Let me begin by thanking Diane and the family for asking me to share a few words about my good friend. I am both humbled and honored.
Gary Maurice Ulseth joined our world on April 11, 1952. He was the third child of Joyce and Dean Ulseth, following Gayle and Susan. After Gary, came Wendy, Colin, Brenda, Corrine and Kelly to complete their family of 8 children.
The Ulseth’s were farmers and Gary’s early life was pretty similar to any other child raised in a rural setting. Values were straight forward and simple. The farm was a few miles south of Veteran, where Colin still resides.
The family lived across the street from the school in Veteran but would move out to the farm in the summer months. Dean also operated South Side Service in Veteran and Gary often could be found at the garage helping out in various capacities.
Gary and I became friends when we started school, so that puts our friendship in the 55 to 56 year range. Gary attended school in Veteran from grades 1 to 9 and then in Coronation for grades 10 through 12. As we grew older and into our teens we began spending more time together which resulted in a pretty close friendship.
His passion in early life was definitely sports. Oh how he loved to participate and talk about sports. In his early years he was a Maple Leaf fan and I was a Canadien fan so we had quite a rivalry going. Gary (or Dean as he was known in his early years) was skilled in sports, whether it be hockey, baseball, basketball, volleyball or whatever sport he tried.
He might not have been the most athletic specimen created but he made up for that with his knowledge of how to play the game. He just knew what to do and when to do it.
He was always a great teammate, not just because of his loyalty to the team, but because of his passion for winning. Losing really wasn’t on the radar. He knew how to exploit the opposition’s weakness and didn’t hesitate to share this with his teammates. He wasn’t always right but that really didn’t matter.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that also at this time Gary already had his love of music. He would play the piano and sing at every opportunity.
After his school years, Gary went to work on the rigs, mainly with Precision Drilling. We still kept in contact, but he was away quite a bit so we didn’t see each other as often. Many friendships developed for him while he worked the rigs and I know he kept in touch with many of these people. He shared many stories with me and others of his rig working days; they were good times for him.
About this time or probably a bit earlier, he began dating Dianne Tellier. They made a nice couple right from the start and Gary would have liked to ask her to marry him after about half a dozen dates. He loved her dearly – I know this because he told me many times.
So after they had dated a couple years, he caught me one day and said he was going to propose that evening. I thought great, until he told me he was nervous and would I mind coming along. I suggested that it was probably a bit of a more intimate moment than I wanted to be part of. So off he went, but he chickened out that night anyway. Shortly after, however, he did propose and Dianne accepted.
That same evening, at about 2:00 a.m., I heard my bedroom window open and as I awoke I could see legs coming through the open window. I jumped up and grabbed the legs and Gary said “It’s just me.” I asked him what the hell he was doing and he said he didn’t want to wake my Dad so he thought he would use the window. He then told me Dianne had agreed to marry him and he wanted me to know as soon as possible.
So we sat on the bed talking. He was on cloud nine that night, as happy as a man could be. As we sat there talking, he says “Are you going back to sleep?” I said I was and he said “mind if I crawl in, I’m kind of tired.” So Gary and I slept together the night he proposed to Dianne, and as any of his sisters can attest, of course, I had to scratch his back before he went to sleep.
Gary and Dianne married on July 27, 1974 and were blessed with three children: Carla in 1975, Kelly Dean in 1978 and Kevin in 1981. Oh, how he loved and was so proud of you three.
He ended his rig working days shortly after he and Dianne were married, and began his farming life of working as a hand and then farming on his own. As the children grew, Gary and Dianne always lived in and around Veteran. He had to, because his love of Veteran and the surrounding area was intense. He couldn’t comprehend why anyone would want to live elsewhere.
He kept track of people better than anyone I know. His visits were legendary. If you had an open door and a cup of coffee, you were on the hit list. He came over often to visit and sometimes the visits got quite long. One particular evening we both fell asleep while watching TV. When I awoke I told him to turn off the TV when he left and I went to bed. He just said “yeah, OK” and went back to sleep.
He was gone in the morning.
I know that as I speak about Gary, who had by this time become “Snowball”, everyone here has been thinking about a time, an incident or a favorite Snowball story, and there are a lot of them. This is a good thing. It is important that we share and reminisce.
Who else but Snowball would stop at Daysland on his way to Edmonton, because there were cars around the community centre, and lo and behold if there wasn’t a pancake breakfast to join in on.
Who else would go to the lodges, the assisted living, or the long term care regularly to play the piano and sing. The residents loved and adored him for that.
Who else but Snowball would suggest, after he and I woke up, having spent the night sleeping in his yellow Mustang (because we consumed about a dozen bottles of wine), that we should slip over and have coffee and a visit with Mrs. Kennedy ( an elderly former Veteran resident). Not only did we do this, but she was elated to see these two hung-over gentlemen.
Who else would give up many evenings during the Christmas season and even Christmas Eve to make sure the young and elderly alike would get a chance to experience Santa. He absolutely loved being Santa and as I think about it today, maybe, just maybe he was Santa.
