PARSONAGE- Graham Wilkes Parsonage was born on January 6, 1942, the second child of Graham and Laura Parsonage. Dad grew up on the family ranch along Battle Creek. He attended Merryflat School. His interests in hunting, trapping and fishing, ranching, and music were evident early on and he pursued these passionately throughout his life.
In 1964, he married Joan Pickett, who had grown up on a mixed farm north of Maple Creek. Mom and Dad first lived across the creek from Graham and Laura. In 1967 they bought and moved to the Jim Paterson place, a few miles down Battle Creek. In 1973 they purchased the old Jack Grant place from Dad’s parents. Mom and Dad had three children, Marie, Gwen, and Carl.
Dad was passionate about ranching. He loved the land, the prairie grasslands, and the wildlife that inhabited it. He was a great horseman and cattleman. It was important to Dad to stay up-to-date with the latest ideas and innovations about ranch management, and he read often on the subject, spoke with the vet, and shared ideas with others. Dad preferred to ride to check the cows, and felt you could get a better look at a cow from on a horse.
Dad’s interest in trapping and fishing began at an early age, and he spent his life along Battle Creek pursuing it. Dad worked hard every year to get his fall ranch work done so he could go hunting. In the late 1970s he moved the log barn from the Grant Place to the home place and turned it into his fur shack. He spent countless hours in the late fall and winter handling his furs there, while listening to country music and CBC radio. It was always impressive to see Dad’s furs before he shipped them. They were organized by both species and quality, and hung in clean, neat rows along the walls of his fur shack. Dad was an active member of the Saskatchewan Trappers’ Association and made good friends through his involvement. He was a true outdoorsman, and had a wealth of knowledge about the birds, fish, and other wildlife of the Cypress Hills, learned from his years of curiosity and keen observation.
Dad was a talented musician. He learned to play his Mom’s Hawaiian guitar and later the accordion. He, brother Roger, James Anderson, and Ron Johnson played for their first Merryflat Dance when Wilkes was 14. In 1961 this group entered and won a talent contest in Robsart under the name “Sagebrush Boys” and they kept this band name over the years. After some years, Ron left the band and they were joined by Rick Jones.
Dad played a lot of music for years after that with Pete, Sid, and Floyd Hanson, and Don Hanchar. These musical get-togethers were happy times for all five men and they were lucky enough to play together for many years. There was no trouble getting Dad out the door to go play music with these fellows.
Mom and Dad enjoyed many travels together over the years. They explored far reaches of the country including the Yukon and Newfoundland, and took many fishing trips to Northern Saskatchewan and Montana. Dad recently commented that he was sure glad that he and Mom had gone on those many trips.
In 2003, Mom and Dad sold the biggest part of the ranch to Carl and Jodi. This gave Dad more time to trap and fish and allowed him to expand his trapline. As Dad moved into his senior years, he continued to do all of the things he enjoyed. He continued to fish, trap, prepare his furs, read, stay current with the news and politics of the day, ride his horse, help on the ranch, listen to music and watch rodeo on TV. It was important to Dad to stay involved with the ranch, and even this spring he checked cows on his horse, Homer, almost every day.
On Saturday, May 22, Dad used the quad instead of his horse to do the morning check. The previous days had brought a good snowfall, and when driving down a trail he rode every day, probably not easy to see his way on the snow-covered trail, his quad went over a snow-packed embankment into a shallow coulee. Dad passed away doing what he loved, on the beautiful ranch he spent his life passionately building and maintaining. He was 79 years old.
Dad will be deeply missed by his wife Joan, children Marie (Jamie), Gwen (Terry), and Carl (Jodi), as well as his loving grandchildren Jannis (Jaden), Bernt, Shae Lynn, Rylan, Zach, and Codi, his brother Roger (Lou), brothers-in-law Garry Wakely (Mary-Anne) and Harvey Pickett (Alice), and several nieces/nephews. He was predeceased by his parents Graham and Laura, and his sister Bertha.
Friends who wish to remember Wilkes, gifts can be made to a charity of one’s choice.
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