April fatality claims heart, soul of Morris family farm
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RURAL MUNICIPALITY OF MORRIS — Wayne Rhymer always told his daughters to never say “can’t,” as he taught them how to do everything from change a tire to drive a combine on the family farm.
“Unhook the ‘T’,” he’d say, while passing on know-how and wisdom which have stayed with Jennifer Rhymer and Katie Overby into their adult years.
Following his sudden and accidental death April 15, the retired grain farmer’s children and wife, Delanie, have wondered how they can go on without him.
“I never thought I’d be a widow at 65,” said Delanie Rhymer, as she wiped away tears, at the kitchen table in her house north of Morris. “We have to keep on keeping on. Wayne would have wanted it that way. He knows we’ll look after the land, so we’re going to do that.”
Wayne Rhymer, who would have turned 68 on Tuesday, died as he used an open cab tractor to clear snow on Good Friday.
The tractor slid into a water-filled ditch in front of his home and overturned, trapping him beneath it.
His wife, children and sister, Marlene Wiens, recently came together to talk about their loss and share their memories of a father and grandfather known for his commitment to his family, community and faith — and Winnipeg’s professional sports teams.
They recalled a man with a protective and loving nature, as his daughters described how he instilled a strong work ethic and “can do” attitude.
“It’s very humbling to know he took that time to teach us things,” said Overby, 30, who joined the others via video call.
“If you have a will, you have a way,” said Jennifer Rhymer, 29, quoting her father. “We just appreciate it so much.”
Wayne Rhymer became a grandfather 14 months ago, when Overby gave birth to son Connor.
Their time together was limited due to distance — Overby, her husband and son live on a farm in Brentford, S.D. — and COVID-19 restrictions on cross-border travel.
“It’s very humbling to know he took that time to teach us things.” – Katie Overby
Shortly before the accident, Wayne Rhymer spoke to Overby and Connor in a video call. He was excited for his grandson to begin taking his first steps, she said.
Well known in the Rural Municipality of Morris, Wayne Rhymer spent his entire life at a farmstead which has been in his family for more than 70 years.
He farmed with his brothers and then individually with his wife before an eye disease, which reduced his vision, led to the couple’s retirement in 2009.
“He lived above it,” Wiens, who helped raise her brother after their father died when they were young, said of his condition.
In retirement, the Rhymers rented out their land, as Wayne kept busy with projects around the yard, including a large vegetable garden every year.
“Summer is going to be difficult because he was always out there doing things,” his wife said.
A “jack of all trades,” there wasn’t a job he didn’t think he couldn’t do, as he handled everything from carpentry and plumbing tasks to electrical work and mechanics.
During the Flood of the Century in 1997, Wayne Rhymer remained behind to keep an eye on the farmhouse, while his wife and daughters stayed with relatives in Winnipeg.
Like others in the Red River Valley, he became trapped as rising floodwater submerged gravel roads and surrounded his home.
With no way out, a Canadian Armed Forces helicopter came to the rescue, airlifting him, a pet dog and several cats to safety.
When the water receded, the family lived in a mobile home provided by the RM while Wayne Rhymer got to work on raising the yard and building a new house.
At home, Delanie Rhymer is reminded of her husband everywhere she turns and when she looks out the window.
She was a talkative travel agent from St. James when Wiens, one of her customers, set them up on a blind date at a Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship event in Winnipeg in 1985.
“I was trying to pull stuff out of him because he was so quiet. I guess opposites do attract,” said Delanie Rhymer.
Two days later, they went on a date at Rae & Jerry’s Steak House in Winnipeg. They bonded over shared interests, including the city’s sports teams.
A big fan of the Blue Bombers and Jets, Wayne Rhymer never missed a game in person or on TV.
Many of the family’s road trips in the U.S. were planned around Jets away games in destinations such as Phoenix and Nashville.
“Those are good memories, and we’ll always cherish them,” said Delanie Rhymer.
The day he died, the Rhymers were planning to have dinner and watch that night’s Jets game on TV. Delanie Rhymer has watched others since then, but those are among the moments she misses him the most.
“It hasn’t been the same,” she said. “If the Bombers win (the Grey Cup) this year, it’s not going to be the same.”
“It hasn’t been the same… If the Bombers win (the Grey Cup) this year, it’s not going to be the same.” – Delanie Rhymer, wife
The Rhymers got married at Charleswood Gospel Temple in 1986. At that time, they were driving around in a 1984 GMC Sierra that is still on the farm.
The truck has plenty of special memories for her, including the day her then-boyfriend surprised her with an engagement ring as she climbed out of it.
“I want to fix it up and I want to drive it,” said Delanie Rhymer. “I have to get that thing working.”
As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.