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Obituary for John Ryell

John Ryell and Gwendoline Mary Ryell (nee Leyshon)

Earlier this week after over 62 years of marriage and over 90 years of life, our parents, John Ryell and Gwendoline Mary Ryell departed this world. Gwenda passed away on Monday, May 11th and John on Wednesday, May 13th.
They were born in Britain in the aftermath of the First World War, lived through the great depression, WWII and post-war Britain and immigrated to Canada in the hope for a better life for themselves and their children.
Gwenda, an only child, was born in Llanelli, Wales on February 5th, 1928 to David and Margaret Leyshon. The loss of her father’s younger brothers Thomas and Gwilym in 1916 during the First Word War had a profound effect on Gwenda’s upbringing and a memory she passed onto us.
John was born in Stafford, England on June 1st, 1929 to Frederick and Beatrice Ryell, second of four children. His siblings Joan, Valerie and Frederick have predeceased him.
Both our parents were fortunate to have family that supported them and encouraged an education. Gwenda’s parents sent her to a private school, Cartref Girls School in Llanelli, and there she discovered a love of English literature. Years later she could still recite poetry and verses from Shakespeare to the amazement of her children. John, with the assistance and encouragement of his great aunts Rose, Ettie and Martha attended grammar school followed by 2 years at Stafford College and 2 years at Birmingham Technical studying civil engineering all the while working at BRC Reinforcement. Upon graduation John completed his mandatory military service in Cyprus with the Royal Engineers.
Following John’s return to Britain and while working on the construction of a steel mill in Wales he met Gwenda who was working on the same site.
In 1956 our recently engaged parents decided to immigrate to Canada. For £100, John bought an airline ticket to Toronto and arrived on a Sunday morning in November. By Monday lunch he had a job offer with Lazarides, Lount and Partners, designing reinforced concrete girders and columns and was soon in Picton where he worked on the Lake Ontario Cement plant under construction. Gwenda followed in 1957 and they were married on November 12, 1957 in Picton, Ontario.
Over the next 7 years, 4 children quickly arrived and our parents eventually settled in Port Credit, Ontario in 1960 where they have lived for the past 60 years.
John’s career included 25 years with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation in various positions including with the Research and Development group and as Head of the Concrete Section until retirement in 1986 to start a second career with Trow Consulting (now EXP) as Manager of the Concrete Technology Division. Throughout his career John worked on various Canadian Standard Association and American Concrete Institute standing committees on the development of specifications and guidelines for concrete work, and built many relationships in the industry across North America. John retired in his late 80’s gradually reducing his hours each year but still provided occasional comments and recommendations on concrete issues for Trow.
Gwenda was a stay at home mom who had her hands full raising her four children and stray cats we dragged home. She loved contemplative activities such as cooking, reading, sewing and knitting, and after the kids left home, she was a volunteer at the Mississauga Hospital.
The family was kept busy. Our parents joined various groups and were active with the Ontario Mirror Dinghy Association and the Credit Valley Cross-Country ski club where they formed an extended family with fellow immigrant families. Summer holidays included long weekend sailing camps at various small lakes in Ontario or two weeks at Killbear. Winter holidays often included skiing trips to Hollyburn or loppets in Southern Ontario. Our most memorable trips were long drives to Cape Cod, Maine and Washington, and a five week family trip to England which included two weeks in Kingswear. After the kids moved out, our parents travelled frequently to England. Other trips included the Mediterranean, the Carolinas and a cruise up the Norwegian coast. At 60 years old John took a personal journey for 4 weeks hiking to the base of Mount Everest, the oldest member of the tour group.
Our parents supported us and encouraged us in all of our endeavours, and we are forever grateful. Their passing is a passing of a generation. We will always love you Mom and Dad and we miss you already.
John and Gwenda are survived by their four children Chris (Nora), Katherine (Dan), Jennifer and Brian (Colleen), their four grandchildren Peter (Tessa), Samuel, Mathew and Katherine and their recent great grandchild, Gavin.
Our parents would like to thank the staff at the Port Credit Residence for their support and assistance over the past 3½ years and especially during the current pandemic, and to Dr. Rajiv Khanna and his staff for their excellent care.
Cremation has taken place. Internment and a celebration of life will be held later. In lieu of flowers we suggest donations in their memories be made to the Mississauga Humane Society, the C.N.I.B. or a charity of your choice.
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