The Windsor Star
Fri Oct 15 2010
Byline: Gary Rennie
Source: The Windsor Star
The last Tory MPP elected in Windsor and Essex County ends every day the same way.
Ivan Thrasher, now 96, turns to his wife Orpha, 88.
"We kiss every night before we go to bed. She tells me she loves me. I tell her I love her."
Their marriage of 64 years is a love story that "feels sweeter and sweeter" as the days slip away, Thrasher says.
He can point to success in a real estate career, raising and racing horses, and politics, but their enduring marriage is what he's most proud of.
"I'm enjoying life immensely, mostly due to her," says Thrasher in a telephone interview.
The two live independently in an apartment in Guelph. Five children -- Ruby, Ruth, Rosemary, Jeff and Shelley --are within a few hours' drive. They're starting to see great-grandchildren now.
That one term as an MPP in the riding of Windsor-Sandwich doesn't just seem like a half-century ago -- it almost is.
Thrasher was elected in a 1964 byelection and defeated in 1967.
A Tory hasn't been elected to the provincial legislature from this area since.
It's been so long, Essex Ontario PC Party riding association president Peter Neilson was stumped when asked to recall the name of the last Tory elected here provincially.
Paul Martin Sr. was at the peak of his Liberal political career when Thrasher was elected -- with an $8,000 a year annual salary, no secretary and office expenses coming out of his own pocket.
Michel Patrick was the Windsor mayor.
A young Anderdon Township farmer named Gene Whelan had just begun his rise to prominence with a federal election win in 1962 that defeated longtime Tory incumbent Richard Thrasher, a distant relative of Ivan's.
The federal Tories haven't had quite the bleak history in this area of their provincial counterparts.
Although often overlooked, CBC agriculture reporter Jim Caldwell took Essex-Kent for the Tories in the 1984 sweep to power of Brian Mulroney.
And since then, Jeff Watson has won three elections in the Essex riding for the federal Tories.
It's hard to get Thrasher interested in talking about politics now, even with a provincial election a year away and a federal election perhaps closer.
Thrasher tends to see all three major parties making the same kinds of promises. "I don't really see a lot of difference."
His wife said the one term had some exciting moments when important dignitaries from other countries arrived and she got to attend.
But with five children to raise, and a career as a nurse, she didn't have much time for making trips to Toronto.
And because her husband was the only Tory MPP in the area, he got invited to all kinds of events -- large and small -- in all the ridings, which kept him away, she recalled.
When her husband lost his second election "I wasn't too disappointed," she says.
These days, Ivan plays the violin and piano, and reads a lot.
A fitness and nutrition fanatic who still rides an exercise bike almost daily despite the lingering effects of a punctured lung four years ago, Thrasher dreams of reaching 100.
The couple eats a lot of vegetables and little meat. They go easy on the sugar and salt.
With the reduced lung capacity, his love of long walks is curtailed. He gripes about being attached to an oxygen bottle wherever he goes now.
He likes to hang upside down from a device that locks his feet in place. It helps keep his back aligned and counteracts the effects of a fall off a horse long ago.
His progress to centenarian is chronicled on a website set up by his son Jeff called myjourneyto100.com. A clock on the website ticks off the days, hours and minutes to May 21, 2014, when he'll reach 100.
The website offers advice on nutrition and exercise. Thrasher wonders if anybody is paying attention.
"I don't think I've converted many people."
His other seven siblings are dead with overeating and smoking likely playing a role with most, he says.
His wife's seemingly boundless energy is a good endorsement of staying physically active, Thrasher says. "Everybody is amazed at the energy she has."