Husband, father, grandfather, physician, administrator. Born March 23, 1918, in Belleville, Ont. Died April 27, 2011, in Newmarket, Ont., of a heart attack, aged 93.
Young Jimmie Allison could have been many things – a musician, a photographer, a minister – but his father wanted his first son to become a doctor.
One of three children of Ruby and Cleland Allison, Jim began studying at the University of Toronto in 1936. During summers, he was a highway patrol ambulance driver and instructor in first aid. Upon graduating in 1943, he was described in the yearbook as a “blond photogenic medico” who sang like Bing Crosby and intended to be “a good G.P.”
Because his class was accelerated in the last year, Jim spent only eight months in an internship at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Toronto. This was where he met the love of his life, Clara McPhee, a young nursing student from Englehart, Ont. They married in 1944 and together raised four daughters: Lynn, Margaret, Janice and Evelyn.
When the Second World War began, Jim was already in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps. He served in Canada and briefly in Britain. After V-E Day, he joined the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration and served in displaced persons camps in Germany for one year. This experience affected him profoundly. He never forgot the formal ceremony at Belsen on the first anniversary of the camp’s liberation. He left UNRRA in the spring of 1946 and was reunited with a jubilant Clara, who met him in New York.
In 1947, Jim and Clara moved to North Bay, where Jim conducted a general medical practice. He liked to say that he “attended” at many births, as credit for delivering a baby should be given to the mother.
Shaken by the death of his mentor, Dr. Alex Smith, in a car-transport collision in 1957, Jim left North Bay to begin administrative work in the Toronto area. One highlight of his four years with the Ontario Medical Association was the groundbreaking Mediscope exposition at the Canadian National Exhibition.
During his four years as medical director of the Toronto Rehabilitation Centre, Jim developed his major interest in rehabilitation. From 1968 to 1979, his life was devoted to Chedoke Hospitals in Hamilton. He became executive director in 1970. His last full-time position was as the administrator of the Villa Private Hospital in Thornhill, Ont.
After Clara’s death in 1994, Jim tried to remain optimistic. He spent many hours researching his ancestry. He also enjoyed music, maps, trains, birds, reunions and anything to do with Scotland. His final years, often confused by dementia, were spent at a retirement home. “Dr. Jim” retained his medical instincts and was a calming force when other residents had a mini-emergency. Both professionally and personally, Jim always made a difference by caring for people.
By Lynn Stenabaugh, Jim’s daughter.
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