Publication Date: 2006
Ruth Pollard, former President of the Guelph Historical Society, died on December 21, 2005, in Wellington, Ontario. The funeral was held at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Guelph. As long-time members of the Society know, Mrs. Pollard's tenure as President had a profound influence on the activities of the Society. Mrs. Pollard was President from 1973 to 1993. She was involved in many aspects of the Society, including the publication of the History of Guelph, 1827-1927. Over the years, Mrs. Pollard received many awards for her contributions to the community. At the funeral, Dr. Terry Crowley and Dr. Gil Stelter read tributes to Mrs. Pollard. Below are their tributes.
"The smile, that's what I remember most. Whenever I worked with Ruth on Guelph Historical Society business, she always managed to make light of the situation.
"The smile was always there.
The smile showed that Ruth loved the voluntary tasks that she had undertaken, and she affirmed them passionately.
I knew Ruth for nearly 30 years, and I retain many vivid memories of this vibrant woman. In particular, I remember one occasion when there was some rush job with putting to bed the Society's annual publication, Historic Guelph, The Royal City, and I had to take some copy to the Pollard's home. It was a bright sunny day, and the Pollards then lived in an apartment, and as I entered with Ruth at a table strewn with papers for the publication and Eber attending to other matters, Ruth gave me that big smile as she welcomed me, and we sat down together to get my portion of the publication completed so that it could go to the printers to meet the deadline.
Dedication leaps to my mind next to the smile in remembering Ruth. What tremendous dedication she showed in her to devotion to the Guelph Historical Society, the local community, local history, archival records on which to base history, and to the people and heritage of Guelph.
Ruth's dedication allowed her immense talents to shine in her creativeness, in planning monthly programs; in publishing the Society's annual publication and the centennial history of Guelph that appeared during the sesquicentennial; in helping to organize the annual bus tour to Niagara, the annual memorial tree plantings, and the annual essay contests, in helping young people, such as Debra Nash-Chambers; and in appearing in the press and before City Council to aid the cause of heritage conservation that was dear to her heart.
THE VISON. THE SMILE, THE DEDICATION BUT ABOVE ALL THE VISION
Ruth Pollard's vision was multi-faceted. As someone who grew up when the teaching of history was as dry as dust - and the facts that students had to memorize as numerous as particles of sand, Ruth's vision for history was much broader than the past politics and diplomacy that had once characterized the subject.
Ruth Pollard's vision for history was to help create a very broad canvas of the past that attracted the many hundreds of people who became members of the Guelph Historical Society during her presidency. She wanted colour, interest, engagement, and enjoyment to be part of history's vision. And, as we all know, those things would be impossible to obtain without close attention to the local history that she promoted so fully.
Part of Ruth's vision was a financially sound and stable historical society where the whole community could come together to examine its past. But Ruth's vision was also larger, as her historical past was not just contained within but also viewed from without in the heritage structures that made a community such as Guelph distinctive and attractive.
At the same time Ruth and Eber Pollard's vision of history's enduring importance to all people for all ages was shown in the Society's annual essay writing contest and then the creation at the University of Guelph of the Ruth and Eber Pollard Prize in Canadian History, and the new Ruth and Eber Pollard MA Scholarship in Canadian History. The endowment of these prizes and scholarships is truly visionary and emulate the great good that has been done recently by Dick and Sophia Hungerford, and Howard and Myrtle Rogers. All the good that was established will continue to live on in the hearts and minds of those young people who will take our places. This is true vision.
THE SMILE. THE DEDICATION. THE VISION.
These three things sum up Ruth Pollard for me, but dare I say that they should be extended to her enduring relationship with her husband of 62 years, Eber, who we are here today to support.
Ruth Pollard clearly worked to make the collective lives of all people in this community richer and she and Eber, along with members of the Historical Society, have taken very important steps to see that their important work is transmitted to future generations."
- Terry Crowley,
Chair, Department of History, University of Guelph
"This is not a sad occasion. We are here to recognize, and celebrate, the accomplishment of a life well lived. We are here to celebrate a person who greatly enriched the community she cared about so much.
Ruth was President of the Guelph Historical Society from 1973 to 1992 - 20 years - a long time by anyone's standards. She was the Society in the eyes of the public. Behind her, helping her in all her endeavours, was Eber. They really had a good partnership with Ruth as the public person, and Eber as the constant support.
Ruth had a reputation as a rather formidable person and some people were intimidated by her. I never saw that side of her. To me, she was a warm, caring person. She was completely and passionately committed to Guelph, to its history, and to the Guelph Historical Society. She certainly reinvigorated the Society, lead its increase in activities and membership. And through their careful management, she and Eber left the Society in a very healthy condition financially.
When I think about Ruth, several things stand out, especially the Society's book, History of Guelph, published in 1977. I think I probably first met Ruth and Eber when they came to my office at the University, soon after I arrived in Guelph in 1974. I can't remember the purpose of the visit, but I think they had heard that I had given a paper to the Scottish Colloquium on John Galt; could I possibly present it to the Society? I do remember telling them that I was impressed with their bravery and progressive thinking in hiring Professor Leo Johnson of the University of Waterloo to write their history of Guelph. They seemed puzzled by remark, and only slightly horrified when I told them that he was one of the best-known Marxist historians in the country. The book turned out very well. Its research involved many Society members, and Ruth and Eber took the lead in checking facts and proofreading the manuscript. Ruth was especially careful about facts, and a very determined proof-reader. The book is still the most reliable source on Guelph before 1927, and I refer to it often.
Another area of her activity was upgrading the Society's annual publication, Historic Guelph, to a respectable local history journal. Some of the articles in it were the result of talks given at the Society. I gave six or seven talks - maybe more - while she was President, and several of these ended up as articles. A number of people here today have had articles published by Ruth - John Keleher, Bonnie Durtnall, Terry Crowley, and many others.
Ruth had a very charming way of getting you to do something. She'd call up and chat about activities in the City, and slowly work her way over to questions about what you were working on at present. You suddenly realized that you were trapped into giving a paper to the Society on that work.
I always felt very comfortable in their homes, and I remember the Palmer Street and Dublin Street homes in particular. These generally felt like my study at home, with piles of books and articles on the floor and interesting local artifacts hanging on the walls.
Eber tells me that the only way that Ruth could get out of being the Society's President, was to actually move away. But we should all recognize the difference that she made while she was here. She made the Historical Society a significant organization. She brought Guelph's history forward as an important part of Guelph's character. She will not be forgotten by those who continue to care about Guelph and its past."
University Professor Emeritus
University of Guelph