Guelph's Gordon Chadder always wanted to be behind the wheel, and his life is filled with memories on and off the road.
Born Feb. 4, 1920, Gordon lived on 34 Hearn Ave. with five sisters, where he would sleep in the front hall in the winters and a tent in the backyard during the summers.
Back then, Hearn Avenue was one street up and away from a former ‘bus barn,’ a place where city buses would come at the end of their shift. Paul Chadder, Gordon's son, recalls his father telling him stories on how he would go to the bus barn as a child to help clean the buses in the evenings.
Perhaps it was no surprise when, at 27, Gordon became a bus driver for the City of Guelph. On top of his job, Gordon would also drive different groups, like people to Niagara Falls, or hockey teams to their games.
"He liked people, even though he was somewhat of an introvert," Paul said about his father's career. "He liked driving, that was his big thing in life, I think."
Gordon's passion for driving is noted throughout his life. As a teenager, Gordon built a car out of spare parts and drove it without a licence. He also had a brief stint as a milkman for Allison's dairy farm. Family mentions he was still driving at the age of 100, although it was only to the store or short trips to visit family.
"He just absolutely loved driving," said Sue Chadder, Gordon's daughter-in-law, "He used to say it didn't matter how old he got, he didn't even need to see or even to think, he could just do it."
For 35 years, Gordon worked as a bus driver before retiring at the age of 62. Paul mentions his father spent 17 years driving along the York Road line.
"With seniority, you sort of got to choose what bus route you wanted for the next year, and York Road was one of them," said Paul. "He would meet people who were the children of the people he had driven previously."
"He had his regulars that would remember him years later," adds Sue.
Although Gordon drove down many roads in Guelph, a majority of his life was spent on Hearn Avenue. Gordon's wife, Fran Chadder, lived on the same street when they were growing up. The couple got married in 1940, and eventually raised their family of six at 27 Hearn Ave., a house built by Gordon and his father.
“He built the house that they lived in for 60 odd years,” said Paul. "The house never totally finished the way he wanted it to, so he was always working on something, repairing things."
Besides being an avid driver, family notes Gordon was an excellent handyman. In high school, he took a technical skills course and got his first factory job at 15 at Biltmore Hats and then Gilsons Manufacturing Company. Paul jokes a repairman wasn't allowed in the house.
"There wasn't much he wasn't able to do," said Paul. "My mom had the story that their dryer was 45-years-old when they sold the house because dad was always fixing it."
In retirement, Gordon and Fran bought a motor home in 1981, which they used to travel across Canada and to the United States, most often to Yuma, Arizona. The motor home also became a popular spot for sleepovers for the grandchildren.
"Their place was a great place for the grand kids to go for sleepovers, they would stay with them at the motor home," said Paul.
A dedicated family man, Gordon was always willing to help and kept a calendar which reminded him when to call and wish family members a 'Happy Birthday.'
Whether through good genetics or good luck, Gordon remained active later in life until a couple months leading up to his death. Paul mentions he never complained of pain and was still completing projects, like building a deck at the age of 70, or cleaning eavestroughs when he was 80.
"He was always a happy guy, he was fortunate because when he died, really, the only medication he took was a high blood pressure pill, and a vitamin D or something, but no other prescriptions," said Paul.
After Fran fell ill, she and Gordon moved into The Elliott Community. When she passed away in 2018, Gordon stayed as a resident.
"When Mom was struggling right at the end, he was just there for her," said Sue.
Paul mentions the staff at The Elliott Community really liked Gordon, even if he would break an occasional rule.
"We would get calls on occasion from Elliott during COVID, because would go down to the garage to check his car," said Paul, noting Gordon wasn't allowed to do that. "He'd sneak down to the garage, prop the main door with a brick, go for a walk, check his car and we would get a call saying he got out again."
"Their only complaint was that he was too independent," said Sue.
On Jan. 17, 2022, Gordon passed away at the age of 102. He will be remembered by family for his honesty, integrity, compassion and hard work ethic.