Sweet Reminders That It’s a Small World After All

For one Ontario couple, all roads—including from Punta Cana, Reykjavik, London, Montevideo and Winnipeg—lead to home.

Listowel Ontario Couple - Rhonda and Murray BeirnesSylvia Beirnes
Rhonda and Murray, who bring a piece of home wherever they go.

My husband, Murray, and I live in Listowel, Ontario, and have travelled far and wide—only to meet up time and again with people who have connections to our hometown.

Listowel is a small but grow­ing farming community in the middle of southwestern Ontario. It’s home to many agriculturally based industries, with Erie Meats, Spinrite Yarns and Carson Farms, and a lot of feed, seed, tractor and combine stores. So, not famous for a whole lot—maybe Letterkenny, on which our town is said to be based. Instead, it’s known for the amazing people who call it home.

We are a community known for hard work, generosity, support in tough times and a general rallying of the troops to “get ’er done!” I believe that it’s because of these strong, deep ties that, as we travel, we keep running into folks that know someone in Listowel!

London Pub TourRhonda Beirnes
Listowel is everywhere for the couple, including on a London pub tour with son Josh.

Representing Listowel, Ontario

Take the time we were in Lon­don, England, to visit one of our sons, Josh, who was teaching abroad. We took a walking pub tour one evening when fellow Canadian travellers noticed Mur­ray’s Maple Leaf hat. We struck up a conversation and, sure enough, the couple have a cousin who lives in Listowel—and yes, we know her!

On to Reykjavik, Iceland: We’d disembarked from our cruise ship and decided to stroll around the city for the day. After an hour or so, we were stopped by a couple looking for directions. They were from Calgary. So we got to chatting and, sure enough, one of them has a cousin who lives in Listowel. And, yes—we know her, too!

Walking down a beach in Punta Cana several years ago, we heard a man’s voice saying, “I think that’s Murray Beirnes who we just passed.” Sure enough, we turned around to see one of Murray’s co-workers from the Home Hardware distribution centre back home. Neither knew the other was coming to Punta Cana for a vacation. As it turned out, we were even staying at the same resort—and in the same building!

On to Montevideo, Uruguay—now that is a long way from home! Murray was proudly wearing his Home Hardware hat and “Guelph Storm of the OHL” T-shirt. A young man on the street commented on his shirt and then noticed the hat. It turns out that he was a friend of Walter Hachborn’s grandson—of course, Hachborn is one of the founders of Home Hardware!

Impressive Winnipeg HouseRhonda Beirnes
The Winnipeg house where they met a woman with multiple Listowel connections.

From Sea to Shining Sea

But this small-world story is really topped by what happened on our Canadian travels—namely, during a visit to Winnipeg in 2018.

We were heading to Thompson, Manitoba, to visit our eldest son, Jeremy, and his family, and decided to explore Winnipeg for a few days before heading north. One evening, we were meandering through a neighbourhood along the river, looking at the lovely homes and stately trees. I stopped to take a photo of a house that captured my attention. Just then, a woman strolled by, curious, so I told her I was a pushover for a beautiful house. She asked us where we were from and we told her we lived in Ontario. When she asked us to be more specific, we said, “Listowel.” It turned out that she’d been born and raised just outside of our community, but moved to Winnipeg for university and ended up staying there.

Yet another connection: She told us that her maiden name was Rutherford. That rang a bell, as Murray’s parents had friends in Listowel named Harry and Goldie Rutherford—this woman’s parents! In fact, the Rutherfords’ home in Listowel was the very house that Jeremy had bought (before his move west) after the couple had passed away!

Another cross-Canada connection: Our youngest child, Jordan, and his wife, Sylvia, were once at a restaurant in Truro, Nova Scotia, when a trio of gents walked in. Jordan thought he recognized one of them and, as they chatted, realized the man was a former OPP officer from Listowel whose son was on a local minor-league hockey team that Josh had coached!

Clearly, Listowel, Ontario lives strong in the hearts of our kids, too.

Next, check out 25 inspirational pictures that’ll spark your wanderlust.

Originally Published in Our Canada