Alvin Edwin Runnalls died suddenly on Saturday, January 30 in his 77th year. Alvin was born on June 2, 1939 on Manitoulin Island, the fifth child and youngest son of Effie (Hern) and Percy Runnalls.
Alvin was a gregarious, community-spirited man with an insatiable curiosity about the world. When his childhood dream of becoming a bush pilot proved unrealistic, Alvin turned instead to teaching. He went to North Bay Teacher’s College in 1961 and began his career at Meldrum Bay Rural School, teaching students in a range of seven grades. After two years, he was offered positions at Moose Factory on James Bay and Redditt in North Western Ontario, but though he was drawn to the North, he chose a job in Niagara Falls, where he felt there would be more opportunities to pursue running and road races; he had developed a love of running as a teenager. There, he met Dawn Vanhorn, a beautiful strawberry blonde colleague at Heximer School. They married on April 10, 1966, and two and four years later, expanded their family with daughters Rachel and Gretchen.
Alvin grew up on a sheep and beef farm, and farming was in his blood. Although teaching was a rewarding career, he and Dawn chose to take on a new challenge, first joining his sister and brother-in-law at their dairy farm in Spencerville, then moving to Winchester Township in 1973. They worked in partnership to build a successful dairy operation, becoming the very first couple to win the county’s Farmer of the Year award in 1991.
Alvin donated his time to so many organisations it’s difficult to keep track. He served on the Federation of Agriculture’s Executive, both locally and provincially. At various times, he sat on the boards of the Winchester Memorial Hospital, the Chesterville Historical Society, the Canadian Club, and the Dundas County Players and was Chair and Vice-Chair of the Dundas County Food Bank. He canvassed for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. He was a 4H leader and a participant in community theatre. A dedicated member of the Anglican Church, he served as warden and represented his parish at Synod. He had a passion for politics as both an engaged observer and an active participant. Alvin was enormously proud to serve two terms on North Dundas County Council, two terms as Mayor, and a term as Warden of the United Counties. And his generosity extended beyond his time; he donated so much of his income to charity that Revenue Canada became suspicious and singled him out for audit.
He was a voracious reader, always with several books and a giant stack of magazines and newspapers on the go. He also nurtured keen interests in history, geography, and current events. He had a renowned sweet tooth, which was a major influence in adopting another of his passions: beekeeping. He was a life-long Liberal and a die-hard Leafs fan; he was delighted to see at least one of his beloved teams score a major victory last year. In 1980, he revived his interest in long-distance running and participated in the first National Capital Marathon. The marathon became an annual event in his life until hip replacement surgery curtailed his ability to run in the early 90s. The arthritis that sidelined his running also forced Alvin and Dawn to make a switch from dairy farming to cash cropping—and gave him the time to run for politics instead. Over the past few years, Alvin had scaled back his farming operations, but he insisted that he would farm at least until he was 80. Although his beekeeping activities kept him busy, he had begun to supplement his sweets production, adding maple syrup to his output. One of his favourite activities was driving huge loads of corn and soybeans to the elevator at harvest time. True to his nature, he was active until the end. Last Saturday Alvin had an accident while cutting wood on his fencerows. He died instantly. His great spirit, generosity, and enthusiasm live on in our hearts.
Predeceased by sister Doris Cleary and brother-in-law Jim Scott. Survived by wife Dawn, daughters Rachel and Gretchen, and siblings Lewis Runnalls (Anne), Shirley Scott (Wes), and Richard Runnalls (Shirley).