Eganville — Tom Redmond had three wishes on his death bed: to live out the remainder of his life at Hospice Renfrew, to have his mortal remains taken in a horse-drawn hearse to St. James Church in Eganville and to be interred in the Orthodox Mennonite cemetery at Douglas.
All three of those wishes were granted to him.
Mr. Redmond, a native of Hyndford in Bonnechere Valley Township, was widely known across Renfrew County as a barber for many years and a passionate lover of horses. He was also an auctioneer. He died last Tuesday at the age of 75.
His funeral was held in St. James Church Monday morning. It was the parish his parents, Thomas and Alice (ne Daley) belonged to all of their lives as well as many of his siblings throughout the years,
Father Ken O’Brien presided over the mass.
The late Mr. Redmond’s mortal remains arrived at the church in a horse-drawn hearse which he owned for many years and used to carry many people to their final resting places. When he was diagnosed with cancer almost two years ago, he made a deal with Andre Pilon, proprietor of the Pilon Family Funeral Home in Arnprior, to buy back the hearse that Mr. Redmond had purchased from him in 2004.
Mr. Redmond did funerals with the horse drawn hearse across Renfrew County, but also was called on to transfer bodies to services in Toronto and Ottawa.
“He lived for having his horses,” daughter Kim said. “They were all very special in his heart. He had a lot of them over the years.”
Even as a young boy, he had a special love of horses and there are photos of him as a youngster with horses.
“He just couldn’t wait to get out of school,” Kim recalled. “He just felt there was no reason for him to be at school when he could be on the farm with the horses and in the fields.”
Mr. Redmond was first introduced into the Mennonite community through his son, Shawn who lives in Elmira. He lived in the area for a few years before returning to Cobden.
“The two of them got to the know Mennonite community quite well but dad just migrated to it. It just seemed like a secular way of life and something that he 100 percent loved,” Kim said. “He really loved the community and the people.”
When the Mennonite community first established in the Douglas area seven years, Mr. Redmond quickly became friends with them and began having interactions with them. They were drawn together through horses which they use for both travel and working their farms, and also for their search for old horse-drawn machinery which Mr. Redmond was able to source for them through his auctioneering and connections with the farming community.
“He got to know them all quite well,” she said. “It was an ongoing interaction.”
Mr. Redmond made his own arrangements with the Mennonite community to be interred in their cemetery.
As a barber, Mr. Redmond practiced in a little shop that was attached to the end of the old Strickland’s Supermarket outside of Eganville on Foymount Road. He also had a chair at the old farmhouse in Hyndford and also barbered in the lower level of O’Neill’s Hardware Store in Douglas (Bromley Farm Supply) for a few years and about the last 20 years in Cobden.
Kim had fond memories of going the few kilometres to their dad’s shop in Douglas from their home in Hyndford and playing with the O’Neill kids.
“We’d run around Douglas, thinking we were in the city, getting out of Hyndford,” she said. “We loved it.”
While barbering was a life-long career for Mr. Redmond, he also became an auctioneer and handled many sales in Renfrew County. He was very happy when son Shawn followed in his footsteps and became an auctioneer.
“The two of them were pretty close, because of that,” she said. “They both left it.”
Mr. Redmond will be remembered as a person who was fun to be around and one who loved to play a good prank.
“He was always one or two steps ahead of a joke and we will truly, truly miss that,” she said. “He was fun and funny. My dad was the ultimate sweets person and if you asked him what kinds of sweet he wanted, he would have the sweetest dessert he could possible have and he would even put caramel sauce on top of that.
“He lived for his grandchildren and to pull the silliest, silliest stunts on them.”
Kim said he walked to his own beat, 100 percent.
“He wanted out on his terms,” she said. “There was no way he was fading away in a nursing home. Up until a day or two when he was taken to hospice, he was with his horses. He was doing everything to the last minute.”
She said the three months her dad was in hospice was a true gift to her.
“Every community should have what you all have developed in Renfrew,” he said. “It’s amazing. I cannot tell you how much this experience, despite where it ended, how beautiful it was. It has a changed me for life.”
Team of Percherons
Funeral arrangements were entrusted to the Pilon Funeral Home in Arnprior where many relatives and friends paid their respects on Sunday. Mr. Pilon had the horse-drawn hearse transported to the Zohr Funeral in Eganville on Monday and Lyle Killeen and some helpers from down in Corkery came with a team of Percherons which were hitched to the hearse for the procession to the church.
After mass, the cortege passed through Eganville, ending at McFarlane Transport where the coffin was transferred to a motor hearse for the final ride to Douglas.
Mr. Killeen was teamster and he was joined by Mr. Pilon. Mr. Redmond had purchased the hearse from Mr. Pilon about 20 years ago. Mr. Killeen knew Mr. Redmond for many years and helped him find horses to buy.