A Celebration of the Life of

Words from the Memorial Service at the
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ottawa,
Ottawa, Sunday, January 14, 2018

Memories from Heather Wiffen
Click image to view the video

Here are some early memories of Dad.

It doesnít seem long since many of us were here to celebrate my dadís 90 birthday, sharing many happy memories with friends, family and colleagues.

My own memories of him go back further than anyone elseís in this room, and I am going to share now just a few of those early memories of Dad.

His was a long journey, from a red brick farm house in Prince Edward County with a wood stove, a water pump and no indoor plumbing or electricity.    Must have been a challenge then,  when the temperature dropped to -24!    In the 60ís, though Grandma had electricity by then, she still had no indoor plumbing, pumped water and cooked everything on the wood stove.

It must have been amazing for Dad to be transported by the Air Force from that rural community to training camp in Texas, then via Egypt to India and the Cocos islands, where he worked as a technician, maintaining Radar equipment inside aircraft in the searing heat. On the way back from there, he stopped in England, where he met Sylvia at a tea dance and the next stage of his life began.

Ellen planted the thought with us that we all have a different versions of him. I have a few memories of my early years with Mum and Dad in Ottawa and later in London where he was studying. There he used to walk me to school before cycling on to Imperial College. Their special treats included seeing musicals like Guys and Dolls and My Fair Lady and buying records to remind them of those now familiar songs. Together we went to movies like Pinocchio and Dumbo and also  some starring Jimmy Stewart, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Danny Kaye. The radio was often playing popular songs of the time. One of those we will hear later.

We returned to Ottawa in 1955, where they had bought one of the many new build houses in Eastview just about 10 minutes walk from here. The development was rather barren. I remember Dad giving me some marigold seeds. They are such an odd shapeó-long and straight like a bristle. I was taught how to plant them in a bare strip between the house and the driveway. How amazing when actual flowers appeared! I havenít forgotten the joy of that experience and I still spend many hours planting and nurturing flowers and vegetables on our allotment in England.

Next, I remember the long process of exploring the Gatineau, looking for a lake we could settle on and build a cottage. It seemed as if every weekend Mum, Dad and I drove somewhere and slept in the green station wagon looking for the perfect place. West of Kazabazua we were kept awake by howling wolves. We were certainly happier with Lake Pemichangan. Then, began the first of many building projects: the new log cabin on Shouldice Bay.  My parents were both very hands on and Richard and I were there to help. I stuffed the cracks between the logs with oakum and Richard - by then a lively toddler - one day managed to step into a large tin of cedar Rez and knock it over, thereby speeding up the painting of the floor. But he probably doesnít remember that!

The bay had a lovely sandy beach where we lit campfires and enjoyed singalongs with many friends who joined us for the weekend. Dad taught me to light fires and swim. We would sidestroke together along the shoreline spotting wildlife or go fishing out in the bay. We had no modern facilities, so having to maintain the pump, oil lamps and an outhouse must have been a reminder of HIS early days. When they later reconstructed an old log cabin on Baie Noire, all those skills were applied again. 

Soon after the first cottage, another major construction project began.  I remember winter evenings with piles of building magazines and huge rolls of squared paper unrolled across the kitchen table as the Beaverhill Drive house took shape. It was an exciting time and Dadís practicality and Mumís eye for design combined to create a unique and beautiful home. Here again, they were very hands on: Dad put up the drywall and Mum sanded the ceiling. I think I sanded joints in the drywall and I remember singing together or whistling while we worked. I certainly enjoyed the french fries we bought on the way home, from a stall on Montreal Road.

A smooth lawn at the back of the house sloped down to a wooded ravine which later became the wilderness alive with birds which many of you remember. In the gardens, Dad nurtured raspberries and currants into his 80ís and I still apply his methods when tending ours in England. His time has passed but he has handed on many skills. Perhaps above all, his ability to analyse a situation, then adapt his methods and persevere calmly and with determination in the face of seemingly impossible challenges, is his most significant legacy.