On Saturday, December 9, 2017, Merle Sproule passed away peacefully at the age of 90 years. There are many who will mourn him, none more than his beloved bride of 64 years, Aline (Belcourt) Sproule. Standing alongside their mother in her grief are his five children: Kevin; Garth (Cindy); Maureen (Gordon); David (Sherry), and Cathy. Mourning the loss of their Grandpa are his ten grandchildren and eight (soon to be nine) great-grandchildren: Jessica, Mackenzie (Jake) and their children Jake, Brooklyn, Henry and Kate; Kara (Justin Jones) and daughter Annika; Laura (Tyler) and son Max; Jill (Michael Stuart); Emily (Jim Gillis) and daughter Mabel; Audrey, Duncan, Emily, and Sam, Zachary and Zachary’s son, Theodore Cinq-Mars.
Born on February 23, 1927, sixth in a family of ten children, Merle grew up on the family farm south of Lafleche, Saskatchewan. After witnessing first-hand the ravages of the Dirty Thirties, Merle toured the prairie countryside with his father - a great advocate for farmers - listening to him speak about the importance of working together and of farmers pooling their wheat to protect themselves from exploitation by the large grain companies. Merle was deeply instilled with the values of co-operation and community - he lived his life by them. The Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, the Co-operative Life Insurance Company, the Chinook Machinery Co-op, the Lafleche Credit Union and the Lafleche Co-op were an integral part of his farm and community life, even inspiring him to dip his toe into politics by a taking a run for the NDP in the 1964 provincial election.
Merle was a passionate volunteer, serving on the Wood River School Unit Board, the Rural Municipality of Wood River #74 as both councillor and reeve, the Lafleche Hospital Board, the Lafleche Co-op Board, the Legion, and the Lafleche Lions Club. He was most proud of his election as a director of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool.
Dad loved farming, finding joy in the entire process, from getting out there in the spring to seed, to closing the door on full bins in the fall. It was not always easy, praying for timely rains and being at the mercy of the markets, but he loved it all. He farmed with his brother Keith, and then was proud to see the tradition carried on when he sold the farm to his sons David and Garth.
Even in retirement, Merle loved to get out onto a tractor or drive a grain truck, and he took up gardening with a vengeance. A lover of the Saskatchewan outdoors, he enjoyed golfing (especially with his brother Keith and brother-in-law Edmond); in fact he was still hitting the greens just three months ago. He also spent many happy times hunting with his trusty black Labrador, Rex, by his side. Dad enjoyed wintering down in Arizona and made lifelong friends there. He and Mom loved playing cards, and spent many, many evenings with friends and family over the years playing bridge. Dad also loved curling, bowling, and playing horseshoes - he and Keith Wilson were a formidable team! In later years, he took up cooking, and colouring – those who received one of his famous postcards are very lucky indeed!
Merle loved to tell stories, and he had many, from tales of growing up on the farm, mishaps with horses, dust storms in the 30’s, Christmas concerts at Harwood school, to playing hockey with neighbour kids and the like. He really loved to tell jokes, and to get ahold of the microphone whenever he could, in fact he was often called on to “emcee”.
Above all things, though, there was Merle’s music. When he was little, his mom sang songs to him which he then sang to his kids when they were little. Dad taught himself how to chord on the piano. There were many happy times at the farm with the Harwood Orchestra: Alec Sutherland on the fiddle, Eldon Bell on the banjo, Armand Palmier on accordion and Andre Palmier on the guitar. It was a bit snug to dance the butterfly in the living room, but we found a way. As the evening would wear on Dad was the life of the party, singing all the old songs, bolstered by his glass of liquid courage sitting on the corner of the piano. Sometimes Mom would sit down with him and they would play a duet.
Community musical events were a big part of life in Lafleche. The Lions Carol Festival, still going strong, was started by Merle and Ed Belcourt. The Wood River Old Timers programs were very popular too, and often the Harwood Orchestra were the highlight of the show. When his wife, daughter Cathy and grandchildren Jill and Audrey took up fiddling, “Old Man Sproule and His Fiddlers Four” would often make appearances at community events and celebrations. Nothing made Dad happier than chording along on the piano to the fiddlers - he enjoyed that right to the end.
Merle often talked about how lucky he was to have lived in the times he did. Dad, we were so lucky to have you too, and you will be forever remembered.
Merle is survived by his three brothers, Barry, Davis and Keith; numerous in-laws and nieces and nephews, and also Bobby and Susan Smith and their children, Austin, Payton, and Ashton. He was predeceased by his son, Patrick Sproule, his parents Fen and Agnes Sproule and siblings Alda, Ronald, Ruby, Mabel, Sam and Shirley.