Jack Austin Rigby of Blenheim passed away at home on Monday December 20, 2021. He leaves wonderful memories in the hearts of his wife Donna (Everitt) and their children and grandchildren; Rick Rigby (Lauren, Ryan and Erin), Valerie & Gino Loni (Shawn and Matthew), Pamela & John Roth (Olivia & Josh Duarte and Sophia), Carolyn & Sid Stevens (Jordan) and Steve & Lisa Rigby (Austin and Aiden). Jack was a mentor to his children/grandchildren, sharing his knowledge and wisdom. He took them to different countries to give them life experiences and encouraged them to make a difference in the world.
Born in Blenheim, the son of the late Monte & Ruby (Steel) Rigby, Jack is survived by his only sister Ann Henderson (late Bob). He will be missed by Donna’s brother Bill & Doreen Everitt as well as many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his mother-in-law & father-in-law Marjorie & Earl Everitt and by his sister-in-law Gail Crouch.
Jack grew up with two livelihoods: farming and working alongside his father and uncle at the Ford dealership – Rigby Motors Sales. In 1973, Jack purchased his first farm (50 acres) to add to his father’s farming operation – Montrig Farms. He soon became involved in agricultural organizations, including the Kent County Soil and Crop Improvement Association, Conservation Canada and the Soil and Water Conservation Society. By 1979, Jack decided to go farming full-time and quickly became well-known for innovative farming techniques. In 1981, Jack was a founding member and first Chairman of the Rondeau Agricultural Conservation Corporation and was also a founding member of the Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario in 1985 (IFAO).
A number of agricultural awards quickly followed:
1985 – Kent County Agricultural Conservationist Award;
1987 – Blenheim & District Chamber of Commerce Agriculturalist of the Year Award;
1995 – Inducted into the Soil Conservation Council of Canada Hall of Fame;
1995 – Bestowed an honorary degree as a Professional Agrologist by the University of Guelph;
1999 – Inducted into the Kent County Agricultural Hall of Fame;
2003 – Received the Chatham and Kent Chamber of Commerce Agriculturalist of the Year award; and
2009 – Was recognized as the Innovative Farmer of the Year by the IFAO
Jack’s extensive work with the IFAO (organizing conferences, field tours and promoting sustainable farming) resulted in him receiving the Canadian Nuffield Agricultural Scholarship Award in 1995. This Scholarship provided Jack with the opportunity to study agricultural techniques in Europe and around the world with emphasis in soil conservation. Jack served for over 10 years as a Director of the Nuffield Foundation of Canada and President in 1998 when the Nuffield International Conference was held in Canada.
Early in 1999, Jack was one of 10 Canadians chosen for a food study tour of Ethiopia and Kenya for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. Subsequently, Jack and Donna (and family) sponsored a girl’s school in Ethiopia.
Jack also found time in his busy life for community service. He had perfect attendance in his 18 years as a member of Blenheim Kinsmen Club, one as President. Jack has also been a member and President of the Blenheim Rotary Club and his family has acted as host in the Rotary Youth Exchange Program. For a period of time he was counsellor to all incoming students and his involvement led many exchange students to refer to him as – Granky.
Jack was very proud of a couple of awards he received as a Rotarian – the Rotary Foundation District Service Award in 1998/99 and the Paul Harris Fellow.
A big part of Jack’s life over the past 10-15 years was bringing the vision of a community park to reality. As Chairman of the Rotary Park Committee, Jack was instrumental in fundraising and construction activities that resulted in Talbot Trail Place.
Jack was a very active member of the Blenheim United Church for decades where he held numerous positions on the church counsel.
A private family service will be held at the Blenheim Community Funeral Home with a public celebration to follow during his favourite season next year (farming season).
Friends wishing to remember Jack with a memorial donation are asked to consider the Talbot Trail Place or the London Regional Cancer Program.