Elmer was born August 10, 1935 at the family homestead in Paddockwood, the 10th of 11 children to Mikolaj (Nick) and Xenes Katharine Toporowski. Like other homesteading new Canadians, Elmer’s family was self sufficient, growing and preserving all their own vegetables and raising their own livestock. The first Red Cross Outpost Hospital in the British Empire was built down the road from the Toporowski farm and one of Elmer’s regular morning chores was to deliver fresh milk from their farm directly to the hospital. The hospital nurse would pay him on site at a rate of 10 cents per quart.
When Elmer and his siblings were not helping on the family farm they were making their own fun, and with 7 boys in the family, the riskier the games the better. Over the years Elmer fondly recounted wild stories of he and brother Fred trying their hand at flying by leaping off the barn roof, brother Eugene coaxing the brood of farm chickens to pull his sled through the snow, he and brother Ed building their own rafts out of logs to sail around the slough and humorous tales of he and his friends misbehaving at Paddockwood school where Georgie Martin was teacher in charge.
Money was not easy to come by but fun and adventure were plentiful. To afford luxuries like a night out at the show, the boys picked bottles in the ditch and if they were first to arrive Sunday morning after a Saturday night dance at the town hall there would be enough bottles for everyone to see the show AND fill up on popcorn and candy.
The quiet dirt road that ran past the farm yard was the perfect baseball practice field. Using sticks as bats and stones as balls the boys spent hours honing their skills. Eventually the Toporowski clan, made up of brothers and cousins, formed their own baseball team and played in local tournaments. It must have been confusing for the score keepers with Toporowski at bat, Toporowski on first and Toporowski sliding into home base.
Elmer first met Ina at the wedding dance for his brother Eugene and Doris Strand, a time when wedding dances were open to everyone in the near and surrounding communities. Ina, with her cousins, came to enjoy in the celebrations where she was introduced to the handsome young Elmer. In the early years of their marriage they lived in Ucluelet, BC where Elmer worked in the logging industry. It was here that his friends affectionately nick-named him Sandy for his healthy mop of thick golden hair.
He was genetically blessed to keep that full head of hair throughout his life. Even in his senior years, Elmer was still going to the Hair Penn at Christopher Lake and asking Alfreda to please “thin it out on top”. He loved his visits to the Hair Penn filled with good natured teasing from Alfreda and Kim. Elmer often said the first thing he wanted to do when Covid was over was treat Alfreda and Kim and also friends Jean and Bev to a lunch out at his favourite restaurant, Full Circle in Northside, where according to Elmer "they serve the best soup around."
Before he retired Elmer owned his own water hauling business, which proved to be his dream job. His water stops routinely meant time to visit with his regular clients and he formed many special friendships on his route. Carol Pott, Marilyn Courteau, and Toots Brassard were a few of his favourite stops where he was sure to find a friendly face and have a chance to chat about the latest community news. He also took pride in the flower garden he kept outside of his Paddockwood water station and welcomed the visits from Mrs. Frances Johnson and Mrs. Mary Gill to talk flowers.
Elmer didn’t have a large circle of friends but the friends he did have were dear to his heart. Mary Lou and Reg Martsinkiw, Ron and Marlene Lafaver, Jean and Bev Fau, Alfreda and Kim and his customers-turned-friends, all gave him true joy.
Elmer also found great pleasure in listening to the classic country tunes of artists like Johnny Cash, Willy Nelson and Dolly Parton. A common love he shared with dear friends Fred and Bernice Martin. He never made it to Nashville but attended many a Grand Ole Opry concert from the comfort of his arm chair.
If there was a televised bonspiel Elmer was tuned in. His love for curling was surely born in the early days when the Toporowski kids would create a sheet of curling ice in the farm yard and fashion curling rocks out of old jam cans filled with water and topped off with the perfect stick as a handle. As a young man he curled at the Paddockwood curling rink and continued to love to watch the game and cheer for the Saskatchewan teams. Rooting for Sherry Anderson’s team in the latest Scotties Tournament of the Hearts was welcome entertainment for Elmer during his recent hospital stay.
Cordwood and Courage, Paddockwood’s book of family histories, could always be found within reach of Elmer’s favourite chair. He loved to pour through the fascinating stories of neighbours and friends that made up his community. Most of Elmer’s siblings made their homes and raised their families on the west coast. When his nieces and nephews would come to Saskatchewan to visit, Elmer loved taking them back to Paddockwood to see the old farm and tell them stories of Baba and Gido.
At Elmer’s request he will return to Paddockwood to be buried in the cemetery beside his two sisters that died in infancy; the same cemetery his parents are buried in.
Elmer was not a drinker, his vice was ice cream with a particular affinity for chocolate milkshakes and dilly bars. As summer draws near and we can hopefully gather with family and friends, I welcome you to turn up the Johnny Cash, raise a milkshake or your favourite ice cream cone and toast the life of Elmer Toporowski.
Elmer is survived by his loving wife of 58 years, Ina (McInnis); son Graham (Annette Jaspar); daughter Carol (Ed) Davies; grandchildren Connor and Kate Toporowski, Taylor, Cameron and Jackson Davies; sister Stella Bartrop; brother Edward (Sally) Toporowski; sister-in-law Doris Toporowski; brother-in-law Peter Street; brother and sister-in-law Harry and Shelly McInnis; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Elmer was predeceased by his parents Mikolaj and Xenes Toporowski; grandson Zachary Davies; brothers Fred (Beverly) Topping, Daniel (Rosa), Constantine (Gladys), Eugene, and Stanley (Margaret) Toporowski; sisters Mary Street, twins Doris and Annie, in infancy; father and mother-in-law Stuart and Francis McInnis; sisters and brothers-in-law Mary (Ben) Loeffen, Janet (Dwayne) Gobert.
In Lieu of flowers please make any memorial donations to Lakeland and District Recreation Association, Box 405, Christopher Lake S0J 0N0.
Family and friends wishing to send online condolences are welcome to visit www.beaulacfuneralhome.com. Arrangements have been entrusted to the care of Beau “Lac” Funeral Home, Marianne Turcotte, Funeral Director, Prince Albert, SK 306-763-3322.
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