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Floyd Sweet

August 19, 1937 September 30, 2011
Floyd Sweet
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Obituary for Floyd Sweet

On Friday September 30th Mr. Floyd Sweet of Vermilion Passed away at the Vermilion Health Care Complex at the age of 74 years. He is loved and remembered by his loving wife Lil of Vermilion; brothers Earl (Sherry) Sweet of Prince George and Dale Sweet of Wainwright; 1 sister Verla (Jerry) Kiehlbach of Carrot Creek; his brother-in-law Loyal (Sylvia) Krawchuk of Vegreville and sister-in-law Nellie (Walter) Sribney of Vegreville as well as numerous nieces and nephews. Floyd was predeceased by his brothers Wayne and Garth Sweet; sister Barbara Franklin; Brother-in-law Neil Franklin and Niece Leann Sweet A Funeral Service for Floyd will be held on Tuesday October 4, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. at the Vermilion Regional Centre, in Vermilion with Interment following the service at the Vermilion Cemetery Donations in memory of Floyd may be made to the Friends of Vermilion Health Care, the Vermilion Seniors Centre or the charity of your choice. Floyd’s Eulogy “Floyd was an amazing man.” –Dennis Berdine. The fact that we are all here is a testament to how this amazing man was regarded. Floyd was born in the Islay Hospital on August 19, 1937, the first child of Veril and Margaret (nee Maddex) Sweet of Dewberry. Four brothers followed in fairly short order—Wayne, Earl, Dale, and Garth with sisters Verla and Barbara completing the family. Family was important to Floyd and he held his parents in very high regard. Floyd grew up understanding the necessity of hard work and the sharing of responsibility required to raise seven children on the income generated on a small farm. The family had to be self-sufficient in many ways. Dale described the work, hogs to feed, 14 cows to milk before school, horses and chickens to care for, water to be hand pumped and hauled to the house, wood to be chopped and carried. Floyd’s brothers Earl and Dale are quick to claim that they did most of the work because Floyd was always busy studying. Verla remembers her big brother, holding a little sister by each hand, racing down the road so as not to be late for the school bus. Like many boys growing up in the country, Floyd enjoyed trapping, riding horseback or walking for miles, skating on the sloughs in winter, playing cards and also doing his fair share of working out for other farmers. Again, his brothers claim he stooked everywhere but at home. At one point, when working for McMullens, he and Dean and several others about the same age were stooking together. One of the group, a rather large fellow, showed up a little worse for wear after partying into the wee hours, and Floyd, being Floyd, was teasing him. Finally this fellow had had enough, and turned on Floyd. “I’d eat you for lunch,” he declared, “But my doctor said sweets aren’t good for me.” Rye, a one-roomed country school, was the scene of Floyd’s primary education and he then took the bus to Dewberry School with his siblings until the completion of grade 12. On one occasion during his grade 12 year, the winter of the “big snow”, the students were told they must remain in Dewberry as the roads were blocked but Floyd walked home the 71/2 miles so his parents wouldn’t worry. From the last day of grade 12 in 1956, the day of their first date at the Lea Park Rodeo, until Sept 30, 2011 Lil was the most important person in Floyd’s life. She commented that she sure didn’t like rodeos, but she sure liked Floyd, so it was worth the sacrifice of having to go. He came courting on horseback that summer and although Lil sure didn’t like horses, she sure liked Floyd. They both went off to U of A that fall and the courtship continued with long walks, dances and of course studies as both had set their sights on the goal of becoming teachers. Returning home for the summer, Floyd went looking for work with another goal in mind. He found a job in the kitchen of the army camp in Wainwright, worked one day, then hung up his apron—scrubbing pots and pans wasn’t for him! He then worked on construction of the Lazy T motel, to make enough money to buy an engagement ring. He began his teaching career in the Vermilion community in September of 1957. Dean McMullen noted, “As was Floyd’s habit, he decided to overachieve right from the start of his teaching career. His first assignment was to a class of grade 8”s but within 2 weeks he was transferred to teach grade 10. Floyd learned to type along with the students and reports were that he actually passed the course. His final teaching assignment, as guidance counselor for over 300 students in grades 8-12”, was perhaps the time he most enjoyed in his 39 year career. After their first year of teaching, during which Floyd took many trips to Paradise Valley to see Lil, they married in 1958 in a traditional three day celebration held at Lil’s home on the farm. The families did all the preparations for the wedding, and after Floyd built the outdoor dance floor, Lil remarked that she knew this marriage was going to last, for he said he was never getting married again—it was too much work! However, his little sister Verla wasn’t even sure he was married