John Ray Bennett was born on December 21, 1899, in Lehi, Utah, the seventh child of Austin Robert and Alice Emily (Harding) Bennett. The family moved to Magrath, Alberta in 1904 via railroad. The opportunity to obtain good land reasonably through a colonization and irrigation arrangement, the LDS church was involved in, luring many Utah families to the area.
Ray was raised in Magrath and received his education there and a winter semester at the B.Y.U.. Ray's father, Austin had acquired land in two different locations around the Magrath area and one east of Spring Coulee in 1910. As a teenager Ray helped his father farm and in his early twenties made arrangements to purchase the half section in the Spring Coulee area. For many years he batched and lived in a small shack while he worked the land.
In 1931 Ray married Isabel R. Steed, daughter of William and Mary Steed from Cardston. There were ten children in the family. Isabel loved to play the piano and fondly recalled playing for the silent movies in Cardston. She would sit in the dark and watch the movie and as the mood of the picture changed her fingers would magically follow suit. She willingly shared this musical talent socially and in church callings throughout her life. After attending Garbutt's Business School she was employed at the Bank of Montreal in Magrath.
At the time of the Bennett's marriage Spring Coulee had two stores, (one with a post office), two garages, the United Church, a Hotel, a pool room (with barber shop), a dance hall, and a school.
Following their marriage they moved on to the farm and struggled through the depression with low prices, drought and isolation. As their family grew they added to their house and bought another quarter section. Then in the early 40s Ray bought another half section of adjoining land. In 1946 he sold one quarter to help purchase an additional section. The work was hard, the hours were long, but over time they prospered. They enjoyed their neighbors and the people who worked for them. Many of Ray's nephews from Magrath helped with the farm work and were remembered fondly.
In the twenties and thirties the field work was done with horses. Each horse was named and remembered for its own personality and characteristics. Isabel took many photographs of the various teams and saddle horses. Years later it was fun to reminisce as they looked through the albums.
Isabel was a wonderful cook and loved to feed friends and family members scrumptious meals of roast beef, fresh buns, pies and cakes, yummy vegetables from Ray's large garden, and her marvelous home made ice-cream.
It seemed that a larger than average number of salesmen would show up at the Bennett farm precisely in time for dinner. Needless to say they never left hungry.
Ray served as trustee for the Vernal School District until it was amalgamated into the Spring Coulee School. In the early 50s Ray became president of the Rural Electrification Association and spearheaded the project that brought power to the local farms.
Isabel was finally able to have some modern conveniences including the telephone and running water. The house was renovated complete with bathroom and new kitchen.
Ray enjoyed fishing and took several pack horse trips into the Belly River Lakes with John MacKenzie, Tom Beswick and other neighbors. He and Isabel also loved to picnic with the family.
Ray was honest, responsible and hard working. When he started something he persevered until the job was done. Even in his seventies if he saw grain being hauled he would grab a scoop shovel and pitch in. He was lean and strong and stayed in good shape except for periods of ill health. Ray and Isabel often sang favorite songs and the family as a whole would sing in harmony together.
Ray felt a particular responsibility for his sisters who needed additional support. He raised turkeys and other produce which he willingly shared with them.
He served as a Sunday School superintendent in the new Spring Coulee Branch for eleven years.
Ray loved his family and wanted the best for his wife and children. Ray and Isabel had six children, 5 sons and one daughter. All obtained University educations.
Ray Passed away November 19, 1981. Isabel remained on the farm and had several health years before her death on May 17, 1991.
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