Russell’s Alec Corry, Crerar’s daughter Janet Corry’s brother-in-law, tends to the Honey House retail store Monday while family members attend Ian Crerar’s memorial service. Van Dusen photo
Tom Van Dusen
VERNON – “No bees, no honey; no work, no money.” That’s the motto of the Crerar family passed down over several generations and followed religiously by patriarch Ian Crerar, 85, who passed away Sept. 25 at St. Jacques Nursing Home in Embrun where he and wife Bette had resided for the past few years.
Crerar was waked Sunday at Dailey Family Funeral Home, Metcalfe, where a memorial service was held Monday. It was said that Bette and his family, his honey business on Hwy. 31, Osgoode Presbyterian Church, and the saxophone which he began playing in 1950, were the key ingredients of a life well lived.
Crerar spent his entire adult life running the operation launched with several hives more than a century ago by his father Duff who left them in the care of his father Peter when he went overseas during the First World War; he returned to the hives and to mixed farming. Duff marvelled at the skill, ingenuity and devotion of the honey bee, an appreciation passed down the family line.
His knowledge and management of the industrious insects earned him the title of “Honey King of Canada” at the Royal Winter Fair, an honour also won by Ian 25 years later. The younger Crerar entered the business full-time at age 17 after his father died young at age 55, victim of a health condition suffered during the war.
With Bette at his side, Ian continued to improve the business and build its highly respected reputation through regular trophies for top quality honey. The couple had six children, all of whom have worked the family business; today, son Jeff manages the beehives, yard and plant responsibilities, while daughter Janet Corry is in charge of the retail outlet, office, packaging and marketing.
Several expansions occurred eventually leading to year-round operation. In 1978, the business was incorporated as Crerar’s Honey Ltd., operating 400-500 hives. It’s a delicate balance, labour-intensive and affected by outside variables ranging from weather patterns, off-shore imports, and bee health.
The Crerars have always been motivated by the knowledge that honey is one of the last pure food sources left to enhance mankind’s health and wellness.