Royden Horricks Gemmill June 6, 1936 - December 10, 2020
With heartfelt sadness, we share with you the sudden crossing over of Royden Gemmill on December 10, 2020. He was the husband of Joan Gemmill, happily married for sixty-one years this past August. Beloved father to Heather (Bill Church), Chris (Karen Stuart) and Scott(Colleen). Pa to five grandchildren Maxwell Church (Michelle Sweeney), Hannah Church (Jared Foulds), Matthew Gemmill (Bernie Rau), Carson Gemmill and Brooklyn Gemmill, the very best Great Pa Gemmill to Collin Church (Maxwell and Michelle). Royden was also the older brother of Janet MacDonald (Gemmill). Royden was deeply loved and valued by his family and extended family, as well as he and Joan’s large community of friends. Everyone will dearly miss him.
Royden was born in South Porcupine in 1936, and his parents were Annie and Roy Gemmill. He lost his father when he was four years old, and a few years later, Annie married John Duff. When he was ten, they all moved to the Duff family farm outside of Thessalon, Ontario.
In high school, he met his true love in Joan Cooper. They dated in high school and were separated by work while they both trained for their future careers; Royden worked for the Ministry of Lands and Forests, Joan became a teacher.
Once it became clear to both of them that they were destined to spend life together, they married at the church in Rydal Bank, Ontario. Shortly afterwards, they moved to Dorset, where Royden completed his Ranger School Degree. They purchased a trailer as their first home in Thessalon, and Royden became part of Kirkwood Natural Resources. In early 1961, they welcomed their daughter, Heather, to the world. The New Year’s Baby.
Royden was an adventurous man from the very beginning. He loved all cars, any kind of trucks and machinery, and cared for them so well that others could enjoy them after he was finished with them. Royden began his career with Natural Resources; he was directed to discard some old dynamite. Unfortunately, it was more powerful than he imagined, and it destroyed all the windows of the office building! He had to replace every window. He became known as Dynamite Royden.
An opportunity presented itself in Sand Lake for the Lands and Forests as Fire Control Officer. Royden acceted this opportunity and moved his family to their second home, a cabin in Sand Lake. The only access was the Agawa Canyon train or a floatplane. Following that, Royden worked in Lake Superior Park during the winter months. Royden and Joan lived in their trailer at Montreal River, where their second child, Chris, was born in 1962. The opportunity to become Park Superintendent at Pancake Bay Provincial Park motivated the family to move to a community. Royden spent seven years in this position, and their third child, Scott, was born in 1965. During the winter months, the children had to travel by school bus for an hour on treacherous highways in snow blinding storms. The safety of his children led Royden to seek work further south. He successfully gained employment at Arrowhead Provincial Park in Huntsville. Arrowhead park became Royden’s pride and joy. He believed that his staff and students were the backbones of a successful Arrowhead park. When people needed Royden’s help, the staff would say, “listen for the sound of the biggest machine,” and you will find Royden. As a supervisor, he supported his staff through thick and thin. One student staff member in fun threw a wet toilet paper roll through a truck window, he very quickly went to Royden to confess the crime, and Royden turned back after laughing to tell him he would not be written up if he paid for the windshield. All of the students who worked summers for him appreciated his kindness and forgiveness.
As a father in the neighbourhood, all children received 100% of his attention whenever they requested it, no matter how tired or busy he was. One time when he had just come home from a long shift at the park, he got out of the truck; his children, along with the neighbourhood children, would call out that they needed one more person to play the game, and he would drop his lunch pail and join whatever game his kids and their friends were playing.
Hockey was one of Royden’s biggest loves; the Leaf’s and the Ryerson Rams have lost one of their most loyal fans. Arenas were Royden’s second home for so many years. Once when he was a convener for minor hockey, a young hockey player came running up to him yelling, “Mr. Gemmill, Mr. Gemmill, I scored my first goal today, and next week my coach told me to score one on the other team instead of our own goalie” with a great deal of pride. His love of hockey defined him; he played hockey in school and on the rink in the back yard with the same skates for most of his life. Chris and Scott played with travelling hockey teams. Many conversations happened on the way to and from hockey games in travel busses. His kids and their teammates always knew how proud he was of them after the game. Sometimes you wanted to hear it, and sometimes you did not. This was a tradition his son, Scott, carried forward with his children. He also was a big-time volunteer to help manage minor hockey teams in Huntsville, which he did tirelessly for the love of the game. Every winter from the time his children were small, Royden created a rink with lights in the back yard for all the kids in the neighbourhood. He took many hours to create the rinks, and it was worth every minute to see the enjoyment the kids were able to play into the night.
Here are a few of the many many memories of Royden in his role of Pa from his grandchildren. One by one each of his children brought home a special loved one who recalled their first visits to the Gemmill family and feeling guilty because they would fall asleep on the couch while visiting and the culprit would have been the heat in the living room from Royden’s roaring fires in the fireplace. Each of those loved ones found in Royden an amazing father-in-law to teach their children patience, perseverance, the value of time, the love of the outdoors, the love of nature, the love and care for a garden, the value of family, the love of hockey, and cannot forget the love of the Toronto Maple Leafs! The next generation is ready to take up the task.
