Robert Charles Gunning Zurrer: Daredevil. Adventurer. Iconoclast. Entrepreneur. Born Sept. 25, 1953, in Toronto; died Aug. 19, 2018, in White Rock, B.C., of antibiotic resistant infection; aged 64.
Rob was fearless, always willing to try anything reckless repeatedly. He indulged in high-risk passions such as car racing, hang gliding, bull riding and motorcycling, along with the more conventional risky sports of downhill and water skiing. His daredevil nature formed the background of his ability and chutzpah to identify opportunities for businesses and, years later, gave him the confidence to have his malfunctioning kidney replaced in Pakistan.
Rob grew up in Brantford, Ont., and in Kelowna, B.C., where his parents relocated when he was 13. After high school, Rob left home to seek his fortune. He found work driving a water truck in the Alberta oilfields, as a salesman, and found his calling as a financial market researcher over the next 47 years. He was essentially self-taught and innately resourceful.
Rob challenged accepted norms, especially regarding politics and the environment. His opinions made for vigorous debate among his more liberal-minded family and friends. He had contrarian views of world economics and, for a while, he saved gold bars in his garage, convinced they would protect him from the next world financial crisis. He made and lost small fortunes over his life.
Rob was introduced to Lesley Davies by mutual friends in 1986. She found him “a dashing, handsome, charming man." Six months later they were married and two daughters followed, Emily and Carol-Anne (Annie). He defied tradition and convention in his youth but settled down to become a devoted husband and father - even taking on marauding raccoons in the middle of the night by rushing out in his underwear to attack them with a broomstick when the family chicken coop was under attack. He would encourage his girls to face their fears - insisting on the fastest go-karts, taking them rock climbing, snowboarding, bungee jumping and white-water rafting.
Rob had his challenges, too. In his 20s he suffered from the suicide of his younger brother and best friend, John. In his early 30s he began to suffer from kidney disease. His two older sisters, Anne and Carol, who lived in Ontario, volunteered their kidneys. Carol’s was compatible and Anne, a nurse, accompanied her to Vancouver for the transplant, which lasted 18 years. In 2006, Rob’s body needed another kidney. In a controversial transaction, he chose to purchase a live donor kidney in Pakistan. Anne accompanied him to Lahore for a harrowing three weeks, which included unsanitary hospital conditions, feral cats howling at night in the wards and upsettingly unreliable methods to communicate with family overseas. On the way home, there was even an unexpected hospitalization in Bangkok. Rob would be interviewed about the experience in a CTV documentary and participated in a Munk debate about the ethics of his medical procedure.
Rob’s new kidney would last the rest of his life but over the next 11 years, he endured other health problems. Previously undiagnosed heart disease led to two major heart surgeries. After a recent 12-week hospitalization, he was home for two weeks before being readmitted and then succumbed to a hospital-acquired antibiotic resistant infection.
Rob lived a fuller life than most, defying the odds many times like a cat with nine lives, but … he simply ran out of luck.
Anne and Rick Martin are Rob’s sister and brother-in-law.
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