Greg Hewgill (ghewgill) wrote,
Greg Hewgill
ghewgill

Elwood Thomas Hewgill, 20 Aug 1915 - 22 Apr 2008

My grandfather passed away today. He suffered a severe stroke almost a week ago and hung on until today, but there was never any hope of recovery. His immediate family was at his side when he went peacefully.

Elwood was a diesel mechanic by trade, taught himself to paint after retirement, and was always building a better machine to do stuff. He built a wood splitter that had a cutting station and a conical screw for splitting, powered by a self-contained engine and mounted on wheels with a trailer hitch. My family used to have a wood stove for heating, and we would go out into the forest to collect firewood, then use his splitting machine to process the wood into logs the right size for the stove. Elwood built and sold probably dozens of these machines, each one hand-made and better than the last one.

As an artist he attended many demonstrations by other artists, and found that it was always difficult for more than a few people to see what the artist giving the demonstration was actually doing. To solve this problem, he built an artist demonstration station that had a workspace with a mirror mounted above it, so the entire audience could see what the artist was doing by looking up at the mirror. I believe the whole thing folded up into a reasonably compact size that was portable in a car.

Many of Elwood's paintings were of buildings. Being of a technical mind and background, he strived for precision, especially in perspective. I remember one time he came over to our house without my grandmother, so he could work on a painting to present to her. The painting was of the church where they were married in Ontario, and he presented it to her as an anniversary gift. I remember one of the first things he did on the canvas was draw some lines of perspective and two vanishing points.

Both my grandfathers' birthdays fell on the same day in the middle of summer, so they often celebrated together with a large gathering of extended families on both sides. My mother's father (Jack Young) was a Ph.D. chemist and professor of education, who trained nearly an entire generation of science teachers in the province of BC. In contrast, Elwood had only a high school education (if even that, he grew up working on a farm). Nevertheless, I clearly remember at one of those huge birthday gatherings that Jack said if he could confer an honorary Ph.D., he would give one to Elwood. Everybody knew he deserved it.

The last time I saw my grandfather was just over two years ago, before Amy and I left for New Zealand. May he rest in peace.
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