Would you enjoy visiting with Brother Demoe at the Fenelon Truck Stop?
April 1, 2023
Gerry Demoe Driving his 1957 Chev Bel-Air Convertible with Fair President Dave Simser and his wife Karen at the Fenelon Fair, 1984
Mary Baker Remembers her Father, Gerry Demoe
This memory includes a discussion of one person’s historic views on impaired driving. Since the 1920s, as automobiles were becoming common, impaired driving has been illegal in Canada, though for decades, the punishments and enforcement were much more lenient than they are today. For many years, impaired driving was also much more socially acceptable than it is today, resulting in many injuries and fatalities, prompting more stringent enforcement. This story is not intended to condone impaired driving—it is a memory of a local personality and his stories. As Brother Demoe enjoyed “tellin’ lies” with his friends, much of this memory is shared ironically and it is not intended to be read as the literal truth.
If there ever was someone who made the most of being a retiree in the Kawarthas, it was Brother Demoe. He loved to tell stories with his friends (some of them were even true!), he loved his family, and he loved his farm. He would often say, “the cheques just keep rolling in Brother. Just gotta work for GM and be a farmer.” But for some reason, trouble seemed to follow Gerry around, though he was of course completely innocent, whatever mayhem might be happening around him.
Gerald Harry Demoe had a bit of an unusual childhood. Born in 1941, he was raised by his grandparents, and even as a youngster there always seemed to be some mischief going on around Gerry, though it was not him who instigated any of it. Though he could recount getting his “arse tanned a time or two” for this or that, as a youngster he really loved to skate and developed a memorable grace on ice. He had to leave high school early, he often said that the problem was that he had a better car than the principal. But as he was checking out of Fenelon Falls High School, the principal gave him some good advice—go get some seniority at a factory.
Brother Demoe loved his cars, always convertibles, and at the age of 17 he got himself a job at GM “workin’ on a ‘sembly line” as the Johnny Cash song went. Later in life, he liked to say that he got himself a car just like the song, One Piece at a Time. He would explain that you would put a wild cat in your lunch box, then when your boss opened it, there would be quite the disturbance as it ran all over the plant, then they would never check your lunch box again. He did not actually get a Caddilac one piece at a time—that’s how he got his barn. But, “my Lord he loved to drive Caddilacs,” and for some inexplicable reason, a lot of his tools had GM logos on them.
Brother Demoe loved working at GM, and there was never a dull moment. Back then, odometers could be reset, and he was temporarily laid off the summer, for doing his job, test driving cars. For some reason they thought he was doing burn outs in the parking lot. While laid off he met his future wife, Julie—he made the most of every moment. One day he told his boss that it was too hot in the factory and he needed a fan. He was told not to worry about it and get back to work. A little while later he was noticed working, wearing his safety boots and tool belt just as he was instructed to do. He was rather quickly supplied a fan, so he would feel comfortable wearing a little more clothing. He always said his goal was to have 30 years in and 30 years out, and he nearly made it, after retiring at the age of 47.
Gerry was a good driver. If he had not been such a good driver, he would have died young. As he drove his convertible, he mastered the art of putting a brick on the gas pedal, sitting on top of the seat and driving with your feet. As a youngster he learned that if you drive fast enough, you can get past the accident before it happens. Not all police officers shared his unique insights into road safety. But he understood that you could keep your two-four under the hood, and you just put a six-pack in the trunk as a decoy. Back then drinking and driving was much more socially acceptable than it is today. He would explain that you would get a friend who had passed out to drive home, because at least he had some sleep. Occasionally he had to appear before a judge to explain his driving, but as taught to his daughter, when you put your hand on the Bible, you have some time to think up a story to get off. But no matter what happened he was always positive, ““If I was any better there would be two of me.”
When his wife’s brother was married in the summer of 1968, Brother Demoe had been out drinking with Lorne Jordan. Then he realized he was going to be late, and went flying down the road like a bat out of hell. As he raced down the 401, he ended up in a police chase, only to be stopped by a spike belt. He explained that they were just mad at him because he was out racing them. He called Julie to say that he had ended up in jail, and she, being the good wife that she was, found someone to drive to Belleville and “bail his sorry a** out.”
