By Zoe Raemer
The community of Bashaw and the Raemer family are intimately entwined — for four generations our shared experiences are the building blocks of both the Raemers’ and town’s history. My Dad, Mac, (George McKenzie (Mac) Raemer, 1925-2020) who passed away earlier this year was at the heart of this.
He was born here and lived his last years exploring the pathways of his youth. Dad was born in 1925, the third child and first son of George and Janet Raemer. As a child, I’m told that our Dad was much loved and adored by his older sisters. He had curly golden hair and a big sunny grin and turned out to be a bit of a pest to his younger sister.
As he grew into his teenage years he and his friends were adventurers, riding bikes, building rafts to float on Valley Lake, and trying to smoke rolled up leaves by the train tracks. In high school, he played in a band and learned to fish and hunt. His stories of the “old days” are filled with local characters with odd names like “Windy Walter” and the devilish teasing of the Holt brothers.
Upon graduation, Dad immediately volunteered for service. He served in the Royal Canadian Navy from 1944 to 1945. He’d hoped to be a pilot but in 1944 they were not accepting new recruits and he, a good old prairie boy, settled for the Navy. He left Bashaw for basic training and service on the east coast. The stories of his navy days were both harrowing and hilarious. From donning the sonar headphones that could pick up the sounds of submarines and mines, to piloting a run-away tugboat with a glowing hot diesel engine in the crowded Halifax harbour, Dad was ready to serve.
And our family all chuckles at the sweet naivety of his story of the New York City dance hall girls and the daily tots of Navy rum squirrelled away for a real party. He returned home safely from service in the Atlantic in 1946 and set about creating a life for himself in Bashaw. He joined his father in the hardware business, operating Raemer Hardware from 1947 to 1959.
Shortly after starting at the hardware store, he met my Mom — Patricia Mclachlan — at the local cafe her parents owned. It seemed both Dad and Mom knew it was for keeps, as it was not too long thereafter they were married and the requisite time later they started a family. My three brothers — Landis (Scott), Tom, and Colin — were born within a span of five years and the family was, I’m told, complete. There are many stories of camping in cars and tents, learning to hunt and fish, and play hockey. Four guys and my Mom spending summers at Pelican Point in their cottage, Dad buying and finishing a motor boat and becoming the ‘go-to-guy’ for a spin around the lake on water skis.
Moving on from the hardware business to the post office in 1959 provided new career opportunities and the chance to secure a solid future for the family. He was the postmaster from 1959 to 1986. I was born in 1964 as that so-called ‘complete family’ grew a teeny bit bigger. I was a frequent inhabitant of the back room at the post office as both Mom and Dad and the other staff served customers at the front or delivered mail on the rural routes. The post office was a community hub and there were very few folks Dad didn’t know.
During this time my parents were active in the Elks and Royal Purple, they curled, golfed and Dad even joined the old timers’ hockey team as their goalie. He recalls a ‘fan’ once imploring him to find a wash tub to improve on his save percentage.
Dad’s inclination towards service led him to stand for election to town council and eventually as mayor. He served on town council from 1953 to 1970 and 1977 to 1980 and as mayor from 1980 to 1985. For more than 25 years much of his time was devoted to making Bashaw a better place for all it’s citizens. He would often say his proudest accomplishment was being part of the council that brought water and sewer to the town.
Upon his retirement from the post office in 1986, he was ready to golf, travel with Mom and spend time with his six wonderful grandkids. Sadly, after only a few years of winter trips to Arizona, my mom passed away. Dad put on a brave face and decided to carry on with their retirement dreams. He returned to Arizona for the winters and eventually met Edith Ward from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Having both recently lost their spouses, Edith and Mac became one another’s loving companions for the next 25-plus years. They enjoyed many adventures together and shared their lives with their respective families. Sadly, Edith too, passed away this summer in Sioux Falls at the age of 95.
For the last years of his life, Dad was a resident of Bashaw Meadows. You could always find him carving a new bird out of wood — a hobby he picked up in his 70s. His window looked out on the town he’d grown up in. He could see the backyard of the house I was raised in. Pretty much every day he’d drive downtown — either by car, or on his mobility scooter (his so-called convertible) to have coffee with “the guys” at the hotel. He was always quick to tell me of the local views on politics, the comings and goings of friends, and the latest joke making the rounds.
Dad lived a long and productive life, in good health and always in good humour. He was our guiding light and our family will miss his love, leadership, kindness and charm. Mac Raemer was a true son of Bashaw. He loved the landscape, the lore, and the warmth he found in its midst. We all shall miss him.
Note: A memorial service was held for Mac Raemer on Sept. 12 at the Bashaw Cemetery. More information about him can be found in the Bashaw History book, Volume, 1 pages 291 to 292.