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.