Ronald S. Holcroft
November 15, 1916 – August 4, 2015
When I lived on Salt Spring and in the North End after my third move in same number of years to the property of Marjorie Martin, I lived in the sturdy cottage that her father had built with her grandfather more than 50 years earlier. Most days I’d take a stroll down what I consider to be one of the most beautiful roads on the island: Walker’s Hook Road.
My walk would extend from Hedger Road from where my little cabin was located, down Walker’s Hook to the Fernwood Road Café.
My jaunt always included a trip down to the end of the Fernwood dock to check for otters, inhale the sea air, see if anyone was crabbing, chat with visitors who I might happen upon (and often did) and look to the south to see if I might spot a ferry crossing in the distance towards Swartz Bay. It often included a meander along the beach to take photos of shells and whatever intrigued me.
It was such a breath of fresh air, literally, given that the road parallels narrow Trincomali Channel that separates Salt Spring from Galiano and named after a great sailing ship, the HCS Trincomali, built, if you can believe it, shortly after the Napoleanic wars, and now a restored ship in Hartlepool England if Wikipedia has it right.
One day as I was walking back, I saw a man coming towards me in the distance, looking as if he’d just stepped off a stage in Stratford, or perhaps to use an even more Canadian example, as if he was one of the characters in Stephen Leacock’s famous town of Mariposa.
He was elderly and he was dapper. He walked slowly but purposefully and his cane tapped the road and steadied him. He had on the kind of ascot cap that my own father used to wear on his daily walks, the kind many males from “the old country” don. He was wearing a tie and jacket. He seemed unusually put together for island life. But what really stood out was his mustache and his eyebrows both adorning his face (and hiding it) by impressive lengthy wisps of white hair. His blue eyes were watery with age. He was the perfect subject for a watercolour painting. His feet sported black brogues, the kind my own grandfather, who lived to be 99, wore every day of his life.
I said hello, chatted about nothing for a bit, and then before he could get away, so taken by his appearance I was, I asked him if he’d mind if I took his photo. “You have such a great face,” I said. How could he resist? Our interaction must have been no more than five minutes but he stuck with me as those who seem a bit extraordinary do.
A year later or thereabouts, I moved off Salt Spring. I put his photo in my online portfolio. I didn’t think much of it but I would look at that face from time to time and smile, and remember our short meeting.
A few years ago, his daughter, Anne Weerstra, contacted me for the photo. I forget how she came upon it or why specifically she wanted it. And then on August 4, 2015, I got an e-mail from her again, late that evening.
A while ago I contacted you to ask for a copy of the photo of my father, Ron Holcroft “94 years strong”, and very much appreciated the positive response. I’m sorry to tell you now that my dad died this morning, almost 3 months shy of his 99th birthday. Your photo shows him as so many would remember him. I wondered if you would let us use it in the obituary…
Of course my answer was yes.
I’m looking forward to reading that obituary. I want to know a little more about the long life Ron Holcroft lived.