because the service, being Greek Orthodox, was so different to her. That fall the newlyweds moved to Preston to begin an 11 year sojourn as Principal and teacher, becoming an integral part of the community. As the new teacherage wasn’t finished, they endured the hardship (or perhaps not, for newlyweds) of sleeping on the single “sick” bed in the office of the school for two months and cooking their meals on a hot plate set on a filing cabinet. Floyd loved playing with the students and he had every bit as much trouble leaving the soccer game as the kids did when Lil rang the bell to end recess. He continued university through summer schools until completing his degree in 1968. He also earned his masters degree in Education Administration in 1985. Lasting friendships were made in those Preston years. One night after a late Monopoly session, Floyd and Lil went off to bed, setting the clock radio alarm on loud and putting the radio back on top of the fridge. What actually woke them the next morning was the crash of the radio hitting the stove after ringing long and loudly enough to vibrate off the fridge. Larry Donily shared that these years with Floyd as teacher were the best years he spent in school and recounts that the Sweet’s was the highlight place to hit on Halloween. Floyd would chase the trick-or- treaters holding a sheet of plastic in front of him so it would rattle in the wind and would look like a ghost while he was coming at them. Floyd moved to Vermilion and J. R. Robson in 1969. As a teacher and administrator, he was focused on meeting the needs of individual students before that became a buzzword in Education. As the guidance counselor, Floyd would see almost all students in the school, but often for short periods of time with gaps of weeks between. He developed techniques to make connections quickly, often poking fun at himself and his lack of hair. By acknowledging his own apparent imperfections (after all, God made some heads perfect. The rest he covered with hair.) he would get students to open up. The other strength he brought was that he cared for each one, and rarely forgot any student. Even years later, he would know where they were and what they were doing. As Dean McMullen pointed out in the submission he made for Floyd’s life membership in the Alberta Retired Teachers’ Association, “His strengths lay in his capacity for hard work, attention to detail, and the ability to communicate with everyone.” Among other subjects, he taught the very popular outdoor education classes and camped out in all kinds of weather. On one occasion he was reportedly sleeping so soundly in his tent that a group of students enjoyed an ‘after lights out’ game of Fox and Goose with Floyd being none the wiser until seeing the telltale ring in the morning. Floyd could play pranks, too. A hole appeared in the wall of Arvida Horpestad’s classroom when J.R. was under renovation and Floyd conveniently made use of it to pop his head through and make faces at her class as math was being taught. This backfired when Arvida, alerted by her students’ laughter, turned around and Floyd, withdrawing his head too quickly, scraped his bald spot. The next morning a hard hat, complete with a band-aid tucked in the inside, appeared on his desk. Floyd always enjoyed a good joke, whether he was the perpetrator or the victim. On one occasion, he was at a friend’s garage sale. They had boxes of jars that they couldn’t get rid of and they thought they would dispose of them by slipping them into Floyd’s truck without Floyd or Lil noticing. When they got home, Floyd came up with the idea of taking them back at night and planting them through their yard, garden, bushes, under the deck, anywhere that would conceal a jar. It was months before they found them all again. He loved Halloween. For over 40 years, Gilbert and Mildred Harrison and Floyd and Lil exchanged a turnip on October 31. The form was never the same and the delivery was never obvious. It might have come in small pieces in a champagne bottle, or in the ingredients of a cake. A lot of other mischief went on at Halloween. Once Floyd and Lil got Aubrey and Dennis to drop them off outside Loyal and Sylvia’s house in Vegreville disguised with pillow cases with eyeholes cut in them. Loyal and Sylvia had no idea who their visitors were, until Christmas, when Loyal opened his present – two pillow cases with eyeholes cut in them. And even then, it didn’t make sense to him until Tillie picked up one of the pillowcases and dropped it over her head. Then there was that beautiful moment when everyone sees the light come on. Larry remembers a Halloween when Floyd burst out of the yard and chased him down the street. Realizing that he couldn’t outrun Floyd, Larry suddenly whirled around and ran directly at him. Floyd, who on occasion, was a little insecure in the dark, was frightened and began to run with Larry now chasing him. He escaped by jumping into Payment’s yard. Another time Floyd was frightened was when we were away over Christmas and Floyd was checking our house. We were in the midst of some renovations and power was cut off to part of the house. Eventually, Floyd made his way downstairs where there was power. As he flicked on the light, a voice called out, “Merry Christmas.” As Floyd