Friends and family of Elmira’s Ernie Kendall are raising a glass this week and toasting a life well-lived. Kendall, a retired teacher, war veteran, athlete, volunteer, father, grandfather and friend passed away June 26 at his home in Chateau Gardens at the age of 101.
“He is going to be very missed around here,” said Chateau Gardens administrator Joan Norris. “Although it may seem as though losing a person at a nursing home is simply part of the job, it’s not. It is like losing a member of our family. We all feel a great loss with Ernie gone.”
Kendall was a man who wore many hats, but he is best known for his role as an educator. He began his studies at the Ontario Agricultural College Campus in Guelph, graduated in 1932 with a degree in entomology but then transferred to teaching shortly after. He taught sciences for 37 years at Elmira District Secondary School, followed by supply teaching for 14 more years, and retired at age 75.
His tenure as an educator was only interrupted by his service with the army during the Second World War, where he rose to the rank of major.
While at EDSS after the war, he formed and supervised Teen Town, a place for teens to socialize, and was leader of the cadet program for 23 years.
“He was a patriarch not only for his family, but also for Elmira,” said Norris who has known Kendall for upwards of 20 years. “So many people know him or were taught by him at one point. Education in this town has been so greatly influenced by Ernie.”
Jack Tabbert, a student of Kendall’s in the early 1950s, spent considerable time this week thinking about the lessons learned from his former teacher, many of which went above and beyond the school curriculum.
“One spring, he taught all of us how to graft apple trees while we were in the class,” said Tabbert. “Then, he came out and visited each and every one of us students to check on how our apple trees were coming along. He made each of us feel like we were the only student.”
Athletics were always a passion for Kendall. He excelled in sports at OAC, breaking records in aquatics and long-distance running. In retirement, Ernie helped with the Moms and Tots program at the local swimming pool, sometimes swimming the length of the pool with kids on his back. He did back flips until he was 75 and swam until he was 97 years old.
Canoeing was yet another passion, and in 1981, at the age of 75, his greatest canoeing accomplishment was a two-week canoeing trip on the Yukon River. In the past few years he has established athletic scholarships and an academic scholarship at the University of Guelph and also at EDSS.
For his many achievements, he was named Citizen of the Year in 1978 by Elmira and Woolwich Chamber of Commerce, has been inducted into the Waterloo County Hall of Fame and received the Governor General’s Award in 1992.
“It is just astounding to me all of what he has done and accomplished,” said Tabbert. “If you live by Ernie’s morals, you really can’t go wrong.”
As a resident of Chateau Gardens for the past eight years, Kendall continued to participate in and lend his support to community activities.
He was the guest speaker at Remembrance Day services: last November, Kendall didn’t let the cold wind prevent him from participating in the Legion’s parade. He even attended the Kiwanis Club’s Lobsterfest earlier this summer.
“He came to every possible event he could attend,” said Norris. “He had a true zest for life that was contagious.”
He transferred from Chateau Gardens Assisted Living Centre to the long-term care facility in May 2006 where his wife Grace was also a resident. Grace passed away in 2007.
Kendall is survived by three children – John, Jane and Amy Grace – eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.