Dairy industry leader ‘made things happen’by Matthew Uhrig
WINCHESTER – When Sam Ault was struck with an idea, he did more than
jot it down in a notebook, he didn’t stop until it was implemented.
“That was his gift, the ability to make it happen,” his son, Stephen, said. “He always made things happen.”
Whether it was playing a part in the ultimate construction of a new
high school, the 100 Club Park or the village’s arena, Ault didn’t shy
away from sharing his vision, or grumble about how something should be,
he got involved.
Ault, who died in Ottawa on Wed., Oct. 1 at age 98, was a former
soldier who returned home from the ravages of war to streamline the
country’s dairy production operation and lead a Canadian empire.
The family story begins with Ault’s father, Jack, who founded a
creamery at Cass Bridge in 1891, employing 25 local farmers in the
production of cheddar cheese. It was the farmers that got the business
off the ground, as they sold fresh milk in 30-gallon drums to the
Ault was born at the family homestead in February 1916. Although the
original architectural outline of the business is no longer, the site
is today home to the Cass Bridge Cheese House.
Ultimately, Jack purchased the bankrupt Ellis Creamery in Winchester,
moving his business to the village in the early 1930s, christening the
land just north of Main Street as the prime location of Ault Creamery.
Ault studied at Queen’s University, first working for Borden’s upon graduation, and then joined the family business.
Before the end of the decade, however, the firm was sold to Ogilvie
Flour Mills following Jack’s sudden death. Despite the abrupt change in
ownership, Stephen said his father continued to treat the Winchester
operation “as a family.”
Family was what remained important to Ault, taking precedence above all else.
While pursuing post-secondary education he met the woman who would become his wife of 57 years, Betty.
The world was a much different place then, however, and while at
Queen’s Ault volunteered for military service in the Second World War.
He would go on to see action throughout five years with stops in
France, Holland, Belgium, and Germany. As well, Ault rose up the ranks
to become captain of the transport company of the Royal Canadian Army
Service Corps’ 4th Canadian Armoured Division.
It was no doubt painful to see the things he did while overseas,
Stephen said, but it is those things and the fact he came home alive
and uninjured that steered his future.
“He didn’t talk much about the war, but he always said it was far, far,
far, far worse than you could ever imagine,” Stephen added. “But I
think he said to himself that ‘there has got to be a greater purpose to
By 1968, Ault was president of the village business, which was recently
purchased by John Labatt Limited. During these years, Ault was part of
an empire that became Canada’s largest dairy operation, acquiring
countless other firms, including Sealtest and Balderson Cheese.
“Ogilvie was a British company and they were never in fast forward, but
John Labatt was a younger group and they were always in fast forward,”
Stephen said. “Everything basically started in 1968… The big jump.”
Ault was an industry pioneer, at the forefront of production changes
and alterations, making the job more efficient and ensuring
modernization was always key.
“That was one of his trademarks,” Stephen said.
Ault helped expand the business holdings further in the 70s and 80s,
purchasing additional facilities throughout Ontario and Quebec. This
led to the Ault Foods brand name, and many of its products being sold
to major Canadian retailers and fast food businesses, and exported
When he retired in 1984, Ault had become one of the most successful individuals to ever work in the Canadian dairy industry.
While Parmalat purchased the Ault site in 1997, the family’s last
vestige remains in the form of the familiar smokestack towering above
the village’s downtown core.
In 2004, Ault was named an honorary companion of the University of
Guelph, and in 2012 received a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee
He leaves behind his three children, four grandchildren, and one
great-grandchild. A celebration of Ault’s life has been planned for
Fri., Nov. 7 from 2 to 4 pm at Winchester United Church.
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