described it, he made three miles before he hit the first step, two feet away. When we returned home, the motion-activated snowman had been banished to a closet. Actually, just a lot of high jinks followed Floyd around. One time, Loyal and Sylvia were going to surprise Floyd and Lil by showing up for breakfast at Sweet’s in their pajamas. They invited Tillie and Mike to join them, but Mike said he didn’t have appropriate pajamas. So Tillie went to Floyd to borrow a pair, claiming she needed them for the play at the Seniors’ Centre. Next morning, when they suddenly appeared at the door, all Floyd could say was ‘Those are my pajamas.” We already know he loved to have fun. He also loved to be active. He wrestled competitively at university, he loved to dance- especially with Lil, to hike, to snowshoe, to bowl, to walk. The streets of Vermilion were a safer place at night due to Floyd’s walks. He loved music - playing trumpet in the Boys’ Band in Dewberry when growing up and in the Community Band in Vermilion as an adult. He also had his passions. For 30 years he curled with Murray Westman and crew. He was an excellent curler and very competitive and they won five league championships. Floyd was very demanding of himself and tried to have himself fired when he wasn’t playing well. Floyd’s coaching let many students advance in the game, and it was hard to tell who enjoyed the experience more. Floyd had a reputation as a bit of a polymath – a person with expertise in a number of different areas. The gardens around his house are glorious. It was a skill gained with some failures. In one of their first gardening experiences, in Preston,he dug the carrots and beets, and then realized that he didn’t have good storage for them as it was still fairly warm. So they put the vegetables in a plum box, dug a hole, covered the box with straw, then covered the straw and box with dirt. One or two weeks later when the weather cooled, Floyd dug up the box, only to discover that a pocket gopher had been celebrating their largesse and had eaten his way through many of the vegetables. It is rumored that in the early years of gardening in Vermilion Floyd rented a bob cat to work his garden, then had to rent a rototiller to cover up the mess he had created. He called it a war zone. No matter what Floyd set out to do, it was done methodically and scientifically. His garden was no exception and everyone in town knew his them. He would tend them on the run, with this pot needing a pour of water while you counted to 4, and the next needing a count of 6, depending on the size of the pot, whether or not it was in the sun, the kind of plant that was in it, all based on a mysterious set of factors that Floyd would explain to you in what his colleagues named a “Floydian”—a long involved explanation offering several variables and choices, and Floyd’s own preference and why. The glorious show of flowers around his house show that his techniques worked. He also liked to build – or overbuild, as Lil described it. When Frank Snopek was putting in Floyd’s fireplace, Floyd dug the hole for the foundation. Frank looked at the massive hole, and in his slow drawl said, “Floyd, if there’s an earthquake, the house may fall, but the chimney will stand. Floyd was also expert with a stone hammer, and there are several places – notably the Rotary lookout - where his work can be seen. His sister, Barbara thought that he must have ‘done time’ in jail; he was so good at splitting rocks. Floyd was one of the few people who have had their tongue x-rayed. It was to find an embedded rock chip. Of course he had to help the technician decide how this could be done. He took on projects that most people wouldn’t attempt. The basement hot tub! Out came the living room window, the hole was sawed in the floor and down went the tub. Simple, wasn’t it? Just as simple as the greenhouse with underground water tanks or the dropping of the new outdoor hot tub by crane into the side yard, or taking off the garage roof and adding another story. His Christmas lighting was a work of art, again meticulously planned, measured and installed, then put away in reverse order so it would all fit the next year. We used to tease Floyd that everyone else’s lights dimmed when he turned his on. People came from all around to marvel and enjoy. Floyd’s passion for capturing his interests on film became a challenge to achieve photographic excellence and to that end he took courses and read manuals until satisfied he was doing a professional job. This passion turned into a business which captured many people’s magic moments forever and provided passports to new adventures. Lil laughs when she remembers his consternation when, after chasing a gopher down the road for some distance just to get a better picture, he discovered there was no film in the camera. There is no power point picture presentation today because Floyd preferred the view from behind the camera. Floyd and Lil traveled the North American continent, the Caribbean, New Zealand, The Cook Islands, the Azores, Portugal and Hawaii as well as attending three World Expos. They weren’t just casual tourists but explored each country to learn as much as they could about it. Many things were transported home including a Sarchi cart and wooden