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Michael Fader: Skydiver. Husband. Maple syrup maker. Survivor. Born April 2, 1954, in Sturgeon Falls, Ont.; died Oct. 26, 2022, in Kingston, Ont., of cancer, aged 68.

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Michael Fader.Courtesy of family

Michael Fader’s life motto was “dare to be different.” He skipped two grades in elementary school and preferred his clothing in shades of red. He declined religion but believed in the magic of love and the power of inter-connectedness.

At age seven, Michael’s father died, leaving his mother in their small, Northern Ontario town with Michael and four younger siblings. She remarried quickly out of necessity, but the family was severely abused by that monster and Michael was removed at age 10 to further abuse in foster care. Running away led to truancy charges and a sentence at the now notorious St. Joseph’s Training School in eastern Ontario, where the monsters wore crosses. Upon his release at 13, he returned to Northern Ontario, but had been told that his mother “had too many children,” so he spent the winter living alone beneath a railroad trestle bridge. He survived his childhood by “flying away” in his mind and spent his entire life dealing with the layered horrors of his past.

Despite unstable housing and food, Michael finished Grade 10, then found work and irregular shelter doing everything from line cooking to digging basements. Eventually, he got a well-paying job in the Sudbury mines, but felt he was starting to become someone he didn’t admire. At 23, Michael adopted a strict moral code that never wavered during the rest of his life, curating the best qualities of honour and perseverance he’d learned by reading about knights and Indigenous elders, and from his favourite movie, Cool Hand Luke.

He joined the Canadian Armed Forces as a Radio Operator and defied all odds as the “old guy” to become a high-performing soldier. Support from his mutual admirer, General De Chastelain, (for whom he was an occasional driver), led to a coveted placement on the elite SkyHawks parachute team where he jumped out of perfectly good airplanes and revelled in “flying away” on his own terms. Remustering to the Air Force after 10 years, he retired from CFB Trenton, where he was an avionics technician on Search and Rescue Helicopters.

Michael (never Mike) was an incredible problem solver and could see solutions almost instantaneously. He loved making something out of nothing and was an avid, prepandemic sourdough bread baker, woodworker, welder, silversmith and Jack of All Trades. Military Housing gave him an award for his extensive rose and flower garden. Old-timey scrapyards delighted him. Despite having no children in the house, he made the first snow angel each winter. He quelled huge trauma rage and bestowed huge, loving hugs.

Mutual friends invited Michael and Christine to dinner in 1997. A romance full of poetry, scrapyards and bargain hunting followed and they were married in 1998. They both loved writing and with Michael’s encouragement, Christine had two books accepted and published. They lived on a large property north of Kingston for 18 years where Michael waited with great anticipation to make maple syrup every spring and rode their tractor with daily glee until Spring 2022, when his illness forced them to downsize.

During radiation for oropharyngeal cancer in late 2018, Michael endured 35 rounds under a tight-fitting mask that was bolted to the treatment table. It caused severe childhood flashbacks of abuse. His second cancer, diagnosed in June 2020 caused two years of excruciating, unsolvable pain. Cancer in his spine left him paralyzed during his final four months. The bookends of his life were horrific, yet Michael wrote in one of his many notes, “Life has, at times, dealt me some lousy cards, but I always ended up with a pretty good hand.”

Michael felt intense lifelong shame about the childhood he endured and few people know what he survived to become the person he was. He is nonetheless remembered and revered as a truly fantastic human.

Michael often quipped, “Only the good die young, so I should be safe.” He was a good one.

Christine Fader is Michael’s wife.

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