitely a builder!!!
Wes was not only generous with his time, but was very proud to give a building lot that was part of the families Bowness property to a new Canadian friend that he might build a home in Canada. It wasn't uncommon for people within the community to look to Wes for help whenever the occasion arose and he was always available. Wes became a pillar of what was known as the Hillside Gang a close knit group of friends who carved their homes and community from the barren prairie.
Wes took great satisfaction from his work in the Masonic Lodge where he became Master in 1965. He took pride in the reputation he earned as one who presented lectures in a word perfect manner. He enjoyed hosting family events with his Masonic Brethren, which he did often. He moved through the Scottish Right and joined the Al Azhar Shrine in 1970 where he joined the Provost Unit and became its' captain in 1979. He thoroughly enjoyed presenting the Shrine Colours to promote Shrinedom and the health of children at parades throughout Southern Alberta.
Of the many positive qualities possessed by our father, none stands out more than his commitment to his wife and his family. He had an amazing ability to solve differences or problems without raising his voice. His devotion to our mother was unconditional and in the raising of eight children, they stood undivided. I spoke earlier of the painfully effective techniques he used to teach us right from wrong, but it was never at question that he would support us when the need was there. On one occasion, my sister spoke to father about a paper route customer who refused to pay his long overdue account. Dad simply put his coat on and took her to the front door of this person whereupon he requested payment in full of the account to date. My sister was thankful to see this man who had given her such a hard time, hurry off to get his wallet and square the account immediately. Father was not a big man but his presence was hard to ignore.
Understanding when to help out and when to let his kids stand on their own two feet was something that came naturally to Dad. Over the years, he and mother had a knack of showing up just when you needed them most. Whether it was a broken washing machine just when the new baby arrived or the need for a heart to heart visit, dad and mom would somehow know and lend a little help .the kind of parents we all try to be.
As strong a man as Wes was, it took the family by surprise when he suffered a heart attack in his mid fifties while visiting old friends in Kelowna with mother. This was a frightening time for a man with several children still at home and a busy career in the oil and gas business. Dad tried to shake it off but a second heart attack eighteen months later led to his early retirement. I don't think anyone would have guessed at that time that Dad would have lived to see 86 years of age but he always was a survivor.
Although the timing of his retirement was influenced by his health, it was not long before Wes was feeling strong again. He traded in the family trailer and decided it was time for him to get back behind the wheel of a truck and the first motorhome was purchased. Recalling the travelling ways of his youth, Dad, Mom and their four legged friend, "Duffy" set off to see North America. How he loved to see new things and meet new people. In fact dad just loved to drive and was quick to note that by age 45 he had logged over one million miles behind the wheel of a vehicle. Their wandering led Mom and Dad to a visit with family in Palm Springs California where they invested in a winter home, which is still enjoyed by members of the family today. It wasn't long before Dad was asked to head up the Condominium Owners Association where he took great delight in working with the gardeners and other trades people to keep the place looking great. It was a running joke that Dad was the "stand in" husband for all of the widows that lived in the complex as he was always on call to fix various problems He loved it and Mom was as always, a good sport!
His love of travel took them beyond North America to many wonderful locations around the world including Africa, China and Europe. It was always fun to sit and listen to Dad recount the endless details and memories of these holidays.
Dad's life was indeed a full one and even in his later years he continued to remain an active contributor to his community and family. He boldly went back to school in his seventy's to learn about computers and up until a few years ago he was the official "car jockey" for Cochrane Dodge, shuttling vehicles from one location to another around Alberta with his old friend Wilf Colville. Anyone who knows our family is aware of the annual event called "Fall Funtasia" which raises money to support education for children with learning disabilities. Dad gave his time freely to organize the mountain of items acquired for the auction and was considered to be quite an "art critic" even if he was a bit hard to please in this area.
You can see from all of this, that from his humble beginnings Dad was able to build a wonderful life, not only for himself but for all those around him. We feel very proud to be a part of this amazing story and will never forget his character and his contributions to our lives. Wes Aylesworth truly was an extraordinary man.
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