Orval Leslie Ladd was born on September 28, 1930 in the village of Lyn. He was the youngest of five children born to Arthur Ladd, who delivered milk from surrounding farms to a nearby processing plant, and his mother Hazel, a homemaker.
Orval pitched in early to help the family business. By 12 he was driving the milk truck. His brother Lawrence, two years older, also helped. Tragedy struck in 1942 when Arthur accidentally backed the milk truck over Lawrence, then 14, killing him. Orval deeply missed his brother. Even many decades later, recalling the accident brought tears to his eyes.
Orval attended Lyn Public School. A joke teller and prankster to his core, one winter night he snuck over to the school. Holding the school bell upside down, he poured water in until the clapper froze solid. The next morning he watched with a smirk as the teacher tried to ring the morning bell.
Orval also had a lead foot. In his teenage years, a local constable often tried to nab him for speeding. But he would hide behind a building or barn and wait for the police officer to go through and then take off in the opposite direction, honking at the constable.
In his teens, Orval started dating Pat Clow. They married on Aug 8, 1953; Orval was 23, Pat 20. Orval built their first house just prior to the wedding. On Dec. 23, 1955, it burned down. Their first son, Michael, was born four days later.
Orval and Pat raised four children in Lyn. After Michael came Ann, Joan and Peter. The couple’s romance never faded. “He always said that he first knew he was going to marry me when he was in public school and saw me riding to school on a little bicycle that I had. He said I was the cutest thing he’d ever seen” recalls Pat. “And he told me he watched that scene in his mind every night”
Orval worked as a salesman for Myers Pumps. Despite only having a Grade 8 education, he became Myers’ Territory Manager for eastern and northern Ontario, and western Quebec. He often racked up to 130,000 km a year travelling for work. While school was not Orval’s thing he was a natural when it came to figuring out how to fix and build things. His house was stocked with copies of Popular Mechanics. He taught himself electrical work, carpentry and stone masonry and he was excellent at all of them. He hated anything to do with paperwork. Most of his projects were in is head.
Orval’s real passion was preserving Lyn District History. He loved the village that he called home his entire life. “He’d say I can’t see chasing a golf ball around a field when I could be doing something more productive” says Pat. In 1999 as he entered his 70’s Orval, still happiest when covered in mud and mortar, initiated the Lyn Heritage Place Museum, which focused on the town’s original flour mill. Orval did three quarters of the stone work to create the museum.
Orval was lauded with awards for his heritage work, including the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal (2002); the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship (2002) and the Ontario Heritage Trust Certificate of Achievement (2006). But he hid his medals away. “He was pleased, but he wasn’t one to flaunt them,” says Pat.
On Feb. 6th, after helping his son Peter with a remodelling project, Orval went to the old firehouse in Lyn to pick up building materials he was storing there. He arrived home that evening and mumbled something to Pat about getting hit on the head, possibly by the overhead door at the fire hall, or the rear hatch on his van. Pat seeing the swelling on his head said she was taking him to the hospital. He argued he was too dirty to go so she quickly cleaned him up first. Doctors, discovering a brain hemorrhage, transferred him to Kingston, but no one could stop the bleeding. He was 83. (excerpts from Macclean’s Magazine March 10,2014)