Peerless gentle man, teacher, sunny optimist. Born on Nov. 4, 1959, in Montreal; died on Oct. 21, 2013, in Stittsville, Ont., of brain cancer, aged 53.
Of a doomed character in Macbeth, Shakespeare wrote, “Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it.” Peter Marson’s departure from life had the same dignity.
Felled overnight from a stroke caused by malignant tumour, Peter was near death in December, 2012, as his family prayed for more time with him. They were granted three seasons, 10 months during which his illness became a flashpoint for sacrifice, altruism and proof of the many lives he touched.
Peter’s wife, Fran, a nurse, and children Tessa and Nicholas put their lives on hold to bring him home from the hospital and care for him around the clock. A support army immediately mobilized with relatives, friends and neighbours bringing a steady stream of food and companionship, and building a ramp to the family’s home.
“Every day with Peter is a gift,” Fran would say, as he flashed his trademark smile and graciously accepted care.
Peter grew up in Pointe-Claire, Que., youngest of four children. He breezed through school, playing many sports, making lifelong friends and sometimes even studying.
In 1978, when he was 19, his father, Peter senior, died suddenly from complications of asthma at the age of 46. Peter’s older married sisters, Michèle and Nancy, lived at some distance but supported their Marson family as much as possible. Peter remained at home to help his mother, Rosemary, and to care for his older brother, Teddy, who had muscular dystrophy. In 1979, the family moved to Ottawa, where Teddy died two years later at the age of 24.
Peter studied business administration at the University of Ottawa, where he met Fran McCourt, his lifelong love. They married in 1986, settled in Stittsville, Ont., and welcomed Tessa and Nicholas within five years.
Peter worked as a manager in the hospitality industry for several years. After obtaining accreditation as a systems engineer and trainer, he worked with Canada Revenue Agency and then joined Mitel Networks Corp. as a technical trainer, travelling the world. In his 12 years with Mitel, he made many friends, especially his students, who loved both his personality and intuitive way of conveying difficult information.
But fatherhood was his mission and his joy. In family photos – with his children, extended family and friends, on vacation or playing sports – his face glows with his thousand-watt smile. There were unexpected trials, including serious surgery for Tessa when she was 6, and a near-fatal accident to Nicholas. But Peter faced such adversities and carried on; for him, a great solution to many challenges was to just go out and play. He loved his life and everything always worked out, until that December night, and his illness, which he bore with uncomplaining stoicism.
There was a massive turnout for Peter’s wake and funeral: family, friends and co-workers, connections going back to his boyhood in Pointe-Claire. As one cousin remarked, “That is the coolest casket I have ever seen.” It was surrounded by sports equipment – soccer ball, hockey stick, ball glove, golf clubs.
At the mass, Fran gave his eulogy, unshakeable and calm, no doubt hearing Peter’s voice, coaching from behind: “You can do this – home run, black diamond slope, birdie … eulogy.”
Of Peter, Shakespeare might have said, “Everything in his life became him, especially the leaving it.”
Janice Shea is the wife of Peter’s uncle, Edward Shea.