Family man, surgeon, outdoorsman, teacher. Born Feb. 12, 1924, in Saskatoon, died March 13, 2012, in Calgary of old age, aged 88.
The variety and pace of Tait’s formative years were indicative of how he would live his entire life. His parents’ struggles during the Great Depression took them and Tait, his sister Margaret and brother Peter, from Saskatoon to Calgary, then Campbell River, B.C.
In each place, Tait embraced his new surroundings. He completed high school while also helping support the family as a golf caddy in Calgary and a fishing guide on Vancouver Island.
Though the Second World War never defined him and was rarely spoken of, it was Tait’s service as a sapper in the Canadian Army that led to one of the great crossroads in his life.
After returning from Germany in 1945, he was given the choice of going back to Campbell River to start his own logging business or continuing his education.
Always thirsty for knowledge and new adventures, Tait was soon enrolled at the University of Toronto, from which he graduated as a doctor in 1950. In Toronto he also met Jean Young, his wife for the next 62 years and mother of their sons Norman, Peter, Duncan, Bruce and James.
The family spent most of the fifties and sixties in Toronto. Tait trained as a surgeon and earned a reputation as an innovator while working at Toronto General Hospital and U of T.
In addition to attending his own boys’ hockey games, he spent many evenings beside the bench as the Maple Leafs’ doctor, and was on hand for their last Stanley Cup win, in 1967.
The University of Calgary came calling in 1969, and Tait jumped at the opportunity to return to his beloved West and head up the new medical school’s department of surgery. The family returned each summer to Lake Muskoka, which remained close to Tait’s heart throughout his life.
After Tait retired in 1991, his pace barely slowed. As well as continuing to travel and sail, he immersed himself in cooking, tailoring, golfing and alpine skiing.
At 85, when a medical condition in a finger prevented him from gripping a golf club, Tait arranged for one of his former students cut off the offending digit.
When no comparable solution could be found after a mild stroke prevented him from skiing, he threw his skis into a dumpster.
But nothing could keep Tait inside for long, and he could be found hiking in the foothills outside Calgary well into his 87th year.
Tait enjoyed his final Black Label beer in a hospital room overlooking Earl Grey Golf Club (where he was a member for many years) and the Rocky Mountains.
Just over a week later, Jean, their five sons and families, along with countless other relatives, friends, former students and colleagues, celebrated Tait’s life in the clubhouse, knowing Tait was probably having even more fun off on his next adventure.
Neil McPedran is Tait's grandson.