Husband, great-grandfather, Edmonton Eskimo, all-round dude. Born Jan. 9, 1934, in Edmonton, died Nov. 24, 2012, in Toronto of liver cancer, at 78.
He was known as The Dude.
It wasn’t Don Day’s brief stint in the CFL, his insurance career, his fondness for a cold beer, or even contemporary nomenclature that earned him that nickname – it was, as it often is for fathers, a child’s influence. His young son Rob playfully changed “Dad” to “Dade,” then “Dede,” and so on through the vowels, eventually reaching u: “Dude.” The name stuck.
Don Day was the third of six children of Jack Day and Eleanor Crux. In his pre-Dude days, in 1954, he was “the big guy on the end of the line” for the Edmonton Eskimos, paid by the game eight times under a handshake agreement – until he broke his right leg.
Later, Don moved to Toronto, met Kitty McCullagh, converted to Catholicism and married. The couple settled into a Scarborough bungalow to start their family.
The basement of that suburban home displays a record of The Dude’s philosophy of inclusiveness. Photos in the rec room depict functions that were invariably open to all “family” – which to Don meant anyone he loved, and their relatives and friends.
Dozens of dusty trophies and ribbons earned by children Dawna, Michael, Robert and Richard – often under teams coached by The Dude himself – line the shelves.
Elsewhere are a self-installed fireplace and bar with obligatory foot rail, a large-screen TV and plenty of seating. Many visitors have had the honour of being kicked out of The Dude’s favourite chair during a Grey Cup, Super Bowl, Leafs or Olympic hockey game.
Perhaps it was The Dude’s upbringing out West, or maybe the incessant comings and goings of his busy family, but The Dude’s abode was never locked, except once during a family Christmas vacation to British Columbia.
When they got back, the entire Day crew stood shivering in the snow as son Mike was shoved through the milk box to unlock the door. The seldom-used key was nowhere to be found.
Don loved ritual. His booming voice was unmistakable in the choir at Sunday masses. The sourcing of the family Christmas tree was a not-to-be-missed outing. Boxing Day was a Christmas caroling open house.
Don would dress up as King Arthur, a first nations chief or a make-believe character as the occasion demanded.
Diagnosed with cancer at 72, Don was on the defensive line again with a playbook of chemotherapy, radiation and experimental treatments. This time he was successful for seven years.
At his wake in the family home, the rec room, the whole main floor and the tarpaulin-enclosed carport were thronged with mourners wishing to pay tribute to The Dude with food, drink and friendship.
His brother Jim, reading a biblical passage in which Jesus shares wine with the multitudes, paused and quietly commented: “Sounds like Don.”
Nancy Gaughan and John Jansen are admirers of The Dude.