As Gary and Dianne’s family grew into fine young adults, the next step was to leave home, get married and have their own children. Carla married Brad Sparks in 1998 and they have three children; Dylan, Sydney and Pacey. Kelly Dean married Andrea Scheffelmaier in 2004 and they have two children; Kendra and Kyle. Kevin married Lisa Benedict also in 2004 and they have four children; Taniell, Taylor, Bryson and Jackson. These nine grandkids made Gary so very, very proud. Grandpa loved you kids dearly.
Sometime ago Gary and Dianne relocated into the house where he grew up, across from the school. They instantly began a yard transformation, or should we call it a beautification program.
Gary and I would talk often about what looks good where, how to trim trees and grass, how to grow vegetables and so on. It didn’t take long and they had their yard looking great. They were both so proud of what they accomplished, as they should.
Gary loved to entertain. There was no predicting when he might throw a wiener roast, a BBQ or just a real good meal. They would cook up meals and the range of people he would invite was as wide as a prairie skyline. I have to also mention that these meals would often have “crub” on the menu. He was “the master crub chef”.
A few years ago Gary began employment at M&N Construction and you guys, who I know are here, should be proud because he spoke highly of your operation and really enjoyed his time with you. His M&N stories were always very positive in nature.
I also have to mention Gary’s love of the Edmonton Oilers. Even though that love has been tested severely the last few years, he always remained loyal. He knew what was wrong with them; he just never got to tell the right people.
A few years ago, Gary started a custom farming operation – mainly swathing and baling. He really enjoyed that. I think it kept the farming blood flowing through his veins.
As I start to wind down, I just want everyone to remember that this was a man who would do anything for anybody – you might have to return the favor, but that is what friends do for each other; they give and they receive.
In the last couple years Gary’s diabetes was gripping him more and more; but never did he complain. He always told me he felt fine but that he just needed that kidney. Even then we spent time driving the countryside sharing thoughts, reminiscing, trying to figure out what was wrong with the world, even though neither of us really knew what was happening outside the Special Areas.
Five or six weeks ago Gary fell ill and was admitted to hospital. His illness was more severe than his body and medicine could overcome. Even the love and prayers of his family and friends were unable to strengthen him enough to recover. On Monday, March 23 with his family close by, he left us.
Gary would be overwhelmed by the people who have gathered here today. It is a tribute, not just to Gary, but also to our community, that so many would come to support Dianne and the family through this difficult period.
Until we meet again; rest in peace my friend.
Gary passed away surrounded by his loving family on March 23, 2015 in the Red Deer Hospital at the age of 62 years.
Gary is survived by his wife Dianne; daughter: Carla (Brad) Sparks and their children, Dylan, Sydney and Pacey; Sons: Kelly (Andrea) Ulseth and their children, Kendra and Kyle; and Kevin (Lisa) Ulseth and their children, Taniell, Taylor, Bryson and Jackson.
Also his mother-in-law Ruth Tellier; siblings: Susan (Jim) Schetzsle, Wendy (Marv) Pixley, Colin (Barb) Ulseth, Brenda Smith (Randy Tellier), Corinne (Gaston) Gill, Kelly (Brian) Richter sister-in-law Dolores (Ken) Neal, brother-in-law Bryan (Betty) Tellier; as well as numerous nieces and nephews and many dear friends.
Gary was predeceased by his sister Gayle in 1980, brother-in-law Danny Smith in 1996, his parents Dean in 2000, Joyce in 2002 and his father-in-law Louis in 1990.
The funeral service to honour Gary Maurice Ulseth took place at Coronation Community Centre, Coronation, Alberta on Wed. April 1, 2015 at 1 p.m. 0fficiating was Pastor Darrel Durksen. Musicians were Carolyn Devereux, Nils and Jeanette Berg; they played for the congregational hymn “Amazing Grace” as well as a special musical tribute “Danny Boy”. Gary’s sister Susan Schetzsle gave the scripture readings. Soloist Bob Hocking sang “Suppertime”. Long-time friend Dan Gorcak shared a tribute.
Family memories were shared by Gary’s sons Kelly-Dean and Kevin Ulseth. A video tribute was played prior to the service. Honourary pallbearers were “All of Snowball’s Friends”. The active pallbearers were; Leslie Elliott, Archie Merchant, Dwayne Glasier, Lorne Anhorn, Gerald Anhorn, Jim Smith, Dale Brigley, Carter Stickel, Elden Stickel and John Simkin.
Family and friends gathered in the Community Centre for a luncheon prepared and served by the Coronation Funeral Lunch Committee.
The interment followed the lunch at the Veteran Cemetery, Veteran, AB.
If friends so desire memorial tributes may be made in Gary’s memory to The Veteran Minor Sports, Box 639, Veteran, Alberta T0C 2S0 or to the Village of Veteran Cemetery Society, Box 589, Veteran, Alberta, T0C 2S0. Heather Caseley has been entrusted with the care and funeral arrangements; Coronation Funeral Home P.O. Box 358 Coronation, Alberta TOC 1CO; 403.578.2928.
Condolences can be sent to the family by visiting our website at www.coronationfuneralhome.ca.
Card of Thanks
We can not begin to express our sincere thanks for all the comforting words and generous donations we have received from the surrounding communities. Gary knew community mattered and giving back was always on his radar. This is evident in all the love and support we have received in the past weeks.
Carla & Brad Sparks & Family
Kelly & Andrea Ulseth & Family
Kevin & Lisa Ulseth & Family