If I were to use two words to describe my Gedo (grandfather on my dad’s side) they’d be loving kindness.
Nicholas Lewchuk (1924-2015) immigrated to Saskatchewan, Canada as a toddler with his large Ukrainian family. Never one for school, he told me he much rather preferred ditching and spending his time traveling the Canadian prairies picking wild berries instead of sitting in the one room school house. Nick served as a pilot in the Canadian Air Force during WWII, after which he became a tool and die maker.
He married his sweetheart, Vera, in 1946 and they began a life together in Windsor, Ontario. Nick built their first home by his own hand over time. He told me that each paycheck meant another item would be purchased for their family home on Meldrum Ave. A year after their first son was born they moved in to Nick’s custom home. Several years later, construction was underway on what became their family home for over 50 years. Though only serving as a member for the construction team instead of being the construction team, Nick was instrumental in the construction of his second home for his growing family. I can still find it on google satellite due to his beloved white birch trees that he spent many a happy hour ensuring the survival of (there used to be more). With his strong work ethic and personable countenance, he progressed in his chosen industry from maker to special projects manager to Vice President at International Tools, Ltd.
Tinkering and puttering, Gedo was never one to let a moment be idle. He always had a project going on and kept a stash of odds and ends just in case they could ever be utilized, from scrap wood to odd shaped screws and tools. He used his clever handiness not only in his home maintenance fixes – to the occasional exasperation of my Baba – but also to better the lives of others. Nick designed and created a stand-up wheel-chair for children with polio drawing upon his years of experience in the tool and die trade. Curiously the boy who despised the school room, himself became a teacher after his first (of many) retirements, teaching others the trade that had provided well for him and his family over the years. Working as a consultant to the Technical University of Nova Scotia, he helped develop a tool and die program and then stayed on as instructor for a few years after the program’s launch.
I first met Gedo in 1982. From the beginning we shared something special! I was third in line of “Nick”s being dedicated, Lindsay Nicole Lewchuk.
There were a few things every Lewchuk grandkid learned early in life. Gedo loved Jesus, his family, eating, hockey, the outdoors, and euchre. Sunday church was a staple when visiting Baba & Gedo’s house. Afterwards, the women would head for the kitchen and the men for the den… except me. I always snuggled up on Gedo’s lap and “hung out with the guys” watching the Blue Jays – baseball – or Maple Leafs (shh sometimes it was the Red Wings given the proximity to Detroit) – hockey. I considered myself an honorary ‘one of the boys’ due to my namesake and Gedo was more than happy to have me as an appendage. When the call to the table rang out, little unsuspecting kiddos were sat next to Gedo at the family dinner table. With speed and depth of movement our plates were cleaned either with or without our knowledge. In order to get a bite in edgewise, one had to eat fast or else Gedo would all too kindly devour your dinner for you. This was great when it came to food you’d rather not eat, but those delicious pirogues and kielbasa were also in danger. To ensure enjoyment of the tasty, one learned to eat with one arm up as a guard and eat as fast as possible. After all, Gedo didn’t believe in waste, nor would he want one of his beloved grandchildren to be curbed for pushing undesired food away. Another rest bit and then the afternoon walk. Just a short walk away a pedestrian bridge spanned the highway subdividing the residential street. I don’t remember why the fascination with this route in particular, but it was the one we always took. Whether playing in the fall leaves, snow, or puttering around the pool, the rest of the afternoon was spent outdoors. Tea and dinner called us back inside, followed by games of euchre by the fire (weather permitting).
While illness dims many memories, I do remember one Christmas being sick in bed and Gedo bringing me up soup. He lovingly fed me while the rest of the family enjoyed the festivities and even calmly cleaned us both up after an unexpected stomach eruption caught us off guard. Tucking me back in bed, he returned to feeding me until I fell asleep. His loving kindness was a reflection of his love for Christ and an enduring memory of his special character.
My last conversation with him was in the hospital a few weeks ago. Dad’s cell phone did not work in Gedo’s room, but one day I called anyway. To my delight I actually got through. Dad put Gedo on speaker and I heard the joy in his voice as he recognized mine. He joyfully told me that Puddles picture was proudly displayed hanging on his wall above his bed. All the nurses commented on Puddles size! Though our conversation was quick it was a blessing to hear him, to know he recognized me, and to share our love and prayers one more time. He passed into the glory of God a few weeks later, an unseen Puddles picture waiting in my dad’s bag.
Throughout my life Gedo supported, cared for, and encouraged me in a myriad of ways, which will always remain a blessing and reminder of his loving kindness.