Fathers and Friends in Carberry – Feb 2019


Along the road in life we all experience a variety of people and situations that ultimately help to mold us into the people we become today. For me this included a number of folks in this very town, the town of Carberry. I would like to honor some of the “Fathers” / Friends who were instrumental in this molding process in my life.

My early years were spent in Winnipeg where as a young man I played for the Blue Bombers Farm team from 1969 – 1972. It was during this time that I came to a crossroads to make some decisions. You see I had met a young farmer’s daughter in 1971. Her name was Leslie Downey. I had to decide and choose between furthering my football career by going to the States or this farm girl from Carberry!

You see I had aunts and uncles in Saskatchewan who were farmers and I was able to spend many summers on their farms. I enjoyed farm living and activities so when this life altering decision presented itself I knew it was to be the girl and farming connection I was to choose. Hence my early years with Leslie in the Carberry area.

Clarence Downey became like a father to me and accepted me. I could match his work ethic and we could laugh together. I had not experienced much laughter, love or acceptance by my natural father. I had grown up knowing fear, pain and rejection as the norm in our home. My father was an alcoholic, a very angry man who unleashed that anger on me as his son. History had repeated itself in my father because his dad used to drink and beat him. He was a very broken man who did not know how to love his family or to laugh. Clarence taught me how to laugh, how to love his family. Anyone who knew Clarence knew how much he loved to laugh and enjoy spending time with others even while working or at the end of a hard days’ work.

One of the next fathers or mentors who took me under his wing was Walker Witherspoon. It seemed unusual to me that a good family friend and neighbour would want to spend time with the young guy from the big city. Walker was a good listener who had a way about him that allowed me to speak my heart out, to share some of the pain that I had not been able to share with anyone else to that point. I learned how to cry as I spent time pouring out my heart. Walker was that safe place for me to share. He would offer his input without passing judgment but offering encouragement that helped mold me into a better man, a good father.

There were a number of “fathers of acceptance” in this community who helped to mentor me in the early years here. One of these men was Bill Burch who quickly accepted me as having worth as an individual, a hardworking young man on Clarence’s farm. Clarence loved to go to auctions when time allowed so I would go along and learn how they worked. I took in all that I could while at these auctions. I think maybe Bill may have been the original “rapper” before that was a thing! I was still able to buy my first piece of machinery through one of Bill’s auctions.

Bill and I would have coffee together and it was during these times that he mentored me, bringing out the ‘man of purpose’ that was within. I would listen to his wisdom and glean life application as it applied to business and to understanding people. Bill has been to me a Father of integrity.

The next two Fathers in the community were Art Sear and Ken Davidson. They were my first hockey coaches for the Plainsmen Senior Hockey team. Both Art and Ken encouraged, empowered and were proud of me when I played on the team. Support like this I did not receive from my natural father. Both Art and Ken gave me respect as an athlete and a leader on the team which allowed me to earn the right to be called “Bullet” or “Boomer” on and off the ice whether in Carberry or in any community the team travelled to play in. We were the “band of brothers’ on the ice and off. We played hard together as a team and we were the champion team! It is with thanks to Art and Ken who coached and mentored me and others through their own selfless dedication that I honour them.

Lorry Balabanski was a mentor and father type who taught me how to be a good business person. During the time I worked for Lorry he challenged me and taught me a lot as it related to the financial part of the business as well as the practical applications of business. He trusted me with his business and encouraged me to consider becoming a business owner or person. Lorry recognized attributes in me that I had not been able to see for myself. Lorry was a Father of vision to me.

Another community father and mentor for me was Howard Kneeshaw. Howard was a man of integrity, a man of faith and one of great encouragement and example of a person who I wanted to become like. It was Howard who inspired and encouraged me to go into the field of insurance and investments. Howard was a Father of hope, encouragement and inspiration to me as a person in life and in business.

Gordie McPhail was a community father who influenced and mentored me in the insurance business. He would encourage me to strive for higher goals in education, training and management in the insurance financial field. In business and on a personal level Gordie and I had a lot of respect for each other and for the integrity we both walked in this business of insurance.
As I look back over almost 50 years from the time I first arrived in Carberry as a young man looking for a future to this present time, I can attest to the many “Fathers” in the community who took the time and cared enough to coach and mentor me and to become friends. Just as I have had the privilege to be given many ‘tools for my toolbox’ from numerous sources along my pathway so too have I had the privilege to sow into many other lives. It is the law of sowing and reaping. You always get a greater return on even one seed sown.

So I would encourage you to become a mentor, a father in the community, a friend to others around you. There are many opportunities available through church or faith based organizations, clubs in the area such as Kiwanis, Kinsmen, YMCA or YWCA, coaches in sports, schools.

Big Brothers/Big Sisters now have a presence in our community here in Carberry. Young people today more than ever can benefit from mentoring relationships such as can be found in Big Brothers or Sisters.
Your contact person here is Karra Knoll who is a member of this community. Please contact her for further information if you are interested.

Her contact number is: 204-727-1787 or email is: Karra.Knol@bigbrothersbigsisters.ca

— Submitted by a son, father and grandfather, business man—

Ray Johnson, Carberry community member


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