1929 ~ WALT FENRICK ~ 2018Posted: June 13th, 2018
In the early morning on Friday, 8 June 2018, Walter Fenrick passed away peacefully. Walt was one of the few folks that was born and raised in Medicine Hat, and except for about the 6 months that he spent at a technical drafting school in Ottawa, he lived and worked here for his entire 88 years. He would often say, “This is the best place on earth. Why would I want to live anywhere else?” As a youngster, he grew up downtown; they lived directly above his dad’s jewellery store. Some of his earliest memories were riding around downtown Medicine Hat on his tricycle, occasionally getting a pickled pig’s foot from the butcher down the street or parking his tricycle in the lobby of the theatre and watching a movie where his aunt worked. He spent much of his childhood at his grandfather’s house near Seven Persons creek, just downstream from Kin Coulee. His grandfather was a master gardener who, at least according to Walt, “could grow sunflowers so big that the seeds would fill a washtub, and cornstalks so big you could climb ‘em!” Throughout high school, he worked at the jewellery store both as a salesman (he hated that) and repairing clocks (his dad hated that). His dad was a watchmaker and really didn’t enjoy working on the big stuff. As soon as Walt was old enough, he took over the clock repair side of the business, and continued to repair the clocks for both his dad, and later Harvey Sommers who also worked at the store and eventually opened his own store (Harv’s Jewellery) until they both retired. After high school, he briefly worked on a road crew and a survey crew building highways around Alberta. Always up for a challenge, he thought both jobs would be interesting and challenging, but he found out that all the ‘fun’ stuff was done by huge firms in Calgary, and that being on the crews was just work. Not that he was ever afraid of work…. He just wanted to use his head and his talents a little more. He got his chance when he began work at Suffield. In 1952, he was given the opportunity to go to Ottawa to learn mechanical drafting, and he jumped at the chance. He had always been fascinated by the technical drawings that he had seen in manuals and wanted to know how to do that. That was pretty much at the beginning of his incredibly interesting and satisfying career at Suffield. The skills he learned as a draftsman allowed him to design countless mechanical marvels and the machining and mechanical skills he learned in high school, and by working in the jewellery store allowed him to turn those ideas into real hardware. Holding at least 10 patents, his friends describe him as one of the best techs that has ever worked at Suffield. One of the Suffield Old Boys (SOBs) said, ‘He not only had the ideas…. He could make them happen.’ The job was never boring, and for the most part — save for a few — he loved the guys he worked with. There were huge trials that involved tons of people and tons of overtime and tons of explosives — really big stuff — but it was the pranks that they played on each other, and the fun that they had despite the hard work that made it “…the best place in the world to work.” As another SOB said, “There was a lot more freedom. You could work on your own ideas that MIGHT prove useful.” After working at Suffield for a few years, in 1953, he met the love of his life, Amalie Roth when she was working as a waitress. They dated for a couple of years and on the 15th of September in 1956 they were married. In 1958-1959, together they built the house that they have lived in ever since. But even more important than the house and yard that they built, is the life and the memories they built for their son. In 1962 their son Dennis arrived and life was never the same. Walt was always busy with some project, or hobby, but nothing was more important to him than his family. From building sandboxes, to tricycle trailers, to go-carts, to homemade air-hockey tables, nothing was too much work for his little boy. Along with all of the ‘stuff’ that Walt built, the yearly tent camping trips offered endless teaching opportunities. There are pictures of chopping wood, and holding fish, and hiking through the mountains with Walt and Uncle Ray and building ponds and countless summer BBQs/birthday parties for Auntie Arlene and Shelly. There are photos of his little boy painting the tricycle wagon, and running the lathe, and later the milling machine, all under his watchful eye. As Dennis says, “He was a VERY patient and careful teacher. I owe more of my career to my Dad than to any of my formal education.” Walt retired from Suffield after 33 years, but not one to simply ‘be retired’, he started Chart Drive Maintenance Service (CDMS). Before the days of wireless telemetry, the production from each natural gas well was recorded on a paper chart driven by a mechanical chart drive movement. Over the next 20 years, he serviced over 5000 mechanical chart drives. As times changed, the mechanical chart drive movements were replaced by quartz controlled units, and Walt was able to service them…. much to the chagrin of the clock companies that were really only interested in selling new clocks. Eventually, and about the time that Walt was getting ready to ‘hang it up’, the data collection began to be recorded electronically, and he closed CDMS. During the CDMS years, Walt’s grandson Hayden was born, and just like when Dennis was young, it didn’t matter how busy Walt was, there was always time for ‘Grampa’s Little Boy’. Dennis recalls losing his position in the pecking order as soon as Hayden arrived. He was no longer greeted by, “Hi. How ya doin’?” It had been replaced forever by, “Hi. How’s Grampa’s Little Boy?”, or “What’s Grampa’s Little Boy up to?” Walt was a careful, ingenious man who was a tremendous husband, father, father-in-law, grandfather, and friend. He was always busy, but he was never too busy to help out his family or friends. Survived by his wife, Amalie; son, Dennis and daughter-in-law Linda; grandson, Hayden; sister, Arlene; niece, Shelly; and numerous SOBs, he will always be loved, and very much missed.
Those wishing to pay their respects may do so at SAAMIS MEMORIAL FUNERAL CHAPEL, 1 Dunmore Road SE, on Friday, June 15th, 2018 from 12:30 until to 1:25 p.m. The Funeral Service will be held at Saamis Memorial Funeral Chapel, on Friday, June 15th, 2018 at 1:30 p.m. with Pastor Maury McNeil officiating. Interment will take place at Saamis Prairie View Cemetery. Memorial gifts in Walter’s memory may be made to the Canadian Cancer Society, 325 Manning Road NE, Calgary, AB T2E 2P5. Condolences may be sent through www.saamis.com or to firstname.lastname@example.org subject heading Walt Fenrick. Funeral arrangements are entrusted to
SAAMIS MEMORIAL FUNERAL CHAPEL CREMATORIUM & RECEPTION CENTRE, “The Chapel in the Park” #1 Dunmore Road SE, Medicine Hat, AB T1A 1Z5 (403)528-2599 www.saamis.com email@example.com Locally owned and directed CGR Holdings Ltd.