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John Godsman
Times Contributor

 

Marvin’s paternal grandparents, Sophia and Emmanuel Gill, homesteaded near Leader, Sask., while his maternal grandparents, Carl and Elizabeth Brady homesteaded near Lemsford, Sask.
Marvin’s parents, Herbert and Viola Gill, operated the homestead farm near Leader when Marvin was born, the youngest of two boys. Following Marvin’s birth, the family moved to Medicine Hat, Alta., and became long-distance farmers, travelling back and forth between the city and the farm during the summers.
Marvin attended school in Medicine Hat through Grade 12, when he moved to Calgary to attend the University of Calgary. During the summer months he returned to Saskatchewan to assist his father with the farming operations. Marvin had an aptitude for music, and started piano lessons at an early age, but upon entering the University of Calgary, his emphasis was on the flute and voice, and he graduated with a B.Mus. in 1982. He later attended Olds College to study agriculture, as farming was always close to his heart.
Elaine’s grandparents, Joseph and Lydia Schmalz and Caroline and Christoph Weiss, homesteaded near Shellbrook, Sask. where she was born, the youngest of five children. Her parents, Robert and Selma Weiss, had sold their farm before she was born. She too studied piano throughout her early years, also teaching other students, while she was a student herself. After graduating from high school, Elaine worked for the Bank of Montreal for a year in Saskatoon before moving to Edmonton to see what Alberta had to offer. Jobs were plentiful in the mid-1970s, and she was soon working for Canada’s Department of National Defence, and later the RCMP.
It was their love of music, however, that brought Elaine and Marvin together. While Marvin was attending Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton, he was playing in the orchestra for a large church’s Christmas production. Elaine was singing in the choir. They met at the break, and the rest, as they say, is history. They were married in Shellbrook, Sask. in October 1978, and returned to live and work in Calgary.
They continued their education, both graduating from the University of Calgary, Elaine with a B.A. in English. She also attended Goethe Institute in Bremen, Germany as part of her studies.
In 1987, Elaine, Marvin and his brother Lynden purchased Rideau Music Ltd., a sheet music business in downtown Calgary. Over the next few years, they successfully expanded the business to three Calgary locations, and in 2003 acquired a musical instrument repair business – Calgary Musical Repair.
About 11 years later, Marvin found the pull of farming to be overwhelming, and as his family had already sold the Saskatchewan homestead, it was time to look elsewhere. In 1998, they purchased a quarter section at the corner of Hwy 817 and Namaka Road, south of Strathmore. Marvin, Elaine, Lynden, Elaine’s sister Lorraine and her husband Glen Ellingson became partners in the business they called Bumbleberry Orchards Ltd.
Originally envisioned as a hobby farm, because they still had their music businesses, it soon took over their lives. The first spring, they planted the entire orchard from scratch – over 20,000 raspberry canes, one acre of strawberries, three acres of wild black cherries (chokecherries), and 30,000 Saskatoon trees over 30 acres. Bumbleberry Orchards quickly became a popular U-pick, and customers returned every year. As the yields grew, they sold fresh berries at farmers markets.
Around 2004 the Alberta government was attempting to implement an estate wine industry throughout the province, and Marvin and Elaine quickly got on board with the initiative. In 2005, they received the first Class E Manufacturer license issued in Alberta for the estate wine industry, and so Field Stone Fruit Wines was born.
Although Marvin gave himself full time to the orchard and winery from the start, Elaine continued to commute to Calgary for several years to manage their music businesses. However, by 2012 these businesses were feeling the impact of the rise of digital music, and it was time to move on, and they closed their last store in December 2012.
Their community activities include leading the Strathmore Community Choir and Orchestra for the past 15 years, and in particular they enjoy their annual Christmas production in partnership with Hope Community Covenant Church. Marvin also teaches voice lessons during the winter, appears occasionally as a tenor soloist, and is a member of the Strathmore Theatre Players Guild.
They are avid lovers of Sheltie dogs, and usually have at least one living with them at any given time.
More than anything, Elaine and Marvin have enjoyed the many great friends they have made since arriving here, and being a part of the wonderful faith community in Strathmore.