John Bell’s celebration of life took place yesterday and there was quite a number of people there, including from RRC. I did say a few words, as John and I go far back, and I thought I would share them with you.
We are here to celebrate the life—well lived— of John Ambler Bell.
I had known John for 70 years, and our relationship began at Kelvin High School back in 1951. John was an electronics guru handy with radios and such, and I was a gearhead that was handy with automobiles. John helped me with my electronics issues and I assisted him with rebuilding the engine of his ‘36 Ford in his father’s house on Oakdean Blvd in Saint James. Later we changed an engine in his old truck at his cottage at West Hawk.
After Kelvin, John, my brother George and I were in a carpool to the University of Manitoba. John was enrolled in Electronics Engineering and my brother and I in Mechanical Engineering. John and George graduated but I dropped out after the first year—too impatient to start earning money, buying a fast car and chasing fast women!!
We seemed to go in different directions after that and I didn’t see John for a number of years except for a chance meeting in Grand Forks North Dakota, when I met John and his girlfriend at that time. I can’t remember her name but what a surprise! She was a champion swimmer who had made a name for herself swimming Lake Winnipeg.
Then John met Mary. “There was something about Mary”—I think they named that movie after Mary—and they moved to the West Coast following John’s hiring on to a position at a radar site in northern B.C.
Our next meeting was 1969 when I accepted a position as Red River College’s business manager. I ran into John in the hallway and I think we both uttered at the same time, “What are you doing here!” And so the relationship began again in earnest.
John opened up an electronics business, Bison Electronics, with his friend of many years, Jim Bake, and operated it for a number of years. John was an avid ham radio operator. He had radios set up at West Hawk, his house in St. James, Mesa and even in his automobile.
Our careers at Red River ended with John retiring as Department Head of Electronics, and I from the college administration.
Because we were both West Hawkers, we saw each other quite a lot. John was famous as the Mayor of Indian Bay and for his signature corn roasts each fall. Quite the organizer and leader, he had a road made into the Indian bay area, previously accessible only by water, called Bell Road. Quite often, John and I rode together to the Heritage Group meetings at Red River.
When I retired, Ruthie and I began wintering in Mesa Arizona. One year John and Mary rented a trailer in Mesa and came to visit us at our place in Mesa Regal Resort. John was immediately taken with the lap pool in our resort—fitting for his passion and success in swimming—and it was natural that he would purchase a unit there as well.
For many years we two couples enjoyed each other’s company, happy hours playing cards and attending the Friday night dances.
Each year in the winter, John and I would enter the Arizona Senior Olympics competitions, John in the swimming competitions and me in volleyball and baseball, cheering each other on in our various sports. I could never keep up with John in his medal count. He invariably won four gold medals in each division, always way ahead in his heats. At his last competition, his daughter Gayleen also medalled—I guess swimming is in the genes.
John was very active at Mesa Regal. He taught electronics to the residents—including me as a pupil—and ran the computer club, organizing and teaching classes.
John was very proud of his kids, all successful in their careers: John Jr. in Urban Planning, Paul, a graduate of RED RIVER as a carpenter and successful in his own business in Kenora, Gayleen, a lifetime career as a teacher in Kenora, and Russell as an electrician with his own business in Kenora.
John’s passing has created a large void in my life, but I know that he and Mary are comfortable together in their new lives in the hereafter.
In closing I leave you with a quote from Anthony Bourdain
“As you move through this life and this world, you change things slightly; you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life—and travel—leave marks on you.”