Husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, navy cadet, civil engineer, church lay person, gardener, mentor, friend. Born Dec. 3, 1926, in London. Died Jan. 22 in Toronto, of Parkinson’s disease, aged 85.
Perhaps growing up amid bombings and doodlebugs in South London during the war prepares you for what is important in life – love, family, friends, giving back.
As the only child of John and Grace Staig, Alan Staig’s childhood was happy. The Second World War arrived for his adolescence, and he was eager to do his part, joining the Fleet Air Arm of the navy.
He trained as a pilot but the war ended before he saw active duty. “My mother was relieved,” he said. For his 80th birthday, his family arranged a flight in a 1940 Tiger Moth biplane. It all came back to him. The pilot said “you take over” – a thrilling experience.
At 15, Alan met Carol Trower, 17, at a dance. A Life magazine photographer captured their image at a picnic as an example of young people making the best of good times in a war. His first love became his best friend, wife and partner in life for 70 years. They married in 1949.
Alan graduated from King’s College London in 1948 with a degree in civil engineering, which suited his talent for order and design. In 1953, the family, which now included daughters Helen and Marilyn, immigrated to Canada. They moved into a flat in Toronto’s Beaches area, and eventually bought a bungalow where they planted weeping willows and perennials.
Possessing a keen mind, Alan read widely and relished new frontiers. As an engineer for Proctor & Redfern, he moved the family to Newfoundland in 1958 to work on the Trans-Canada Highway. They were there two years, during which time Sheila was born.
In 1978, Alan’s faith led him to accept a position with the United Church of Canada, supervising men’s programs nationwide. When he retired at age 56, he began volunteering for Meals on Wheels – and walking. For over 25 years, Alan and Carol would rise at 6 a.m., have breakfast, then walk at a good pace for over an hour and buy the newspaper. The neighbourhood knew them as “the couple who walks.”
Alan embodied a quiet wisdom. A good listener, he could help you think through any problem. He was a kind, thoughtful father, who helped with homework and took his girls camping and recited poems from When We Were Very Young, his favourite book by A. A. Milne.
The Staigs made an exceptional team. Carol and Alan’s happiness and mutual respect was obvious. When Carol’s sight was fading, he read aloud to her – recipes in the kitchen, as well as Rosamunde Pilcher novels, set in Cornwall.
There were trips to England; the last in 2007 with daughter Marilyn who suggested they revisit the place of their youth. He thrilled to begin the planning, but remarked “We are Canadian now – Canada is a wonderful country.” That was Alan: grateful for the blessings in his life.
Gail Murray was Alan’s friend.