Tyler Yates, a past participant of the TD Canada 4H Classic, remembers Bert Stewart – a long time supporter of youth and the Classic Show.
In his words:
“A strange feeling washes over you when you know you should be thankful towards somebody that you don’t even know. It’s almost like you need to do a little bit of research into why you feel that way towards a person; only then you can see how truly impressive the feats are that you are thankful for. That’s how I felt and that’s what I did upon hearing of the untimely death of Mr. Bert Stewart. I personally didn’t have the privilege of knowing Mr. Stewart, I was never fortunate or good enough to qualify for the judging trips to Madison, Wisconsin, and the sheer geography alone of me being from the county of Durham West never allowed us to cross paths, except for at the Canadian 4H Classic in Toronto. During my youth 4H career Mr. Stewart was the face of the show, along with Mr Bill Edelstein. I certainly do not feel qualified to talk and regale about the legend of Mr. Stewart simply because I did not know him, I will point you towards the Facebook page of Jason French for that, however as a benefactor of one of his pride and joys, The Classic, I can speak and regale on the magnitude of the show and how just how big of an enterprise it is.
The show itself was first held in 1979 and things really picked up speed in 1985 when Scotia Bank became the official main sponsor. In 1987 the show made its home at the Royal Winter Fair. What a perfect time of year to have it! Early November as a culmination of that year’s 4H tour, to finish at what can be called the Olympic Games of Canadian 4H. Every year when I was there competing you would see Mr. Stewart walking the lines of heifers being exhibited, talking to kids, teenagers, and adults alike, the ones he knew and the ones he didn’t; it takes a special kind of person to do that year after year for more than 30 years. By comparison, I haven’t even been alive for 30 years let alone volunteer my time, blood, sweat, and tears for a nationwide cattle show. The Classic was the show I always wanted to compete at, watching my brother and sister compete there made me want it more, watching fellow Durham West’ers show made me want to be a part of the team. Some of my fondest memories come from that show, whether it be working a night shift as the team herdsman with the girl who would later become my fiancé, (a fact she doesn’t remember, but believe me when I say that it happened and I will be using that as a “Get out Jail Free” card when I no doubt forget about an anniversary!). I mean for goodness sake, it’s the show where John and Heather Werry essentially became aware of each others’ existence, now two kids and a beautiful new barn later look at them go, I have zero doubts in my mind that there is countless other life stories and first meetings from that show and memories that the exhibitors have that will never be forgotten, and it’s all because of Mr Stewart and those like him who put that show on for us.
There’s a well-known phrase that says, “The measure of a man’s power is not what people do for him, but for he does for others” and that’s where the feeling of thankfulness comes from. While writing this I attempted to come up with the total number of exhibitors that have competed all time at the Canadian Classic, a task I quickly realized I couldn’t find on my own. So I made a call to the trusty veteran Adrian Vander Weilen, and even while looking together we still couldn’t come up with a solid number. But for the past 20 years there’s been 350 competitors, so there’s 7000 people all who came under one roof, to show at the brain child of an idea that Mr. Stewart and others spearheaded for our benefit, that in itself is deserved of a hearty ‘mazel tov’. In the past few years whenever a legend of sport passes away you see a small tribute by their team. When the famed Jonny Bower passed, the Maple Leafs put the initials JB on the sleeve of their jerseys, and I for one can see absolutely no reason why at this year’s Classic every shirt sleeve cannot adorn the initials “BS” as a small tribute to Mr. Stewart, I mean after all, he’s a big part of the reason we are even there in the first place.
“No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” Saint Ambrose