Bill Uhrig



William (Bill) Henry Uhrig

There aren't many of them left.  They are the 'Saugeeners' ... the oldtimers of Southampton in Bruce County.  On Sunday, March 30th another of the elite club was lost when William (Bill) Henry Uhrig died at the age of 90.

Born on August 29, 1918, Bill lived almost his entire life across the street from the home he was born in on Alice Street in Southampton. He was the son of German immigrants who had migrated to Canada through the United States and, because the times were what they were, the family changed their name from the German spelling 'Uhrich" to the English, Uhrig.

Bill grew up in hard times as did most of the families during the depression.  As a teenager, he hauled eggs, cream and milk from the family farm downtown to the local stores along Southampton's High Street.  At 15, he went to work on a farm but learned the hard way that some employers took advantage of child labour and then, at 16, he worked for a local Southampton farmer, Clayton Doll, with whom he remained a life-long friend.

When war broke out, the young William Uhrig, tried to enlist in June of 1941 but, when he went through the physical testing including an eye examination, he was rejected because of eyesight failure, he was in fact, legally blind in one eye.  Not one to give up, he went again the next year to another recruiting station and, knowing what to expect, passed the tests and was accepted into the Army.  It wasn't long however, before they recognized the problem with his eyesight but, instead of discharge, he was sent to the Officers' Mess where he became a chef for the duration.

Mabel and Bill

On leave, Bill met his wife, Mabel Lange, two years his junior, on the beach in Southampton and the story is as old as time.  Mabel had worked as a maid in Toronto and had been working for the Dominion Rubber Company in Kitchener, making life rafts for the armed forces, when she and a girlfriend decided to spend their vacation in a cottage near the beach in Southampton.  There, the girls met two young men, Bill Uhrig and his friend.  As they say, the rest in history and, on July 22nd, 1944, Bill and Mabel married.  In 1946, after the war, Bill also went to work for Dominion Rubber, when the company immediately went on strike.

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The young couple, now with a new baby, unable to make ends meet moved to Southampton where they lived with Bill's widowed mother until they could afford to buy a small corner of land from her for $200.  Mere yards away, in 1947, Bill built what was to be his first and last home, a small but cozy home where the couple would raise their children, Sandra, Bob, Bill and Judy.

In a time when few even had the opportunity to finish public school, Bill became a skilled craftsman in the furniture trade and spent the next 47 years working at Fitton Parker Furniture, later Sklar Peppler, where he became foreman in different departments.  He retired in 1983 but, retirement to Bill, only meant another opportunity.  He could now use his talents building and selling his own handcrafted furniture pieces created in his own woodworking shop at the back of his home.  It also meant he would become a mentor to nephews who followed in his footsteps with their love of woodworking while he continued working with wood throughout his life.  Although he created exquisite furniture pieces, he also handcrafted little things like birdhouses for his annual visitors, the Purple Martins, and unique walking sticks

Ever the entrepreneur, Bill's endeavours through the years were somewhat unique, even by Southampton standards.  He kept chickens and then turned to raising pigeons, winning several ribbons at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto.  From pigeons, he moved to raising rabbits and selling them and then turned to exotic pheasants.

Bill Jr.  Shows his Dad's Collection

In later years, Bill became an avid collector.  He collected pop bottles of all kinds, license plates from every era, insulators, coins, yardsticks and, after the death of his beloved Mabel, he began to collect the coal-oil lamps of a bygone time.   While some simply collect, Bill was meticulous in his collections.  Yardsticks were hung methodically, license plates were stored by decade, lamps were catalogued and coins were separated into mini-collections and given to grandchildren.

Although a private man, Bill joined the Royal Canadian Legion immediately after getting out of the service and remained a loyal member for 62 years.  He loved jokes and meeting with his friends every morning for coffee.  Bill was intensely proud of his family.

A Saugeener to the end, William (Bill) Uhrig died on March 30, 2008, having lived his life in the place he loved the most, the house he built surrounded by the trees he planted, on Alice Street in Southampton.

For further details see Eagleson Funeral Home under Saugeen Times Obituaries