Obstetrician, wise older brother, loving husband, caring father, endearing grandfather. Born July 17, 1931, in Montreal; died Sept. 30, 2013, in Montreal of Parkinson’s disease, aged 82.
Gilles Amyot was trained by the Jesuits in Montreal, where he learned that education was not about “filling” heads, but about building a sound mind. At a time when joining the priesthood was the most celebrated career path for a French Canadian, he chose to become a physician, graduating with his medical degree from the University of Montreal in 1956.
It was also a time when women were few and far between in medical schools across Canada. Luckily for Gilles, he met fellow student Monique Gratton in that very faculty, and they married in 1956.
Gilles completed his residency in obstetrics at the Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital in New Jersey. Upon their return to Montreal in 1960, he joined Notre-Dame hospital, where he happily practised for 40 years.
Gilles and Monique had four children, Isabelle, Bernard, Luc (who died in infancy) and Yves, and six grandchildren. Late-night calls from the hospital never startled members of the Amyot household. Whatever the hour, Gilles would dutifully dress in the dark, putting on a suit and tie that he would immediately exchange for delivery room gear once at the hospital – 10,000 times he brought newborns into the world. When finished for the night, he would slip back into his suit and quietly return home to bed. Often he would first stop by Schwartz’s for a smoked meat sandwich and a half-sour pickle.
Gilles often said that he chose obstetrics as a specialty because his patients were never ill, and they smiled a lot. His patients loved him for his caring bedside manner, and would stop him on the street to thank him for babies he had delivered many years prior.
A genuinely happy, self-assured man, Gilles had no need to show off. One day, he played his best round of golf ever – a 38 on the front nine. Why run the risk of spoiling it? Satisfied with his game he went home, leaving us incredulous and alone on the 10th tee box.
Conversely, the news was something he could never cut short. He read his morning papers, La Presse and Le Devoir, from cover to cover. He would listen to the news on CKAC and on Radio-Canada – not to mention the nightly news broadcasts on television. You can imagine his enthusiasm when CNN was created.
Hockey Night in Canada was another great tradition in the Amyot household. Every week that the Habs played at the Forum, he would take one of us kids with him to the game. The experience included dinner at Schwartz’s, where, mysteriously, we would always manage to skip the queue. He had only to peer into the doorway – “Hey Doc!” – and a table for two would magically free itself.
Gilles often complained that summers in Canada occurred between July 15 and July 17, around 11 a.m. In spite of this, he took the family to the cottage for a whole month every summer. There, he loved to barbecue (with a gin and tonic), play cards and Monopoly, and enjoy the beautiful lake.
He leaves behind many joyful stories. Though we can no longer turn to him for advice, we can count on his memory for inspiration.
Bernard Amyot is Gilles’s oldest son.