The couple got engaged the next day and were married six months later, in 1956.
About to begin a $70 a month live-in medical residency in Toronto, Mr. Elgie advised his wife, “You’ll see little of me for the next seven years. If your only identity is Mrs. Elgie, it’ll be pretty slim pickings.”
Nancy Elgie worked for various school boards, eventually becoming a trustee, and vice-chair of the York Regional District School Board, a position she continues to hold.
Between 1960 and 1970, the couple had five children: Allyson, Stewart, Bill, Peter and Catherine.
Their financial life was eased with the unsolicited aid of Robert’s father.
Without being asked, Goldwin Elgie arranged a mortgage on a Toronto fourplex in which the young family could live while collecting rent.
Despite a hectic schedule, Dr. Elgie always made time for his children, encouraging them to join in his love of golf and taking them on skiing vacations during spring break.
His son Stewart, an environmental-advocacy lawyer, says his father was good at dealing with big issues, but grumpiness could ensue for minor transgressions such as leaving the garage door open.
Anyone phoning the Elgies after 10:30 p.m. would be met with a gruff, “What do you want? Why are you calling so late?”
The ethos in the Elgie household was to lead by example and, if you were fortunate enough to be born into good circumstances, to give back to society. Dr. Elgie told his children, “There’s no such thing as a great person. There are only people who do great things.”
He also believed that people don’t tell each other often enough how they feel. As a result, any celebration necessitated that family members and guests had to stand up and say a few words about each other. Nancy Elgie said, “Especially at children’s birthday parties, this struck terror into the hearts of the uninitiated. It resulted in amazing verbal gymnastics as siblings gave constructive criticism to recipients in ways that made humiliation seem almost triumphant.”
Dr. Elgie’s memorial service, scheduled for May 4 at 11 a.m. at Timothy Eaton Church in Toronto, continues this oral tradition with a speaker’s corner after lunch. Nancy Elgie adds, with humour, “Persons attending should consider themselves forewarned. Come prepared.”
In 2003, Dr. Elgie was named to the Order of Canada. To the many people whose lives he influenced for the good, it was merely his just reward.