Gentle giants escort Valley man who loved oxen to his final resting place

Claude Berry of Wilmot, N.S., loved oxen. 

“On a nice night, he would take the oxen for a walk. Away they would go up the road … just like you walk a dog,” Berry’s daughter Kathy Connell recalled about a week after her dad’s death at 93.

“He just had that way, that touch about him and those oxen would follow him anywhere he went. And it was truly something to see.”

So it was fitting that instead of a hearse, two oxen took the Annapolis Valley man, who spent most of his life raising, training and showing oxen, to his final resting place at a North Kingston cemetery.

“It was very unique and very beautiful actually,” Connell told CBC’s Mainstreet Halifax.

Family friend Michael Cole and his oxen escorted Claude Berry to his final resting place. (Submitted by Jess Bain)

“Our father had oxen for many years. He knew many, many teamsters all through the province. He is very well known for how he trained oxen and showed them at exhibitions.

“So when our dad died, we thought what a fitting tribute to have his good friend Mike bring his oxen and take our dad home to his final resting place.”

The graveside ceremony took place on Sunday.

‘They wanted to take dad for a walk’

“He brought the oxen to the graveyard with a wagon and they hooked up the oxen into the wagon. Then the hearse came and they had like a matting or a rug that they lay laid on the wagon and they put the coffin on top of the wagon,” Connell said.

“They wanted to take dad for a walk, so they took him all around the outside of the graveyard and then back up to the plot.”

The sight of the large gentle animals and the sound of the ox bells was “sheer beauty,” she said.

“I’m so glad we did it. I am so proud of my family. We were all on board with this. And it was a wonderful send-off for a good man.”

Claude Berry is shown with two of the many oxen he cared for, trained and exhibited over many years. (Submitted by Jess Bain)

Berry’s passion led him to ox pulls at exhibitions around the Valley and South Shore regions, where he frequently competed and then, in later years, attended for the pure pleasure of watching the oxen and socializing with old friends.

“Wherever there was a showing and there was oxen involved, my dad was there and even at 92 and 93 years old, he would go and sit seven, eight nine hours at a time and he was just in his glory,” Connell said.

The family also tucked two of Berry’s grand champion ox-pulling ribbons and some photographs of him and his oxen into his coffin, she said.

‘Totally amazed by it’

The sight of Berry and his oxen walking along the road sometimes startled people, Connell recalled.

“He took the oxen for a walk one summer evening and a car stopped very abruptly. Then a lady jumped out of the passenger side of the car and she fell into the ditch and she tried to collect herself and and get on her feet. She wanted to take pictures of dad and his oxen.

“They were from the United States and she had never ever seen anything like that before and was totally amazed by it. He came home and he had a good laugh about it … he thought that was kind of cute.”

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