Friday, March 14, 2008

a good neighbour...

Yesterday we had the privilege of paying our respects to a man who was a wonderful neighbour for many years.

John-Fife Spencer was a colourful character...with a big smile, a waxed mustache of gigantuous proportions, who wore an assortment of weird and wonderful hats. He drove around in his large Cadillac with the personalized plate, delivering eggs to his many friends...often with a grandchild or a dog along for the ride. He was also a man with a kind heart.

When our children were young, our property adjoined the Spencer's nut farm. He made it clear that their pool was available for our use anytime, and would often call to see when we were coming for a swim. The kids have such fond memories of all our treks through the nut orchard to take a dip in Spencer's pool. Since John had a penchant for swimming in nothing more than his birthday suit, we soon figured out that we needed to make a lot of noise as we approached, lest he be caught unaware!

John was also an avid football fan and a B.C. Lions season's ticket holder. When our boys were around the age of ten and twelve, the Spencers offered to take them along into the big city for a football game. It was a treat they will never forget. Two country boys, whose idea of fine dining was the White Spot family restaurant, were taken to the finest of steakhouses in Vancouver. From there they were driven by a chauffeured limousine to the football stadium. Whether the B.C. Lions won or lost that day was of no consequence to two young boys who had the most unforgettable experience!

John gave much to our community and was known as the unofficial mayor of Rosedale. He served as a local councilor, was an auxiliary RCMP officer, served on the Arts Council and worked tirelessly to have the Hope River restored to its original condition. John suffered a speech impediment...but he never allowed that to keep him from participating in a very public life. He sponsored public speaking competitions in our community for many years.

John was known as 'the Rosedale nut grower'...and he liked the notoriety that came with that title. He gave out T-shirts which sported a variety of slogans about nuts...which weren't always appropriate for teenage boys to wear. I recall having to make one such shirt disappear...since my boys got a chuckle out of wearing it!

Every fall we gathered hazelnuts in the Spencer orchard...

...the last time being a few years ago when the grand kids joined in the fun! Then one day John Spencer called to tell us they were selling their farm and moving to the city. But we should bring our whole family and come for one last pool party. So we did just that...for old times sake! We wished them well as they moved to be nearer their children...and said we would drive out to see them once they were settled. We had good intentions, but it just never happened. And then came the news that John had passed away following a short battle with cancer.

So now we made the trip to see his wife and pay our final respects to a colorful man with a big heart who was a great neighbour. The church was packed with people from this community who had also made that same long drive...his life had impacted many.

If you have 'a good neighbour' in your life that you've been planning to visit, just do it...tomorrow may be too late!


  1. Why am I sitting here shedding a tear for a man I never met? The power of your remembering I guess! Thank you for sharing such poignant memories of so colorful a character. He sounds like a prince!

  2. Judy, I too remember the man. What a fine tribute. Here is someone who overcame his demons and made great contributions to his neighbourhood and Chilliwack. Thanks for sharing, it did my heart good. What age was he??

  3. Judy, I so enjoyed your tribute to your old friend...the photo of him is stunning! I agree, let's spend time with our neighours and extend a hand when ever the need arises, ya know. :)

    Thanks for stopping by, and thank you for the "Pearls in a nut Shell" site, I'll check that out. Oh and the hat pattern, great, love those cute hats.

  4. What a wonderful life he had...don't you know that there is much laughter in Heaven right now...the party's on, the guest of honor has just arrived...the pool's open and chlorine free and there is no fear of drowning. Your loss is their gain

  5. I totally enjoyed that tribute to your neighbour, truly 'one of a kind' and we sure can learn from him.
    That funeral must have been a time of rejoicing indeed!

  6. I spent my childhood as a neighbour of the Spencer family and oh what memories!They put a smile on my face!The fun we had! Riding in the convertible with fudgcicles in our hands Mr. Spencer driving the car with his knees...! Pool parties, the drive-in, playing in the barns and silos, the sleepovers I could go on and on! I vividly remember that portait of him too. Stunning!Cynthia MacKenzie (nee Zoltan).


'The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.'
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson