In Loving Memory Of
Peter Sawyer
1933 - 2023

Self-effacing to the end, Peter had started to write his own obituary, quoting Mark Twain to set the tone: “He is useless on top of the ground; he ought to be under it, inspiring the cabbages.”

Fortunately, he didn’t get very far with it or we may have felt obliged to use it. He was, it will be universally agreed, the very opposite of someone fit only to inspire cruciferous vegetables.

Peter’s ‘uselessness’ was most noticeably reflected in the grand passion for which he was best known to so many people in New Brunswick and beyond: his tireless work for the advancement of adult literacy. It had earned him awards, honours, and accolades that, in true form, he said he did not deserve. Those who did deserve the recognition, he maintained, were the people who had struggled to overcome enormous obstacles in order to find their ways to achieving levels of literacy of which they believed themselves incapable. Coming as he did from a culture where reading is a virtual birthright, it was anathema to him that the society he lived in here in Canada could continue to find the low rates of adult literacy acceptable, and he fought for years to change that mindset, through lobbying and public education, and of course through tutoring many, many individuals one-on-one himself.

Beyond his public passion, Peter’s devotion to family and friends ran even deeper. He met his best friend, Margaret, with whom he’d recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary, when she was living in the nurses’ residence next door to the Civil Engineering office where he worked in London. Their meeting, of course, changed their lives. In the fullness of time, they had four children together, and with buckets of youthful optimism and energy, they immigrated to London, Ontario, to start a new adventure in what was still then a land of unbounded opportunity. But the joy of living in the rat race, as he called it, of Central Canada soon wore thin, and when offered a transfer to Halifax, via Moncton, he and Margaret jumped at the chance to live in the beautiful Maritimes, closer once more to the sea they both missed. He ended up calling Greater Moncton home for the rest of his days, deeply engaged in the community – in the arts, in working with dozens of volunteer organizations over the years, and through sitting on multiple boards.

Peter had a great sense of wonder and appreciation of life, always learning, questioning, challenging, quietly setting an example, and being present and unfailingly reliable to anyone who needed him, particularly his family. He cherished his children and adored his grandchildren, all of whom returned that love in equal measure. And as for his great-grandchildren, who are too young to have discovered his magic for themselves, as their parents did one by one, they will be told one day of how the photos and videos of them filled him with the greatest interest and joy in his last weeks.

Now that his time with us is over, the dreaded pain left in the hearts of those who loved him most – his darling Margaret, his family near and far, and his surviving friends, with whom he spent many of his happiest times, whether in deep discussions, sipping single malt in the evenings, or spending summer days at the cottage – has been tempered by the knowledge that his was a life well lived, with no regrets.

How we all love you.

Forever and ever,

Margaret, Stephen & Patricia, Jeremy, Caroline, Helen; grandchildren: Amanda (Cory), Dylan, Ian (Brittany), Emily (Jona), Olivia, Eleanor; five great-grandchildren: Cory, Elizabeth, Julius, Mylah, Sawyer; his US and UK families; and all his wonderful friends.


As per Peter’s instructions, there will be no funeral, but a Celebration of Life will be held when circumstances allow the whole family to be together. As he wrote, “Just a good party with plenty of laughter. I shall be sorry to miss it.”

Thank you to the wonderful Extra Mural team, especially Mel and Maxie, and to Abies and to Dr. John Li.

For those who wish, in lieu of flowers, a donation to the Moncton Regional Learning Council or Doctors Without Borders may be made in his honour.

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  1. Deepest condolences to you Margaret. The years have past but not my fond memories of our time together. You truly have impacted my life in a positive way. I hope to reconnect soon. May you find peace with your family during this difficult time. Love you always, Jacquie

  2. To Margaret and your family, I send my heartfelt condolences to a man I admired as an advocate for adult literacy. We shared the same passion, me for the francophones and he for the anglophones. I attended many meetings with him on behalf of our respectful groups. A very dedicated man, very gracious and a true gentleman.
    Paul-Émile Cormier
    Kent South literacy (1988-2017)

  3. A beautiful tribute that captures Peter’s essence perfectly.
    Emmerson writes in his description of success:
    ” to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch; or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.”
    He describes Peter who has made all of us better by his being here.

