Patrick Michael Waters: Innkeeper. Croquet champ. Organizer. Teacher. Born Aug. 11, 1939, in Regina; died May 29, 2020, in Clinton, Ont., of complications from myelo dysplasia syndrome; aged 80.
Pat Waters taught English in Calgary for 10 years before becoming a corporate public-relations adviser, a political aide and speechwriter and, finally, an innkeeper in Southwestern Ontario. Whatever the role, he remained the engaged teacher who demonstrated empathy for young people, a love of learning and a wicked sense of humour.
He grew up in Saskatchewan, idolizing his war-veteran grandfather, Colin Prockter, who filled in for an absent father and served as a teacher, mentor and moral compass. When his grandfather invited him to a meeting of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, later the New Democratic Party, 15-year-old Pat joined as a member, beginning a lifelong commitment to social-justice issues.
In 1961, Pat married his first wife, Dianne, and their first child, Jan, was born the following year in Regina. They had three more children, Jon, Jill and Joel.
Pat was a fan of crime writer Elmore Leonard and immersed himself in Canadian politics from the perspective of a dyed-in-the-wool progressive. He worked for two provincial NDP premiers, Allan Blakeney and Bob Rae.
“If you asked him a question, he could probably expound at length on just about any topic,” says Gayle, who married Pat in 1988. They had moved from Saskatchewan in the early 1980s – Gayle with her four sons, Max, Harry, Ben and Sam – to run a 150-year-old country inn in Bayfield, Ont.
No matter where he lived or worked, friends always marvelled at his capacity to tie together seemingly unrelated ideas. He had a penchant for long-winded storytelling that eventually found the punch line. That skill served him well as a speech writer. “He was able to add historical quotes that often set up witty one-liners,” says Pat’s friend Murray Weppler, of their time together as political aides to Ontario NDP government ministers in the early 1990s.
Despite his serious pursuits, Pat could poke fun at himself. When he lived in Calgary between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s, Pat and a friend opened the Pig’s Eye, a student-friendly coffee house featuring up-and-coming musicians. Laughing over his dubious skills of talent-spotting, Pat often recalled that he turned away a young singer, Joan Anderson, later known as Joni Mitchell.
Mentoring young people became second nature in the 35 years that Pat and Gayle ran the Little Inn in Bayfield. On one occasion, the chef wanted to fire a teenage employee for repeated tardy behaviour. Pat urged patience and suggested the chef speak to the boy’s parents as a last resort. The strategy worked and the teen later become a successful restaurant owner in Bayfield.
Potentially staid events were no match for Pat’s mischievous humour. At the Bayfield International Croquet Club, members dressed in whites for weekly summer cocktail parties. One evening, with juicy Ontario cherries in season, Pat and others discreetly fired pits at each other and all left with well-stained “whites.”
Pat, a champion yo-yo player in his youth, maintained his prowess as an adult and loved teaching aspiring wannabes. One year he sold a set of lessons for $100 at a charity event.
Though ill in his final months, Pat continued to mentor newcomers on the intricacies of croquet moves, including the unique “Waters Opening shot,” a legal, but less-used strategy that places the ball at the centre peg to begin the game. Mainly, he wanted members to learn the rules of Association Croquet, the international version of the sport.
Pat, a teacher, progressive and friend to the end.
Gayle Waters is Pat’s wife; Roger and Pat Lewington are his friends.
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