Joyce Wehrstein, who was named the Honourary President of the South Dumfries Historical Society upon its founding, passed away on Christmas Day, 2008. A service in her memory – or more accurately a celebration of her life – was held at the St. George United Church.
Her son John Wehrstein invited several people to speak at the service – representing different aspects of her life – as a neighbour, as a teacher, as a friend, as an actress. Ruth Lefler, a friend and fellow local historian, spoke about Joyce’s great contribution to local history.
With Ruth’s permission, here is the text of her eulogy:
Joyce – THE historian of her beloved St. George
For five generations the Lawrason family has worked and given to this community and to the County of Brant.
Joyce continued that tradition.
At the end of Joyce’s living room stands a special pine medicine cabinet of which she was very proud. It tells the story of her Uncle John who, as a veterinarian, mixed medications for the animals from the containers that are still held in this cupboard. The sight and smell of this cupboard have lingered well into history.
Joyce was the person that people sought out when looking for local historical information. She was always gentle and wise, gracious and willing to share her knowledge and rarely did they leave disappointed.
When the Old St. George Public School was closed in the early 1970’s, Joyce was among those concerned citizens in the community who were able to convince the School Board to turn the building over to the former Township of South Dumfries. Joyce and Melva Jackson then proceeded to establish a local museum in a second floor classroom.
For over 15 years Joyce was a member of the Brant Historical Society. It was during this time that she and other members edited the Jean Waldie Papers to produce two volumes of her work entitled “Brant County, A Story of Its People”. These books are still used extensively by researchers.
When Mike Hand wrote his book about the Lorimer Brothers of St. George who invented the machine telephone, it was Joyce who acted as the catalyst. She knew Egbert Lorimer’s granddaughter and invited her and Mike to meet at her home to discuss archival material and valuable photographs.
In 2002, when I co/authored the sesquicentennial book about Brant County, my first stop, when researching South Dumfries Township history, was with Joyce. I was not dieappointed.
Joyce’s interesting historical talks were often accented by her poems that were written in rhyming couplets. Whenever she was complimented about these, her reply was “Oh they’re just dogeral”.
It was a joyous occasion when Joyce was recognized by the Ontario Heritage Trust and the County of Brant for outstanding historical endeavours in her community. This recognition was well deserved.
When the South Dumfries Historical Society was formed in 2003, a wise choice was made in appointing Joyce as honourary president. It wasn’t but a few days before Joyce’s passed away, that I had a St. George historical question that Joyce had answered a long time ago. I didn’t write it down and my mind has let the details slip. Will I now ever find the answer?
Joyce – thank you for the valuable legacy that you have generously given and left with this community.