Devereux, Walter John (1934 - 1998)
Inducted: November 18, 2008
Walter Devereux was a good farm leader, a good municipal servant, and an ardent conservationist whose actions were guided by a determination to do his best for his community and country.
He was born December 18th, 1934, the youngest of five children of Lancely and Bertha (Spence) Devereux. Early education was at S.S. 16, Howard Township, (Clark School). This was followed by secondary education at Ridgetown High School, and as a member of an early class at Ridgetown Agricultural School.
Walt was involved with his father in the operation of the Devereux Dairy, first delivering milk with horse and wagon and later with a pick-up truck. He was the first to deliver milk to the schools. He operated the Devereux family farm after 1966, specializing in beef and cash crops.
Walt was convinced from an early age that good government was essential in a farming community. He served for 25 years on the Howard Township Council as Councillor, Deputy Reeve and Reeve.
In 1957, he married the former Rose Marie Hall, and they had two children, a daughter, Karen Marie (Roy Rypma), who is practicing as a Dentist in Collingwood; and a son, Randy John, a licensed electrician, who married Heather Cryderman in 1995 (since deceased).
According to Walt Spence, a lifelong friend, his “pride and joy” was his work in conservation. He served as a Director of the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority (L.T.V.C.A.) from 1979 – 1997. He served on the L.T.V.C.A. Water Management Board from 1979 to 1986, and was Chairman of that Board from 1984 – 1986. He became Chairman of the Authority in 1987, and held that responsibility for 11 years.
Mr. Spence said he was glad when the Conservation Authority recognized the work of this quiet, dedicated man by naming a Conservation Park for him. “Nothing could have been more appropriate.”
Mr. Devereux deserved much of the credit for the flood control measures that eliminated the annual peril of flooding in South Chatham. It was during his long service on the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority that the Indian and McGregor’s Creeks flood diversions were discussed, planned and completed.
Spring floods had been so serious in the Indian Creek area that it was necessary to evacuate residents by boat on more than one occasion. Mr. Spence said that Mr. Devereux’s efforts should be remembered by residents of Chatham with gratitude. “He’s the one who put that project together and made sure it got up and running.” He was “a man who took his duties seriously and lived up to his commitments.”
He had a reputation as a “sound thinker, an all-round good worker. He was a person who put his mind in gear before he started to talk.” Mr. Spence said Mr. Devereux wanted to get things done, but he was always mindful of how his actions would affect people. “And he was a person who always did his homework!”
To Walt, he was “more like a brother than a friend”.
Jerry Campbell, General Manager/Secretary-Treasurer of the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority, said Walt was “an excellent Chairman”. He added, “He had a good mind, and he was really committed to the work of the Authority.”
Walt served his community as well as agriculture and conservation. He was a member and a Past President of the Ridgtown Kiwanis Club, and a member and Past President of the Ridgetown Curling Club. He was a member of the Greenwood Cemetery Board, and a member of Erie Street United Church.
A friend said, “Walt died too young. We need conservationists like Walt. He was always ready to work for a project that would benefit the environment.”