Professor, farmer, environmentalist, father, uncle. Born May 15, 1933, in Fredericton, died April 30, 2013, in London, Ont., of ALS, aged 79.
Born in the 1930s into a family tradition of farming, forestry and small-town store-keeping, Bob Sansom was a product of the Depression and the Second World War.
He came from Loyalist, 42nd Highlander roots and was proud of it. His stories about Charlotte Haines, her lost slipper and Scottish fighting songs form part of the legacy he left his children, nephews and nieces.
During the war years, Bob was raised by his sister June, his mother Gladys and favourite aunts while his father, T.W. “Ted” Sansom, was serving in Belgium, his brother, Lt.-Col., Reg Sansom was leading artillery attacks across Europe, and his uncle, Major Bob Forbes, crossed Juno Beach.
Growing up during the war, living in the shadow of heroes, Bob set his sights on academia, and enrolled at the University of New Brunswick. He received a Beaverbrook Postgraduate Overseas Scholarship in 1956 and went off to London to study political science and get married. He later returned to Canada to settle in London, Ont., where he taught political science for many years.
Richard Vernon, a colleague at the University of Western Ontario, wrote that Bob was “someone who taught his subject in a fiercely independent way that won the deep respect and affection of our most serious students.
“Colleagues who knew him will remember his vigorous defence of the value of undergraduate education, his patience with every student who sought his guidance – and his ready humour.”
Anyone who knew Bob and his wife Moira knew they were on the ground floor regarding recycling. Their passion and commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle carried almost every conversation with those who would listen.
As a family we snickered, but we came to realize how much they loved the land and the lengths they were prepared to go to protect it. Their environmental vigilance covered the clothes they wore, the dishes they used, the way they composted and the certified organic farming practices they supported.
Moira said recently that she was an only child of an only child, and what a change her life took when she became part of the Sansom/Forbes clan and all that went with it.
Time and distance kept us away from Bob, but as we matured, the sense of pride and value in family drew us closer together. A brother, sister, in-laws, cousins, nephews, their significant others and their children made a get-together a celebration during summer visits to New Brunswick.
In the middle of it all – with his organic beef, his home-grown oysters, his Richibucto lobsters, organic coffee, homemade ice cream and his wife’s apple pie, while singing, laughing and crying – was our Uncle Bob Sansom.
Those of us who have taken pride in contributing to this essay would from an early age bristle with excitement about the annual gathering of the clan on Whites Cove, and Bob’s arrival.
We could hardly wait. Memories of the cottage and seafood cooking on the shore abound.
Bob was much younger than our parents and his strong views made him exotic to us. I dare say that all of us can hardly wait to see him again.
By Bob’s nephews and nieces.