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Photo by grandson
Glen Dietz about 1988
AGNES CONNELLY ISCHE (1908-1996)
Eulogy by grandson-in-law Kenneth Westhues
at the Mass of Christian Burial,
St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, Mitchell, Ontario.
Published online in 2020
We give thanks for the life of Agnes Cecilia Connelly Ische.
Decades before almost any of us gathered here today ever felt the freshness of a Perth County spring, Aggie was feeling it, and being reminded thereby of her duty to get a garden in.
She was born at the original Connelly farm on October 18, 1908, the second of the thirteen children of Thomas Connelly and Elizabeth DeCourcey. As in the other Irish Catholic families of Logan Township in the harsh, premechanized era of modest means and limited possibilities, duty defined the way of life. Faithful, steady, uncomplaining work, especially in the garden and kitchen, was bred into Aggie's bones.
On November 4, 1930, just after her twenty-second birthday, Aggie was married to Howard Ische at St. Brigid's Church. They had one child, a daughter, Vera Colleen. The young family lived first in Moncton, then moved in the mid-1940s to the house on Montreal Street, from which Aggie seldom ventured very far, even after Howie's death in 1971.
Every spring for fifty years, Aggie fertilized, tilled, seeded and planted the same garden plot. Every summer she weeded it and doted on it. Every fall, it returned to her a bounty of potatoes, cucumbers, peppers, beans, and much more. These products of her work and fidelity formed the greater part of her diet year round, and she gave a lot away.
This fall, as usual, she brought in the last of her tomatoes before frost. She showed them to us and gave us some just two months ago, and I saw how lovingly she arranged them in neat rows in the light of a basement window, touching them, turning them over and around, caressing them almost. The honest, unpretentious, down-to-earth fruits of her garden had a lot of Aggie in them.
On account of the constancy of her gardening and canning, we scarcely noticed the years creeping up on her. Neither did she. Returning last month from the hospital and finding it hard to get around, she exclaimed, "I didn't know I was getting old."
Vera and her husband, Bob Dietz, had six children: Paul, my wife Anne, Glen, Murray, Terry, and Rob. Aggie grandmothered them all. Socks she darned, sweaters and jackets she gave, all handed down from one to the next. She welcomed them for visits in Mitchell, and always, always made sure that they, like all visitors to her home, were well fed before they left. Even now they compare all Christmas cake to Aggie's Christmas cake, all jams to Aggie's jams.
Aggie's sense of duty extended to the Mitchell community, which she knew well through her many years at Edighoffer's Department Store, her membership in this parish, her euchre, dancing, and shopping trips uptown. A resident of the Mitchell Nursing Home told Anne last week that when somebody needed help, Aggie was among the first to be there.
Now that Aggie is gone, all the big pickle companies can breathe a sigh of relief, because her dills and bread-and-butters will no longer be around to put theirs to shame. The rest of us will feel the sadness of losing Aggie's faithful, reassuring presence.
On behalf of Vera and Bob, and all the grandchildren and their families, I thank you for joining us in this liturgy of thanksgiving for Aggie's life, and invite you to share a meal with us after Mass. On this occasion, what Aggie would want most of all, is that all of you are well fed before you leave. And thanks to Vera and Ethel this morning, Aggie's own pickles will be part of our meal.