Legion member Teddy England has helped thousands across Canada

ELORA – Edward (Teddy) John England is an energetic, engaging gentleman who is remarkably active in our community. His zest for life is inspiring.

The Advertiser sat down with Teddy and his daughter, Bonnie Easton, at his cozy home in the heart of Elora to share tea and stories about his adventurous life.

Born in Elora on September 27, 1930, to Jack and Victoria (Vic) England (nee Ecclestone), Teddy has lived most of his life in Elora. 

For a brief period during WWll, his father was stationed in England while in the Canadian Army. Teddy, his sister Louise, and his mother moved from Elora to Guelph (where his mother had found work). 

His parents divorced soon after the war, and Teddy moved to Salem with his mother until he joined Canada’s Army Reserves in 1947, just after his 17th birthday.

While training as a gunner in Petawawa the following year, Teddy lost all hearing in his right ear. “It was one of the bigger carry guns. Heavy artillery. Just one moment and I was done. Everything lit up around me,” he said.

Afterwards, he sailed on cargo ships in the Great Lakes as a wheel hand. “I often steered the ships during the wheelman’s breaks.” But after two years, he realized it wasn’t an ideal life for him.

Teddy worked at the T.E. Bissell Company of Elora for a few years, then landed at GSW where he worked over 35 years until his retirement in 1994. He was a welder and lead hand, supervising a team of 20.

Married in 1954 to Betty Ackerman, they started their family in 1957. They had three children. Teddy still lives in their family home in Elora.  

Bonnie stayed with her dad and her Grandma Vic after her parents divorced and her siblings went to stay with their mother in St. Thomas, Ontario.

“She was a lovely person,” Teddy said about his mom. “She was very special, she helped raise me,” Bonnie added. Teddy remarried twice, but lost both wives to cancer.

A sense of adventure

“Dad loves to be out in nature,” said Bonnie, who moved back to Elora a year ago to be closer to her dad. “Camping with good friends made his summers.” 

They enjoyed many family camping trips across Canada and the States, often camping with a couple of local families. Bonnie remembers they started out in a “big, old army tent, then a tent trailer.” 

She recalled that in the summer of ’69, “Neil Armstrong had landed on the moon. Davey Watkins (a family friend) had a little portable black and white tv and we all watched it.” 

When asked if they had a favourite camping spot, Teddy said, “We tried to go different places all the time. They’re all something new. But we liked camping next to water.” 

Eventually, Teddy and his wife at the time, Agnes, purchased a 38-foot mobile home and explored as far away as Alaska. 

Bonnie said that in the 60s and 70s, Teddy rode an old Indian motorcycle. “You should hear some of his motorcycle stories. I’m fortunate he lived through some of his crazy antics,” Bonnie said with a laugh. 

“You never did ride it though, did you Bonnie,” Teddy joked. “And you always drove a convertible,” Bonnie recalled, adding that Teddy switched to a truck in later years that he drove until recently.  

Teddy’s family were avid snowmobilers. “We would go to The Ponderosa, and the Salem area as well. Back then, there were lots of places with trails.” 

Bonnie said that winters seemed a lot wilder then. Teddy’s mom and her husband, Mel Seifried, had a farm in Drayton. “Grandma would leave a snowmobile at the end of the driveway. You had to park the truck and take the snowmobile up to the house,” Bonnie said.

Teddy was active in sports too. He played hockey with The Elora Rocks, and continued to play into his late seventies. Friends note he was an excellent player. “The opposition knew I was there,” Teddy said with a laugh.

Many trophies spread throughout his home attest to his love of curling and lawn bowling. 

“I think I’ll sign up for lawn bowling again this year,” he said. He hasn’t been since Covid, and misses the game and companionship. But he is unsure how capable he will be. 

Teddy has an issue with his balance and his hands. While clearing his driveway of snow a few years ago, he got frostbite in his hands. “They’re stiff and half numb now,” he said. And an accident when he worked at GSW caused the loss of the tips of one of his fingers. 

