by Susan Farrelly
Ken MacCulloch was a quiet, definite, and fun-loving man. He was a First Class Fireman and House Mechanic, a hunter and woodworker. His greatest joys in life were his roles of being a husband, father and grand-father, above all else.
Kenneth Forbes MacCulloch was born in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia on August 2, 1947. He was the younger of two boys born to Ethel Louise MacKenzie and Clarence Leon MacCulloch, who had met at a dance when Clarence had just joined the army. They married shortly afterwards, in 1943. Clarence was in the Engineering Corps with the Army where he was a truck driver and was responsible for the Bailey bridges. Ethel and Clarence’s older son, named Clarence Leon after his father, was born while his father was away at war and was two years older than Ken.
Ken had a good childhood and was surrounded by the love of his family. One winter when Ken was about four years old, he went to his favourite Uncle Milt’s to stay overnight. Ken got very homesick, to the point that his Uncle Milt rallied up the sleigh and the horse in the cold winter’s night and took him home.
As a young boy, Ken’s father would take Ken out rabbit hunting. This would help bring more money into the household, as they would sell each pelt for 25 cents when it was unmarked. Ken shot at one bunny rabbit and there was a hole in the pelt. Clarence took a piece of pelt and filled the hole so they were able to get 25 cents for it. Another time, Ken was using a 22 calibre and shot a beaver (you’re not supposed to hunt beaver). Clarence quickly did away with the proof. These experiences not only demonstrated Clarence’s patience and love for his son, but also instilled in Ken a lifelong passion for hunting.
Like many families during that time, Ken’s parents struggled to make ends meet. When Ken was eight years old, the family came to Guelph for work opportunities. Ken’s uncle and friends from the war were living in the area. Ethel was a seamstress who worked on the side, as well as at Holman Luggage and Rennie’s shirt factory. Clarence worked at Knight Lumber and Pirelli Cable where he eventually retired.
The neighbourhood in Guelph that Ethel and Clarence moved to was swirling with kids around the same age as Ken and Clarence. One neighbourhood girl in particular that caught Ken’s eye was Susan Smith. Susan recalls that when she was turning 14 years old, a young man came to the door to ask her if she wanted to come to a party at Ken’s. Sue asked her mom Doreen if she could attend and she said yes. When Susan got to the party, she realized she was the only girl.
Ken went to John F. Ross for high school while Susan went to G.C.V.I. Ken and Sue’s paths crossed again when they found themselves working together at the Dairy Queen on Woolwich Street. Sue remembers when Ken got paid more to go the “guy” jobs at DQ and when he was away the ladies would do his jobs but they wouldn’t get paid more. Slowly Ken and Sue’s relationship began to change as they teased each other with the signature ice cream swirl as the backdrop.
Ken had a car and Susan would start to drive in the car with him around the neighbourhood with friends. They would drive up and down the main street looking for cars to drag or park and look at cars since Ken was a big car fan. In 1964, when Susan was 17, Ken asked Susan out on a date. On their first date they went go-karting and on their second official date, they went to the Exhibition in Toronto. Susan shared that right from the get-go, Ken would take her out of her comfort zone doing things she wouldn’t normally do.
While Ken was in Grade 12, he quit school, which was common in those days. He launched into the work world and worked at WC Woods, surveying at Black and Shoemaker and worked also at General Electric. During that time, Susan went into Nursing school in Woodstock, and Ken joined the Police Department, also in Woodstock.
Sue and Ken got married on a Monday evening in 1967. Susan’s brother Tom was 13 years old at the time, and went out and attached cans to the bumper of their friend’s car to surprise the couple on their big day. Little did he know that they were taking Ken’s car, and the decorated car ended up sitting in the driveway, much to Tom’s dismay. Ken and Susan spent a beautiful weekend in Stratford for their honeymoon, and they returned to Woodstock and started married life in a one-bedroom apartment.
Although there were aspects of being a Police Officer that Ken enjoyed, he wasn’t happy with his career choice. He was 19 years old as a Policeman and he would have to go into bars where the legal age was 21, and would need to tell the patrons who were 19 years old to get out. Ken wasn’t comfortable testifying in court and didn’t want to take his family shopping in Woodstock, so they would drive to Kitchener. It was during this time that their first-born son Scott was born in 1968.
