Urban planner, sailor, musician, “Parrothead,” family man. Born April 20, 1951, in Toronto, died May 10, 2012, in Toronto of colon cancer, aged 61.
Peter Cheatley lived his first years in downtown Toronto in a three-storey house containing four generations of family. When he was 5, he moved with his parents and brother David to the new community of Don Mills. He applied his experiences growing up in Canada’s first “model” community later, after graduating from the University of Waterloo, to his career in urban and regional planning.
In his work as a planner, Peter’s colleagues valued him for his expertise, ethics, ingenuity and sense of humour. He was the lead on a sustainable urban development plan that won an excellence award from the Ontario Professional Planners Institute in 2010. In 2012, the institute presented him with a certificate in recognition of his outstanding service in the field.
Peter married Louise in 1973 and they had two daughters, Alexandra and Kate. For a time, he was a stay-at-home dad with Alex, and pursued his planning work from there. On occasion he would wheel her in her stroller into a municipal office to file paperwork, where she was (usually) a welcome diversion.
He first picked up the trumpet in high school and played it for the rest of his life. He joined the North York Concert Band in 1975 and got tremendous satisfaction from making music over the years. One of the pranks played in the trumpet section was to put a mute (like the end of a toilet plunger) on the chair of someone who was standing to play a solo, so there was a big surprise and stifled guffaws when the solo was finished.
Another of his passions was sailing. He said that time on the water “filled him up” and made him feel whole. As a member of the National Yacht Club he raced on Lake Ontario in the summer, and during the winter he often chartered a sailboat in the Caribbean, cruising with a boatload of friends, sharing stories, songs and laughs.
In 2008, Peter was diagnosed with colon cancer. During the months after surgery, he missed only one day of work every two weeks when starting a new round of chemotherapy in the hospital. On follow-up days he wore a portable intravenous pump. He laughingly described the time he had to get down on his hands and knees to unwind the pump tubing from his office chair wheels to set himself free.
Later that year, he married Linda on a beach in Key West, Fla. The attire was Hawaiian shirts and bare feet. A few days later they joined thousands of other “Parrotheads” at the “Meeting of the Minds” annual convention of Jimmy Buffett fans.
When he realized the cancer would end his life, Peter put all his energy into caring for those he would leave behind and building special memories with them. He organized trips with his family to Switzerland, New Orleans and the Rockies.
For his final trip he returned to sail in his beloved British Virgin Islands. His sailing friends will always picture him there, standing at the helm of a sailboat with a beer or a rum drink in his hand, his Tilley hat perched on his head and a grin on his face as he appreciated how good life could be.
Linda Beatty is Peter’s wife.