Teddy “loves to find bargains at the ‘OP Shop’ (New to You),” Bonnie said. Much of his huge Mickey Mouse collection is a result of that enjoyment. His affection for the character is evident in his living room where hundreds of the colourful dolls are on display. He’s even had people come to him with dolls they’ve found for him.

His home is full of a variety of healthy, potted plants that Teddy tends daily. “He also likes to create things,” Bonne said. 

“He made me a circular metal staircase in one of my homes to get up to the attic. He’s created awesome oil candles out of unique rocks. 

“You should see the treasures in his shed!”

Community spirit

Although Teddy retired from GSW almost 30 years ago, Bonnie said that he “is often at the legion seven days a week sorting tabs.” 

An Elora Legion member since 1970, Teddy stepped in to help when the Tabs 4 Wheelchairs program began in 1988. He and another legion member, Dave Hannah (who passed in 2021), developed a process to sort the tabs from other items that ended up in the donations. Teddy has been at it ever since.

He lives a few blocks from the legion, and when Bonnie or Harvey Miller, Elora Legion Tabs 4 Wheelchairs program chair, can’t take him, he enjoys walking back and forth on his own. “I like the exercise. You have to move it or lose it,” Teddy exclaimed. 

Miller said the Elora Legion “got him a power scooter, fixed him right up, but no, he’s too stubborn.”

Hockey memories – Teddy England, with his daughter Bonnie Easton, holds a photo from his days playing hockey with The Elora Rocks. Photo by Lorie Black

“I haven’t used it once,” Teddy said proudly.

Despite his physical conditions, Teddy’s method of sorting tabs still works. “I make sure they all pass over the magnets.” This catches any non-aluminum items that may have ended up in the donations. 

“I’m fast. I can do a 30-pound bag in about an hour,” Teddy said with a smile. 

Miller remarked, “a few years ago, Mark (another member) built steps to lead up to the hopper.” Before that, Teddy had been hefting the heavy bags and pouring them in at shoulder height.

Teddy noted it was a very busy week after this year’s “Pick Up the Tab” event at the Sleeman Centre. 

Teddy watches the stock market to see what aluminum is selling at. “I tell Harvey to wait to take them in until the prices are up.”

He’s found some remarkable things over the years. “You wouldn’t believe it,” Teddy exclaimed, “wedding rings, old coins, car keys!” 

On Teddy’s kitchen window ledges an array of odd items are displayed, including a large silver skull belt buckle and Mardi gras style necklaces.

The Advertiser spent some time in the Legion’s Tab Room recently, where Miller has worked with Teddy for the past five years.  

“It’s 5 o’clock, it’s quitting time. I’m not paying you overtime, you know,” Miller joked. It takes some convincing, but Teddy agrees to go down and join his daughter and his friends at “The B.S. Table”. 

Miller offers to walk in front of Teddy on the stairs, but Teddy is already on his way down. Miller holds on to Teddy’s coat, worried that he is going too fast. 

Downstairs, while Teddy searches for tabs that may have been dropped off, members around the table describe Teddy fondly as “unstoppable”, “a quiet, good guy”, and “a golden man.” 

Miller said there are “a lot of good people here,” but they do need more volunteers. His youngest son and his granddaughter help with the program, delivering tabs to recycling depots and helping to keep the Tab Room clean. 

To date the Elora Legion Tabs 4 Wheelchairs program has donated over 3,000 wheelchairs across Canada. Teddy’s decades-long commitment has helped make that possible. 

The time and energy he has put into the program are astonishing. But this 93-year-old doesn’t want to slow down. Miller remarked, “I’ve seen him come in at nine in the morning to six at night. You don’t get to meet a lot of people like that. He’s kind of a little super human being!”

When praised for his efforts, Teddy England said, “I don’t do much. It’s the people who bring in the tabs. They come from all over. They are the ones who make this (program) work.”

On any given afternoon, if you pop into the Elora Legion you might see Teddy. Bring a few tabs with you.

Lorie Black