One month ago, we found out our Dad’s stomach cancer had returned and this time there was nothing that could be done. When he was diagnosed again it was almost a relief for him. He had been sick for a while but he never complained. Now he finally knew what was wrong and he accepted the news with grace and dignity. Little did we know of the pain he was in, he never said anything. Instead of worrying about himself, he was always concerned about others and making sure we were okay.
Thomas Irwin Webb was originally from Vars, near Ottawa. He was born April 16, 1933. He and his three sisters lived with their parents, Robert and Mabel, on a small dairy farm with no electricity and no running water. Every morning, they started their day by six. One of Tom’s jobs was to bring the cows in from the pasture and milk them before going to school. As a boy, Tom liked going to the store with his friend to share 25 cents worth of ice cream. He liked to play hockey and baseball. He also liked school.
By the time he was 16, Tom’s parents couldn’t afford to send him to school anymore. He made his way to western Canada to look for a job. He found himself in a restaurant with only $1.15 in his pocket. He bought a coffee and wondered about his next move. Then someone sat down, they started talking and he was offered a job. He always said everything is possible when you have faith.
Tom went on to work in the oil fields and forestry camps of Alberta and the farms of Saskatchewan. In the summer of 1960, he came to Fort George with “Ron Construction” to build a new school. It was a miserable foggy day and he told himself he wasn’t sticking around for long. Soon after, at a wedding reception, he sent a friend to ask Eliza Bobbish if she would dance with him – five years later they would marry.
They went on to open Webb’s Lodge, Fort George’s first motel. Tom worked hard and enjoyed cooking for his guests. He became a part of the community and he loved to talk to people.
The elders liked talking with him even though they couldn’t speak English. He answered them back in his rudimentary Cree. He was a friend to all and he treated people as he would have liked to be treated.
Tom was a dry wit with a ready smile and a twinkle in his eye. He was a great cook, a jack of all trades, a great gardener, gave good advice when asked, was entrepreneurial, a good boss, hard working, uncomplaining, honest, generous, tolerant, gentle, patient, and a faithful man who went to church until he got sick.
His wife Eliza was always by his side during his illness. They went on the journey together and he was grateful for that. Before he got really sick he was shown what was waiting for him when he passed on. He described it as “peace beyond all understanding.” He had a chance to say good-bye to family and friends. He knew we loved him and that we would miss him. He told us he loved us and to take care of ourselves.
On the night of his passing, his sons, Ernie and Gary, were on the “night shift.” Around 1 am, they noticed his breathing had changed. Eliza, Sandra and Leslie were called in. Ernie told him they all loved him and would miss him and that mom was on her way.
When Eliza arrived, she told him that they were all there and he could go. With that, she sang his favourite hymn and a prayer. Then around 1:30 am, he stopped breathing.
Tom was predeceased by his father, mother and younger sister Lorna.
He is survived by his older sister Eleanor, his niece Tammy, his youngest sister Verna (Elmer), his wife Eliza, his stepson Leslie, his eldest son Ernest (Catherine), son Gary, daughter Sandra and youngest son Brian. He is also survived by his grandchildren Jordan, Paul, Katie, Rachel, Jackie, Alex, Vincent and Sarah.
He was loved by many and will be sorely missed.
In closing, the Webb family would like to thank the doctors and nurses at the Val d’Or and Chisasibi Hospitals who took such good care of him. They would also like to thank the people who worked with him over the years. And lastly, thanks to all the family and friends who showed their love and support.
Tom Webb’s eulogy was written by his children and delivered by Tommy Wadden and James Bobbish on the 28th of April at St. Phillips Anglican Church in Chisasibi.