Husband, father, grandfather, horse whisperer, pool shark, wood chopper, karaoke star. Born Sept. 21, 1939, in Roseneath, Ont. Died Aug. 24, 2011, in Picton, Ont., of intestinal cancer, aged 71.
For someone who caught few breaks in life, Aubrey Blaker, a full-blood Ojibwa, had a terrific attitude. The first of six children of Gordon and Olive Blaker, he was born on the Alderville Reserve in Northumberland County and went to school down the road in Baltimore, Ont.
After leaving home at 15 he worked on Great Lakes freighters, then later on harvest and tobacco crews. When he returned at 18, he fell in love with a girl from Cobourg, Ont. He and Jane Anne Davis were married in 1958 and raised a family of four children: Aubrey Jr., Sonya, Christopher and Rozalyn.
Aubrey worked with General Motors for 10 years. He was a restless spirit and became more so when tragedy struck the family. Sonya died of pneumonia, and separate car accidents took the lives of Christopher and Rozalyn in their early 20s. He became despondent and needed to keep moving to find a place in the world where native Indians were accepted.
Throughout their lives he and Jane practised their faith in the Church of Jehovah's Witnesses, for which they enjoyed extensive missionary work in Central and South America. For 20 years, Aubrey and Jane lived and worked in Vancouver, Calgary, Mexico and Guatemala before settling in San Diego, Calif., where Aubrey honed his carpenter's skills and discovered a true vocation. They found the great support and kinship of the Witness community wherever they lived. He was the kind of man who could preach without being preachy, who was spiritual but far from pious. Everyone loved him.
Aubrey and Jane moved to Ontario's Prince Edward County in 1993 to be close to Aubrey Jr., a stonemason, his wife Robin and their three grandchildren, Bailey, Bree and Teele. Father and son built new houses beside each other and Aubrey expanded his business as a contractor/carpenter. Here Aubrey could practise his true love of horse whispering. As long as he could be in the company of his horses – Pancho, Ben, Chiko, Pedro and Bonito – he never lost his way again.
He and Jane moved one last time, just a few kilometres down the road where there was more land for his horses, to a Victorian farmhouse that they completely restored. Aubrey took to the notion that if we save buildings, we save ourselves, and he and Jane threw themselves into the building project.
Sitting in the middle of a savanna of hundreds of acres, Aubrey found the peace he had longed for. Whether cutting riding trails through the woods, building cedar rail fences or chopping wood, his restlessness was calmed. He cared for all people. He remained the unbeaten snooker champion, the winning sunflower grower, a karaoke star who could belt out tunes in Spanish, and always the best-looking man in the room.
By Alan Gratias, Aubrey's friend.