Continued from yesterday…
One day an ambitious little spider made its way down from a ceiling, slid down a wall, crept over an old fashioned roller blind, then down the cord one might use to pull the blind down or up. But this blind, hanging in the living room of an old red brick house, was never pulled down or up. It had hung part-way down for a decade or more and no one moved it. No one removed the spider, either.
Sensing itself secure, the spider began to make its web. Swinging from the end of the cord toward the nearby window frame it attached one of its silky threads to that. Then it repeated the process until it had completed its web. And this web, as it was fashioned, eventually pulled the cord sideways.
Neighbours going by smiled when they saw the cord hanging at an angle. This was Carl McNeil’s house and we all knew that, though he kept his garden in good order, he wasn’t bothered with housework. He occupied two rooms, his kitchen and his bedroom upstairs. Since he never invited anyone into his house, no one really knew what it looked like inside but we judged a lot by that one cord hanging crooked for years — and the fact that the half a bucket of water Carl got from Giff Pomeroy’s pump once a week wouldn’t be cleaning very much. That was Carl’s bath water.
Carl was a faithful attender of the United Church in Fullarton. Town folks said it with kindness and a smile, but they admitted it took an extra bit of charity to sit near Carl on days when the church building was especially warm. Soon Marguerite would be telling him, “Carl, it’s time to send your clothes to the cleaners again.”
At the end of October, as the town children prepared to go trick or treating, Carl would go down to the store to buy a bag of treats to hand out. For years he bought a bag of marshmallows and gave one to each of the children that called at his door. Then one year he discovered mini-marshmallows so he bought a bag and generously gave each child several. Since this worked so well, he continued to shell out this way. Was he such a miser, or did he think most children at the time were getting enough sweets?
Carl’s only known health problem was his need for a pacemaker. The first one installed did him for years but when he was 85 the battery needed to be changed. As I recall, he was feeling odd for a few days, so a neighbour took him to a hospital in London, ON, where he had the procedure done. He was supposed to stay there for a couple of days and properly recover after the surgery. However, he wanted to be home, so the next morning he signed himself out, walked downtown to the bus depot and caught the bus for home.
He got off the bus at Russeldale, a village along the highway and the nearest stop to home; from there he walked the three miles to Fullarton. But when he got home he found his neighbour had locked the door and Carl didn’t have the key with him. So off he went to Giff Pomeroy’s shed and borrowed Giff’s long wooden ladder, which he carried to his house and set up to reach his second-storey bedroom window. He climbed up, pushed his window open, and crawled into the bedroom. Then he went back outside and returned Giff’s ladder.
Carl rarely left his home, but once or twice a year he took the bus to Kitchener, a city about an hour away, for the day. Of course it gave the villagers lots of opportunity to speculate on what he did there all day. Once an acquaintance saw him being met at the Bus depot by a young woman, which gave rise to even more speculation. He had no known family other than MacDougald cousins. A bit worried in case Carl might be victimized somehow, his friends raised tactful questions but Carl was secretive about those trips. Perhaps he simply liked to have a bit of mystery about his life, something to keep folks guessing.
When Carl died and his will was read, he made national news. He’d calculated what each citizen’s share of the National debt was and had bequeathed the government of Canada a check to pay off his portion.
John Richardson, MP for Perth-Wellington-Waterloo, praised Carl’s actions in the House of Commons with these words:
“Mr. Speaker, today (Oct 31, 1994) I was fortunate to take part in a presentation ceremony during which a cheque for $37,634.61 from the estate of Carl McNeill was presented to the Government of Canada.
Mr. McNeill was a 100-year old resident of my riding who was worried about the legacy of debt that had been left to the younger generation. Mr. McNeill left specific instructions in his will that the money be given to the federal government in order to pay off his share of the national debt to ensure a better future for others.
Walter and Marian MacDougald, long time friends and neighbours of Mr. NcNeill, presented the cheque to the Minister of Finance this morning. In addition to Mr. McNeill’s donation to the government he also left a substantial amount of money to the University Hospital in London and the Salvation Army.
Carl McNeill set a tremendous example of the kind of patriotism and national loyalty for which all Canadians can strive. I thank him on behalf of all Canadians for his generosity and concern for our great country.