  4. To know this man you was to be inspired. He inspired me. His charm and humbleness was epic. There are people who cross our paths in the luck of life that cause us to change direction. This man was one of those people. I have so many beautiful stories. “Fare thee well! and if for ever,
    Still for ever, fare thee well.”
    – Lord Byron

  5. Margaret and Family,
    So sorry to hear about Peters passing. He was a wonderful person, so friendly and helpful to everyone around him. Enjoyed working with him for many years. My prayers and thoughts are with you, may he Rest In Peace!

  6. A beautiful and accurate obituary for a beautiful and generous man. Always a joy and an inspiration to be in the company of Peter.

  7. It’with great sadness that i read about Peter’s passing. So sorry for your loss Margaret and family. Thinking of you and sending my love and prayers dear ” Mrs. Sawyer”. Peter seem to be a great man. You two inspired lots of people positively. May he rest in peace.
    Lillian Robichaud

  8. Margaret, We’re sending our heartfelt condolences to you and your family. Peter will be deeply missed. Rita and Rick Simoens

  9. Peter will be greatly missed. He and Margaret were cherished long time members of our book club and always had so much to contribute. It was a privilege to have known him.

  10. A beautiful man whom we knew briefly as part of our Short Story Group. It was a privilege to share stories with him and Margaret and to just be in his presence for a few hours each month. What a joy to have known him!

  11. Peter was a literary champion to the end. Even his obituary speaks to his love of words and language. I am involved in adult literacy, and serve on the Moncton Regional Learning Council board that Peter created and so lovingly and carefully nurtured for decades, because of him. He was a gentleman — in every sense of the word — with great empathy, determination, and clarity of thought and vision. My wife and I used to chat with Peter and Margaret every Saturday at the Moncton Market. I haven’t seen him these last years, but I always expected him to be just around the next corner, that glint in his eye and ready to discuss the latest public policy misstep. Thank you, Peter, for showing us the way and the importance of adult literacy. My condolences to Margaret and his entire family. I bid Peter adieu with these wise words from Ghandi: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Peter did.

  12. Peter will remain a great inspiration to us all in how he touched and for ever changed the lives of many. My thoughts are with Margaret, his family and friends during this chapter of his life. Bon voyage Peter.

  13. Dearest Caroline – I am so very sorry to learn of the passing of your father. The stories you told me of him and all the great things he did still resound with me. I hope your heart finds peace in the memories you have. Sending you much love. ~Lynda & Vaughn Carey.

  14. I met Peter over 20 years ago while volunteering for various literacy initiatives as well as through my work with the YMCA’s Peer Youth Tutoring program. We also worked together getting the Parkton Learning Centre going and I was always inspired by his absolute dedication to the cause in his adopted home. We had lost touch over the years and I moved to the US for a while only returning recently. So it’s kind of funny I drove by his street last week and thought of him – wondering if he still lived there and how he was – and then I learned this. My deepest condolences to his family and friends. He was a great and kind man and I’m sure you are all feeling the loss of him.

  15. Margaret and family
    So sorry to hear of Peter’s passing. He will be fondly remembered by us.

  16. Margaret and Peter loved in Bidford on Avon , England when I first met them.My husband worked with Peter and they suggested that Margaret and myself should meet up as we lived in the same village
    That was over 50 years ago and when they decided to go to Canada I was devastated, I didn’t want to lose such good friends. I didn’t lose them as we have kept in contact ever since with letters, phone calls, later on with emails and visited them as often as possible
    Whenever we met it was like we had never been apart, we have never lost the closeness we had all those years ago
    My whole family send their love to Margaret and all the family
    A wonderful man who leaves behind a wonderful legacy to so many he has helped over many years

  17. Margaret and family, our thoughts are with you as you say so long to a most determined and giving gentleman that contributed greatly to our community. I knew Peter both from his contributions in Engineering and Literacy. We are all better because of his convictions and leadership.

  18. Margaret and family, my sincere condolences in Peters passing.
    Fondly remembered by my husband Arnolds and Peters friendship through work in the professional engineering field.

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