garden furniture, taxing Floyd’s well known ingenuity as he attempted to fit it in the luggage. Above all, though, Floyd liked people and showed this in many ways. When his friend Aubrey shared that she was having trouble sleeping at night, he told her he was, too, and that she should bring a shooter and meet him under the street lamp by the hospital. Knowing Floyd’s life style, Aubrey was a little shocked by this, until Floyd added “We’ll play marbles until we’re tired enough to sleep” In all his relationships, as one of his former student teachers put it, “He made you feel like you were a valuable person.” He could have a serious conversation and although you may not have agreed on an issue, you came away better informed, and with a better understanding of another point of view. When Floyd buttonholed a politician over an issue, he always got a respectful hearing. Farrell Palmer, a close friend, noted that Floyd was a man “whose love for others was the epitome of his life. He would often talk about his joy in helping up-and-coming teachers as he made his supervision rounds. His heart-felt concern for those with special needs was unsurpassed and he was an amazing neighbour. He had such a humble spirit, the many things he did for others will never be known except by those he helped.” He and Lil were wonderful hosts. Many people think the parking lot in front of their house belongs to the Seniors’ Centre. I think they just let the seniors use it once in a while. As a couple, they would often collect a group of people, load up the van, and off they would go - to the theatre, to a concert, to a fowl supper. They also kept track of their friends and knew who might be having a difficult time and would benefit from a bowl of soup and some visiting. In his four months in hospital, the staff became his new community and he interacted with them on a caring and personal basis. When most of us retire, we expect life to be more leisurely. Floyd ran. Vern Davies remarked that he would never retire – he couldn’t handle being as busy as Floyd. He was all over the province at meetings of the Alberta Council of Severely Disabled, the Mental Health Advisory, the Alberta Council on Aging, the Alberta Retired Teachers’ Association, and the Canadian Retired Teachers Association. Floyd believed in giving back to his community. He served on Town Council from 1971 to 1980, was instrumental in creating the town museum and served on the board of Focus . As Dean McMullen shared, “Floyd brought to all these positions first his ideas, then his actions to ensure that everyone had meaningful input into the decisions made on their behalf.” Also in ‘retirement’ Floyd remained active by supervising student teachers, fall and spring, from 1997 to 2011. Many of them responded when they heard of Floyd’s death. They all had similar themes. Amanda Hines wrote, “I was fortunate enough to work with Floyd as a student teacher and mentor teacher. In both roles, I was the lucky recipient of positive feedback, words of understanding and encouragement, which were always well timed and heartfelt, as well as a shared passion for education. It was his infectious zest for LIFE that was his greatest gift he shared with me. Thank you Floyd.” Billie Thompson and Chuck Rose, who worked with Floyd to implement the governance structure in the Alberta Retired Teachers Association, shared these thoughts. “Floyd was a man of great persistence, a great supporter for teachers in the field and education in general. He was a ‘hands on’ leader, worked hard but was always fun and used humour to relieve tension. Everyone had genuine respect for him.” Gordon Cumming and Donna Mae Goldade added “There are so many of us who were impacted by Floyd’s leadership and dedication to colleagues and seniors’ organizations. What a marvelous legacy by such a gentle and caring man. A life well lived. He was truly a scholar and a gentleman.” Bob Grieg of the Alberta Council of Disability Services commented on Floyd’s commitment to developing young leaders who will ensure a brighter future in the disabilities field. Many more people with whom Floyd worked sent in tributes. Most importantly, Floyd had two over-riding loves in his life. He loved Lil unstintingly. In addition to driving himself all over the country, he made sure he was available to take Lil to all the places she wanted to go. They were a team, an every- year Grey Cup championship team. You didn’t have to watch them for more than a few minutes to know they had each other’s backs, that they had the same goals, and were headed in the same direction. They had lots of close friends, but they were each others best friend. Like his love for Lil, his other love also made Floyd who he was – a man of compassion, a man of integrity – a humble, unassuming man. He loved God and that colored everything he did. When he was dying, he asked one of the staff if they had any news of what was happening to him. She looked at him and said, “Yes, you’re going home,” and pointed up. Floyd has gone home, but the lives that he has touched are still here and will go on spreading his legacy for many years. Thank you Floyd for the privilege of knowing you and for the impact you have had on our lives.

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