Osceola –  A man known far and wide for his expertise as a cattle dealer and an auctioneer passed away last Thursday after losing his battle with cancer.

Gerald Walsh was 77 and died at Hospice Renfrew, surrounded by family and friends.

His wife, Barb Wilson, told the Leader her husband enjoyed both elements of his career equally, be it buying or selling cattle, or holding an auction of many types.

“He was in the cattle business since he was a kid, skipping school and going to the sale barn,” she said. “He started out farming and then went into the auction business, and he was known for it all.”

Ms. Wilson was unsure which career he enjoyed most, adding he always wanted to be a farmer, which started when he was very young.
“Whatever he did, he put his whole heart into it, so whatever he was doing at the time, and they all over-lapped, it was the top dog for the moment.”

Mr. Walsh hosted regular Monday night sales at his Osceola sales barn and his auctioneering took him all over Renfrew County and the Valley.

“In the 70’s and 80’s, there were auctions every weekend and on holiday Mondays from May to November,” she said. “It was non-stop, and the other auctioneers were just as busy.”

Another big item for the business were the horse sales, which were held twice annually and drew people from a wide area.

“They came for miles. But like everything else, they had their run.”

While he never really had a mentor in the auction business, Ms. Wilson said Mr. Walsh would tape other auctioneers to see how they sold items, and would practice how they sold.

“It was anybody that could give him advice and help him,” she said.

While there is an obvious business side to the auctions, she said he really enjoyed the social aspect of those sales as well.

“And his sidekick, Jack Mulligan, was with him all the time. He did the clerking and the books.”

His last “big” sale was held in Pembroke in May 2023 and the last sale he conducted was at the Renfrew Fair last September, where he was proud of the high prices he drew for the livestock.

He was diagnosed with cancer last July but it never slowed him down.

“To tell the truth, he never stopped. The last load of machinery came to Osceola at 10 o’clock this morning and he ordered it about three weeks days before everything quit.

“He worked right up to the end,” she added. “He was at the sale barn and he sold cattle and he never stopped. That was the way it was, and when he quit everything quit, and that was three or four days before he passed.”

She said the cattle side and handling equipment of the business will continue with his nephew, Tim Lynch, who was a partner in that part of the business. In terms of the auction side of things, their late grandson, Tyler McEnroe, was interested in pursuing that career, but he passed away in from a cancer in 2012 at the age of 13.

He had no auctions booked for 2024.

Known As Jed

Mr. Walsh was known to many as Jed, a nickname he picked up back in 1987 when the couple were making plans to move to a new residence on McPeak Line.

“It became known as the mountain and Ronnie (stepson) nicknamed him Jed, the poor mountaineer couldn’t keep his family fed and it stuck. The mountain stuck and the Jed stuck.”

The children would later buy him a personalized licence plate for his Ford truck one Christmas that read JEDW1.

Asked what his biggest sale might have been, she said for some sales that should have been two days, but were only one, he would enlist fellow auctioneers, John O’Neill or Tom Redmond to assist.

“He often did that for a real big sale,” she said. “There’d be two auctioneers going at the same time.”   

He conducted both residential and commercial sales throughout his career and also did some real estate auctions.

“He loved farm shows, plowing matches, fairs, anything agriculture, he was right into it to the neck.”

Ms. Wilson said he was a sort of pied piper when it came to children as they would follow him around wherever he went.

“The young lad we lost (Tyler McEnroe) was travelling with him in the cattle truck when he was seven months old,” she said.

She said years ago he also did sleigh rides for both private and public functions and also held charity auctions for numerous service clubs, or when someone in the community suffered a tragedy, he was always there to help them out.

“He spread a wide shadow,” she remarked.

Nephew Tim Lynch has been his partner in the cattle business for many years. He said Mr. Walsh was highly regarded in everything he did.

“I spent my summers working with Gerald since I was probably six years old. Then over the years we became partners in the cattle business up until now.”

Mr. Walsh launched the cattle business in 1969 and three years later, he launched the auctioneering business.

“He was a longtime cattle dealer before he expanded into calving cows,” he noted. “He had a great knowledge of the business.

“He was a great mentor to me and my boys (Brendan, Owen, and Jack),” he added. “The three boys are really going to miss him.”

He said they generally have about 100 beef cows calving each year.

He opened the auction barn in 1979 or 1980 and Mr. Lynch said Mr. Walsh always said he paid for it by “selling cups and saucers”.

“He used to have sales every second Monday night on consignment items. And he always dabbled in the livestock handling equipment and used machinery. He had his iron in many fires.”

Mr. Lynch recalled one thing Mr. Walsh did that really sticks out in terms of importance to he and the family.

“He was able to buy back the family homestead,” he said. “My grandfather died in 1953 and my grandmother had to sell the Walsh farm.

“And Gerald was able to buy it back, which to me is pretty special,” he added.

The late Mr. Walsh is survived by his wife, Barb, and three step-children, Ronnie (Tammy) Selle, Laurie (Toby) Findlay, and Wendy (David) Cantu, five grandchildren, sister Florence (John) Lynch, and brother Brian (Sharon) Walsh. He was predeceased by his parents, Leonard and Mamie and brother, Kevin.

He rested at the Morris, Fraser and Huebner Funeral Home in Cobden on Wednesday and Thursday, with funeral mass at St. Pius V Church in Osceola Thursday at 11. Spring interment.