As a husband, father, uncle, grandfather and friend, Leonard’s memory is etched deeply into the people whose lives he touched with his humble wisdom, compassion and dry one-liners that never failed to crack up the room.
The oldest of seven born to Mabelle and LeRoy Rance, Leonard went on to raise a large family of his own with his wife of nearly 69 years Mary (née Elliot) while they farmed in the Sperling area. Leonard and Mary with their children Lyle (Jane), Darrell (Allyson), Laura (Gord) and Shelley (Dino) shared the meaning of family with many over the years. John, David, Stephanie, Nina, Peggy, Geraldine, Corrine, and Keith all had a seat at the table and a special place in Mom and Dad’s hearts.
Dad was predeceased by his sister, Thelma Shields, brother in- law- Alex Shields, brother-in-law Jerry Winters (May), sister-in-law Ivy (Cliff) and sister-in-law Jean Kitching (née Elliot) and brother-in-law Jim Kitching.
He is survived by his partner in life Mary, his children, siblings Cliff, Vic (Betty), Owen (Barb), May and Allan (Brenda), Mary’s brother Harry Elliot (Bonnie), and sister Marg Bond (George).
He also leaves behind grandchildren: Summer, Amanda, Kevin, Brian, Erica, Travis, Lexi, Kathlyn, Matthew, Taran, Ethan, Samara, Mya, and Kaleb, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews who have brought immeasurable joy into his life, and he to theirs.
Dad was born to farm. From the time he was little learning the ropes on the family homestead five miles east of Sperling, he embraced both the art and the science of agriculture, quickly adopting new ideas and technology.
Leonard obtained his diploma in agriculture from the University of Manitoba before returning to the family farm at Sperling. Upon their marriage in 1952, he and Mary began to build their own farm operation on the adjoining section.
That farm was a sanctuary to anyone who spent time there. As Leonard and Mary went about their work farming and raising kids, their home was a place that welcomed children that needed a safe place to be, international exchange students looking for a working holiday, and friends who just needed to feel the comfort of Mom’s hearty soup on the table and good conversation now and again. They’ve heard many times over the years how those experiences exemplified how a healthy family lives and how that can be a powerful influence on a life’s trajectory.
Leonard was an early adopter of conservation agriculture, becoming one of the first farms in southern Manitoba to implement soil-saving zero-tillage practices in the early 1980s. Leonard joined the Manitoba North Dakota Zero Tillage Farmers Association in its formative years, serving on its board and later as its president. It was a role that he particularly enjoyed because of the opportunity to engage with some of the most interesting, innovative and inquisitive farmers in North America.
He lived his faith quietly, but in ways that enriched the world around him. Whether it was the consideration and care he showed for the people in his life, for the land he worked, or the local and global communities, Dad lived his life with purpose and commitment to leaving things better than they were before. He served his church, led Cubs and Boy Scouts, served on the local co-operative boards and represented the local association at the annual Manitoba Pool Elevators meetings in Winnipeg.
One of the highlights of his and Mary’s travels was a trip to Ethiopia and Eritrea in the 1990s to see how their donations to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank worked to improve food security.
He rolled with life’s punches. When six inches of rain in one afternoon wiped out the crop of 1966, he didn’t fret over what couldn’t be fixed. Instead, he retrofitted the family’s green Dodge van so all six of the family could sleep in it (stacked up like cordwood) and we left on a three-week-long camping trip to the mountains. Best. Holiday. Ever.
To keep food on the table that winter, he drove to Winnipeg with the farm’s grain truck every day to make department store deliveries, often arriving home for dinner well past our bedtimes.
It took a little convincing, but he embraced Mary’s sense of adventure and the two of them travelled extensively over the years, enjoying extended camping holidays, cruises and trips overseas. After 40 years on the farm, they moved to Wawota, Sask. for five years so that she could practise ministry. Dad busied himself helping local farmers, volunteering in the community and perfecting his baking skills. Family get togethers just won’t be the same without our Grandpa buns.
He lived a life of gratitude, never missing an opportunity to help someone who was less well off. He rarely created a fuss, (except when it was time to get the family out the door for church on Sunday), and he approached all of life’s zingers with grace and good humour.
Leonard was cherished by all who knew him. He will be missed but not forgotten.
Donations are gratefully directed to these charities or another of your choice: the United Church Mission and Service Fund through Carman United; the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, or Carman Palliative Care Program.
A private family service will be held at Sperling Cemetery at a later date.