Dr. Fred Stevens

 

sident of the Morrisburg area, was called to his eternal home during his 90th year, on April 22nd 2016, after a lengthy struggle with dementia.

Fred was born in Westport, Ontario on November 3rd, 1925 – the only boy in a family with five older sisters.

Fred grew up in a small town setting, learning to hunt and fish as a way to put food on the family table. 

He excelled at school and sports. In particular, he was a fine hockey player, specializing in stick handling and the wrist shot (the slap shot had not yet been invented).

Around the age of 17, he headed to Toronto, to study to become a dentist. The limited family resources went to the only son, to support him in this endeavour (with the sisters left to make their own way). 

In those days, there was no need for an undergraduate degree, so Fred emerged qualified to practice the profession at a very young age (likely 21). 

During his time in Toronto, he met the love of his life, Irene McKenzie; she was studying to become a dental assistant and their lives began to merge (although marriage remained a number of years away).

A while after graduating from dental school, Fred returned to Westport to work alongside his father, who was also a dentist (with a dental chair in the family home). That turned out to be too much too soon. 

Fred moved to Arizona, where he made a living doing a variety of things, including acting as a guide around the Grand Canyon. (Looking back in later years, Fred would joke about how, sometimes, one had to make it up as you went along.) 

Years later, Fred returned to Ontario to begin the process of settling down. 

He married Irene and moved to Morrisburg in the mid 50’s to set up his own dental practice (encouraged by George Beavers).

The beginnings were rudimentary and remained so for some time. Fred employed one assistant and Irene picked up the slack.

Eventually, Fred was able to accumulate enough capital to build the dental office that remains part of the community, located at 41 Fifth Street. He set up the office with all the modern equipment he could afford.  

Presumably, he figured that if he could establish an office committed to excellence the patients would come. It worked; the business thrived. 

Additional staff could be hired, including a hygienist (Janice Dafoe). Employees tended to stay for a while, willing to be part of an office with a positive, progressive work environment.

Along the way, Fred and Irene had three children: Mark (1958), Eric (1959) and Wes (1963). Irene was tasked with the day-to-day responsibilities for raising the young ones. 

Fred encouraged the boys to excel at school and sports and be enthusiastic about the possibilities that life had to offer them. He led by example, showing a passion for living that was contagious.  

He financially provided for all three children to pursue a university education, allowing them to emerge qualified to enter the marketplace, unburdened by student debt. 

Fred was a man who loved people. He was fun to be around, with a great sense of humour. 

In later years, when he lived alone – Irene died from cancer in 1979 – he liked having family or friends drop by to visit him in his lovely home overlooking the St. Lawrence River. (Fred’s home was inspired by drawings prepared for the Stevens’ by famed architect William Wesley Peters, adapted by Allan Brais.) 

If guests were fortunate he might fire up his indoor barbecue and cook them some exotic treat like moose burgers or venison steak. Then he would finish them off with a cereal bowel full of ice cream, which would leave them less likely to be hungry for breakfast the next morning. 

Fred was an active man; he did not have to go to the gym to stay in shape. His hair went grey early in life but that simply served to lock his age in for decades. 

He enjoyed being outside and on the move, whether water skiing, snow skiing, playing tennis, camping, hunting, chopping wood or just hiking through the bush. 

In some ways, he was a man from another generation, from a time when John Wayne was king. Fred was familiar with danger, having been lost in the woods in a blizzard and kidnapped at knifepoint in Mexico. 

He was on a first name basis with pain, having fallen out of a tree stand, fracturing his ankle – an injury that was reluctant to heal. 

Guns were a tool to be respected, an instrument to be used to provide food for the body.

On the other hand, the silly side of Fred could not always be contained; he might shoot mice off the inside wall of the hunting camp, rather than follow the more traditional path of setting traps. 

Fred was a hardworking man who found much to enjoy in the practice of dentistry, serving the local community for decades. 

In later years, he was happy to have his son, Mark join him in the practice. Fred and Mark provided quality care to their patients. 

Fred could do it all: make dentures, install gold fillings upon request, and be a dental surgeon, pulling out uncooperative wisdom teeth at the hospital, with the patient under general anesthetic. 

Fred was a collector of cars, a hobby he fell into because of his tendency to keep vehicles running long past their trade-in date.

He had a couple of red Corvettes, which were enjoyable to drive as they bore a tight connection to the road. 

He restored his 1968 Chevrolet convertible to pristine condition and put a new engine in an older International Scout, which he purchased in Arizona (the land where rust is illegal). 

He understood how cars worked – at least before everything became computerized.  

If he had not been a dentist, he probably could have made a living as a mechanic or a repairman for small engines (although he would have wanted to have his friend, Paul Hill around to consult on the difficult cases).

Fred was a life-long learner (until dementia interfered). 

He would read his Bible in order to grow in the grace and knowledge of his Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. 

He attended a number of churches and had a particular love for southern gospel music (music that he would say has a beat to it). 

He put his faith into practice, being a friendly man to many – regardless of religious affiliation (or lack thereof). This could take the form of wise counsel. 

Often it would be a willingness to lend a helping hand to the task the other may be seeking to accomplish. When the occasion arose, it might involve giving an account of the hope within.

During the past number of years, dementia robbed Fred of his capacity to enjoy virtually all of his varied interests. The dreadful disease separated him from his own memories. 

However, even during those difficult times, some emotions remained: he would still flash the occasional smile, likely to indicate he was appreciative of those who were caring for him. 

Fred was predeceased by all his sisters (Norma, Rheta, Doris, Florence, Marian) and is fondly remembered by his grandchildren: Karen, Daniel, Janice, Peter, Justin and Melissa. He is also missed by many nieces and nephews.

His funeral service was held in the chapel at the Parker Funeral Home in Morrisburg, on Tuesday, April 26, 2016, with family friend Rev. Randy Hopkins officiating.  

Charitable donations may be made in honour of Dr. Stevens to the spreading of the Gospel: Billy Graham Evangelistic of Canada, 20 Hopewell Way N.E., Calgary, Alberta T3J 5H5

 

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