At first glance Julie and Gerry might seem like an improbable match. She had a much more conventional upbringing and was a school teacher. But they really were great for each other, Gerry taught her how to mellow and enjoy life. She would give him the eye, and then he would know not to push things too far. They were married 48 glorious years. If anyone at the Truck Stop ever said that teachers made too much money, Brother Demoe would reply, “you should have married one, there were lots of them about of them around.”
Brother Demoe was the life of every party he ever attended. Though he would always play innocent, he was full of shock value. For one party, he had to bring a plus one, so he showed up of with a lady of the night. Julie, of course, took everything in stride, and was his companion for the next event—that was just Brother Demoe. One time he and Clark Watson showed up at Quibell’s pig roast on the back of a yellow Bombardier snowmobile—only to have the track blow off as they were driving it down the dirt road—much to the amusement of his fans.
Gerry and Julie had a daughter, who had the privilege of being raised by a local legend, and his much more appropriate wife. While her mother taught her to have some standards, Brother Demoe made sure that she knew not to worry too much about what others thought of you. “The future can worry about itself, the past has already happened, let’s make the most of right now.” He would pick her up from high school on his Goldwing motor cycle, long hair, with Elvis blaring. For a 14-year old girl, it was of course terribly embarrassing, but all teenagers find their parents embarrassing—and she got to be the one with a remarkably cool Dad. Gerry would tone it down when she was around, and Julie of course expected her daughter to be good. He was supportive, “Thank God you haven’t done a quarter of the things I did.”
He loved to motor cycle, and travelled with Julie all over Eastern Canada and into the United States. He made it to his mecca, Graceland. He loved to belt out Elvis tunes and also gospel music. He secretly loved to listen to Bob Dylan and the Beatles, but everyone always associated him with Elvis.
Looking back, Julie laughs at all his antics, and would tell you that there was never a dull moment when her husband was around. Everyone knew that that if Gerry was at a party, they would have a good time. He never told the same story twice, and he always allowed someone else to have the floor to share theirs. His 50th birthday at the Cambray Hall was packed, and there were no tears at his funeral, but a lot of stories of all the things that Brother Demoe did over the years. He always seemed to be happy, would never admit that he was in pain, and always said he was “top drawer.” As his many friends streamed by at his wake, sharing what Brother meant to them, the refrain echoed: “Holy Sh**, I can’t believe he made it that long, I thought he would be dead by 25.”
Gerry loved to act out mock weddings, in another life he might have been an actor. He loved the Truck Stop, the Newfy Shop at Peace Valley, and to go to Pizza Hut. They had a special bottle of ketchup for him. He is well remembered going in Fair Parades with his 1957 Chev Bel-Air Convertible—always with the top down—it made you a little closer to God. He was a lifelong member of St. Aloysius Catholic Church. He had no patience, was a pyromaniac and he was completely inappropriate. Though he loved crowds he was at the same time somewhat of a homebody.
Brother Demoe was a great cook. He took the famous Demoe baked beans recipe to the grave with him. He made sourdough biscuits, chili, stew, and his heart-stopping bacon & egg breakfast. He is well remembered at the barbeque, always with a beer in his hand. Many friends stopped in to see him, and spend some time not worrying about the cares of life. He would memorably say, “when I got married, I had ten dollars in my pocket, and it’s nearly all gone!”
There were many unforgettable gatherings at Gerry’s home. He would come in, he would get everyone riled up and having a great time, and then he would go to bed and leave Julie to look after the party. She of course, took everything in stride. He would say that there was nothing to worry about, and that things happen for a reason. And if anyone was ever going to give him a hard time, he always found a way to pre-empt with one of his zingers. He was an unforgettable Good Ol’ Boy. There never will be another Brother Demoe.
“Don’t work too hard, brother, and if you find yourself workin’ too hard, think of me and you’ll slow down.”
This story is a memory and nobody’s memory is perfect. Sometimes details get a little mixed up, things get forgotten or overlooked, and the perspective is inevitably subjective. If you notice something that not right, have something you would like to tell us, or a memory to share the museum would be happy to hear from you: email@example.com