Dancer, educator, musician, bon vivant. Born Aug. 13, 1950, in Toronto, died Dec. 23, 2012, in Jerusalem of a heart aneurysm, aged 62.
Peter came somewhat late to dance – especially for tango – in his 40s. Tango ultimately became not only a passion for him and his marvellous partner, Elizabeth, but a metaphor for his life.
Entrada (beginning): Peter grew up in Toronto with his brother David and sister Cathy. His father, Russell Loan, was a banker, his mother Juanita a teller.
Giro (turn): His teenage years and beyond consisted of education at the University of Toronto, where he excelled at intramural football and played saxophone for four years in an R&B band, The Delphis (Peter felt the capital T lent credibility), performing in Toronto and around southern Ontario. In high school, he wooed a 16-year-old clarinet player from the school band, Elizabeth Nagy, who became his partner and wife for more than 40 years. Peter and Elizabeth accumulated hundreds of devoted close friends in this time.
Calesita (merry-go-round): The couple’s early life together revolved around music, babies and teaching. Peter was familiar with all types of music and embraced every new group, song and style that emerged in those magical years. He was equally gifted in playing and singing. He especially loved Pink Floyd and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, whose lyric “Give it away, give it away, give it away now” was a mantra for the type of altruistic behaviour Peter both exhibited and admired.
Salto (jump): After teaching high school in Peterborough, Ont., and Kingston for eight years, Peter signed an international contract in 1982 that took the family to Zimbabwe with toddlers Christopher, 4, and Julia, 3. Years following saw them in Peru, Malawi, Sri Lanka, Tanzania – 20 countries in all – with Peter working as a teacher and a development co-ordinator. His international work inspired memorial tributes in Jakarta, Sri Lanka, Peru and Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
Doble frente (moving together in one direction): Peter’s lifelong work for social justice continued until his death, as he led various international projects. The family grew to include daughter-in-law Jennifer and grandchildren Zoë and Vincent. Peter and Elizabeth’s life expanded to include extensive time with this new generation.
Bicicletta (pedalling): Heart surgery at 49 had given Peter a deep appreciation for life and awareness of all he still had to do. He spent the next 14 years living to the fullest, working abroad, travelling, being a father and grandfather, dancing in Argentina, the Philippines, Turkey, France, Italy, Germany, Malawi, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Japan. He also golfed, supported his daughter’s band, babysat, cooked and gardened.
Parada (stop): In Jerusalem for Christmas with his family, Peter died unexpectedly. Days later, his home in Gatineau, Que., was the scene of a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of 180 relatives and friends celebrating his life. The tango is described as “elegant.” Peter’s certainly was. “Elegance” came up in many tributes, while others described Peter’s empathy and optimism, his smile and his hearty laugh. His was une belle vie, bien vécue – a beautiful life, well lived.
Janice Shea is a family friend.