CALGARY – Whether he was weeding out horse thieves and other bandits or tending to prize-winning dahlias in his golden years, Canada’s longest-living Mountie had no shortage of stories.
Ernie Henderson, the oldest living member of the RCMP fraternity and an icon in his High River home, died Nov. 9 in Calgary.
He was 106.
From his early start in 1933 chasing rail-riding hobos between Alberta and B.C., Henderson spent the old days foiling bank robbers, horse thieves and crooks blowing up grain elevator safes.
“If you ever talked to him, he said he lived the best possible life in the best possible times. He was convinced of that,” said his son Rob.
Although postings uprooted Henderson frequently — he worked in B.C., before stints in Turner Valley, Drumheller, Cardston, Hanna and Edmonton — he returned to his beloved High River.
In the early 1940s, as Henderson was preparing to leave his posting at Drumheller, a chauffeured car pulled up to the detachment.
“This lady got out. She ran the brothel,” said friend Reg Powys-Lybbe.
“Ernie said, ‘I’m surprised to see you.’ She said, ‘You were tough but you were always fair. I just wanted to say goodbye.’
“It says a lot about his character. He should have written a book. He had so many stories and knew so much. He was a remarkable man.”
Henderson was born in Winnipeg in 1905.
He left the family’s failing Cardale, Man., farm at age 28 to join the RCMP.
For 15 years, Henderson served small towns in Alberta and B.C. He was a member of the Musical Ride. He became a corporal at High River.
Up until a few months ago, he was one of several former Mounties who gather at the High River Dairy Queen to share tales of the old days.
The stories from his humble beginnings earning only $2,800 a year stayed fresh in his mind, Powys-Lybbe said.
After leaving the force in 1948, Henderson bought a hardware store in Saskatchewan. He took a position with the Canadian Shorthorn Association, where he stayed until 1961. Through it all, he judged cattle, heavy horses, dogs and flowers as he presided over the Canadian Gladiola Society.
“He was a good exhibitor, he had a lot of champions,” said Powys-Lybbe, adding Henderson had success whether he was showing flowers, dogs or horses.
“Even now, people would take Ernie to horse sales. He could see if a horse was sound right away.”
Henderson showed as much tenacity in later life, including growing award-winning dahlias and gladiolas.
Henderson bought a new car when he was 100, and was driving until he was 103.
Henderson was honoured as High River’s parade marshal at age 100. He was surprised when he was asked to ride in a carriage and not on a horse.
Henderson was predeceased in 1987 by his wife Fannie.
He is survived by two children, six grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Source: Calgary Herald