Eventually, Ken and Susan decided to move back to Guelph in 1970. They went to see a 2-bedroom main floor apartment in a house on Forbes Avenue. As they finished the tour of the apartment, there was a lineup at the door so they turned around and said they’ll take it. Shortly afterwards, they found a house that they loved on 13 Barton Street. To get the mortgage on the house, the bank withheld $100 because the bank said that the gable ends were painted pink and had to be painted a different colour. Also, the chimney had cracks in the mortar and needed to be fixed. Ken had to have it repaired before the bank would allow them to buy it. So even before he owned the home, Ken was on the roof painting and repairing the chimney.
Their youngest son Steve was born in 1971, and it was the Barton Street home where Ken and Sue decided to raise their family. In raising Scott and Steve, the boys always knew that they should behave. There was never a direct confrontation (although the boys might remember it differently); it was always understood. He was a quiet leader that led by example and he was very family oriented. He was a jokester and Susan watched as Ken’s confidence grew as he grew older. He enjoyed the adventure of moose-hunting which he did for a number of years with his friend John, and in turn taught his children and grand-children the same skill. Along with hunting, Ken also enjoyed woodworking and his skill progressed over the years to the point it became so much a part of him. Ken would have an image of what he wanted to work on and he would have it done within one or two days, much to the amazement of his loved ones.
Ken joined the Guelph Fire Department at age 23. Ken worked his way up to the position of First Class Firefighter and he took on the added responsibility as House Mechanic. He was “Mr. Fix It” and he really enjoyed the diversity of different jobs that needed to be done and he still had to go out on calls. There always was – and still is – a present danger to Firefighters every time they go out to a call. Ken enjoyed the camaraderie and was well-respected in the Fire Hall. Throughout Ken’s profession, the experiences certainly affected him, but he relied heavily on Sue as his support. He would talk with her about what he saw and experienced. Sue recalls that it was so vivid what he shared and he was able to describe it. If at times he was quiet, Sue would spend the time to coax out of him what was upsetting him. Ken was fortunate in that in the end he could put his work life into context.
Ken retired in 1997 at the age of 50 when he was able to retire. At that time, a neighbour across the street heard he was retiring and said, “Now I have to tell you that people will tell you to get out there and will try to get you to do more – charity work, volunteer firefighting – but you’ve done enough. You’ve given enough.”
Prior to retiring, Ken and Sue had purchased a cottage in Port Loring on Toad Lake in 1987. The boys were still at home at that time, and they enjoyed going up there to fish and dirt bike. Ken and Sue had thought about moving up to cottage when Ken retired, but they couldn’t winterize it as there was no road access. They looked around and found some property up in Golden Valley. Larry Benville was Ken’s friend from work and was an architect, and Ken and Larry would spend their shift talking about plans for house and Larry drafted them up for Ken. When it came time for Ken to retire, he asked Sue if she wanted to build a year-round home up in Golden Valley. He said that it was up to her and asked if it was something she wanted to do. With that conversation they held hands and jumped in with both feet. Their Barton Street home sold and Ken worked side-by-side with a home builder to build their Golden Valley home.
It was at this house that Ken and Sue have so many treasured memories of family, country living and new friends. They especially enjoyed their kids and grandkids coming up to the house, sharing special times out in the boat and swimming down at the lodge. Each of the grandkids wanted to try out the diving board when they were little. Ken and Sue said that if they wanted to jump, they could. This became a coming age for the kids jumping in at Falcons Lair.
Ken and Sue had purchased a trailer over the last few years and found new-found freedom in travelling. They went out East several times over the years to visit Ken’s family. At one of their recent visits out East, Ken’s cousin Wayne handed Ken a flattened penny. When they were kids, Wayne and Ken would put pennies on the rail line for trains to flatten as they went by. Ken had kept this flattened penny for a while, but had recently given it back to Wayne for safekeeping.
On Sunday, September 6, 2015, Ken and Sue woke up and it was a beautiful day. They had a coffee and sat together peacefully in each other’s company, chatting and looking out over the fields of their property. Ken made bacon and eggs for their breakfast and then he helped Sue with the dishes. Ken said he was going to take Smokey for a long walk as he hadn’t done that in a while. Susan was going to get started on sending out thank you cards for his mom Ethel, who had passed away four weeks before.
It was while out on this walk with Smokey on Sunday, September 6, 2015 at his home in Golden Valley, where he passed away. As the Minister spoke at Ken’s memorial service in Powassan on September 11, she recited from Psalm 23:2 The Lord is My Shepherd, and reflected that it was God’s time to lay Ken down in green pastures. He was 68 years old, and lived a life well-lived. He loved quietly but fiercely and was so very well-loved and cared-for in return.
*Thank you to Aunt Susan MacCulloch for sharing your precious memories of Ken.