Pa was a man looked up to by all of us. He was highly thought of by everyone; he was a perfect Pa in our eyes, someone who had no flaws, except the missing fingers, but that just added more character to the amazing man he was.
Pa was always willing to teach us something new, he let us help with his chores and tasks even if they made the job take much longer. This included giving rides in the back of the tractor, teaching how to drive the tractor and how to back up the tractor. When the electric fence came to the garden, we were very curious. The first time he caught us trying to touch it, he yelled, “What are you doing?” and told us not to touch it because our ears and toes might get tingly. After that, he would have us kids check if it was on by holding onto it to get a shock making a game out of it. Pa’s vegetable garden was the absolute best. It always had so much amazing produce. Of course, we would eat all his peas as fuel for riding the bike around the yard. They always tasted better straight out of the garden.
Pa loved his garden. He loved his potatoes, his peas in the pod (he loved sharing them), and always had a great big smile on his face. I remember him showing me the first time how to get the peas out. I spent all afternoon popping peas out of the pods that Pa had to tell me to stop; otherwise, I’d spoil my dinner.
The memories are so many and all of those memories are filled with happiness and love. The summers of camping in the trailer at Killbear Provincial Park or any of the other many places we camped are forever cherished. Pa indeed showed us all how to appreciate life and cherish all the moments. He showed us how to just love life. He was a light that always shone brightly. And we will try our best to keep that light shining bright.
My favourite memory of Pa would have to be the time when camping at Killbear, and two little bear cubs ran through the campsite and up a tree. Pa was so fearless, trying to figure out why so many people grouped around the trailer. Pa was curious about everything happening around the park. Pa was there to help us have the most fun. Fishing with pa, walks to the store to get treats and mail, roasting marshmallows, starting camp fires, paddling in the canoe, watching hockey games, working in the garden together, filling the water tanks for the gardens, getting rid of the dock spiders so we could swim, taking us tubing at Arrowhead, to making us sliding hills in the yard in Novar, splitting and stacking wood, fixing up old bikes for us to ride around all summer, letting us swim in the slimy garden ponds We always loved playing cribbage with him. He loved to help us when Nana was winning, and we needed a little of his support to succeed with a sparkle in his eye. Pa always made such delicious food and was the best for creating the perfect breakfast in the morning! Pa was frequently the last at the table at mealtime as he enjoyed it to the last bite. His granddaughters were often accompanying him, enjoying every last bit with him. While the others would clean up, they would just sit quietly eating. Oh, to have one last meal with Pa again. Pa was a man of so many skills, he could do anything and everything he put his mind to. When we were at Judge’s cottages, pa would look after it while they were gone. We decided to play on the dock for a little while Nana and Pa were busy attending other tasks. I must have been about seven or eight at the time, and I decided to brush the sand off the dock with my foot. I hadn’t really known what a silver was like until that moment, it must have been at least three inches long on the bottom of my foot. Nana and Pa rushed me home, and pa carried me from the truck to the house while I was screaming and wailing. He put me on the couch in the sunroom, and he sat at the other end of it and pulled out his pocket knife. He held my foot and looked like he was ready to cut into my foot, but all I could think of was what on earth is he going to do! I was completely hysterical, every time Pa would come close to my foot with the knife I would pull my foot away and cry louder. Pa kept looking at me, not defeated, but he would laugh and laugh, his big belly laughs. Pa put his pocket knife back were it belonged, and nana and pa took me to the hospital.
Royden stayed at Arrowhead until his retirement in 1989 and thoroughly enjoyed over thirty years of retirement with Joan. He loved his vegetable garden and begrudgingly helped Joan with her extensive flower gardens. He built tables, cupboards, wooden toys for grandchildren, helped take care of grandchildren every summer - all with love. His love for his family and grandchildren and great-grandchild overflowed from him every day, so proud to call them all his family and loved ones.
With the distance of living far away, facetime technology allowed for so many video calls making it feel like real visits. And every time upon saying goodbye Pa would sing I Love You a Bushel and a Peck. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfnwhlywWjA
It is hard to write only a few words for such an amazing man, husband, father, Pa, and great Pa. Royden will always be remembered and his memories forever cherished by all that knew and loved him. In honour of Royden’s love for nature, hockey and need for mending his body here and there, we ask that if you wish to donate in his honour in lieu of flowers you might choose one of the following: Donate a tree through the link on the funeral home website or Hockey Canada Foundation www.hockeycanada.ca or Huntsville Hospital Foundation www.huntsvillehospitalfoundation.ca
To send sympathy gifts to the family or plant a tree in memory of Royden Horricks Gemmill, please visit our tribute store.