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Keith BraithwaiteCourtesy of family

Keith Braithwaite: Yorkshireman. Adventurer. Determined. Dadcu. Born Oct. 5, 1931, in Yorkshire, England; died Nov. 19, 2022, in Burlington, Ont., of complications from cancer treatment; aged 91.

Keith sang through life, sometimes to the embarrassment of his four daughters. He sang in the church choir, on the hiking trail, in the car and he sang his way through his cancer treatments. In 2007, he received the Order of Niagara for service to the church.

Keith described his childhood in northern England as carefree even though, at age seven, Britain declared war on Germany. At one point three bombs were dropped on his Yorkshire village – the Braithwaite family slept through that. As a child he was entrepreneurial, selling conkers and minnows to classmates and then establishing a fire-starter business with his friend Eric, which was booming until the young capitalists replaced their whittled wood shavings with sawdust. The fact sawdust doesn’t burn ended that business.

He specialized in textile machine repair as a young man. After one service call involving a 100-kilometre (60-mile) motorcycle ride in the cold Yorkshire rain, Keith was in the mood for something different. He spotted an ad to work in Kingston and moved to Canada in 1954. After an argument with his boss about overtime pay, he quit and took off to Vancouver via Texas, travelling with a friend along Route 66 and up the coast.

In Vancouver, Keith’s real career began when he answered an ad for a sales and service position. If it hadn’t included “and service” he wouldn’t have applied but he became successful at sales by being himself. He was lauded for his ability to see a smokestack and make a sale.

In Vancouver, at a YMCA dance, Keith met Anita Hughes. As Keith was a rugby player, their first date was a rugby team’s fundraising dance. This first date led to 55 years of marriage. Keith and Anita had four daughters – Susan, Gail, Alison and Helen. As Keith moved up the ladder at work, he moved his family east: Calgary, then Burlington, Ont. Each move was both an adventure and a culture shock: Moving to Calgary, they lost the ocean. Moving to Ontario, they lost the mountains. He finished his career as the president of IRD Mechanalysis in Columbus, Ohio.

Rugby was always a passion, and when Keith stopped playing he watched matches in person and on TV. His team was England but he loved the New Zealand All Blacks and insisted on silence when the Haka began. When South Africa played – he belted out their anthem, he loved the tune so much he’d sing it often.

Keith loved the outdoors. It started while walking the hills of Yorkshire as a child, and it was a love that he shared with his family. He pushed limits. Once he led the family past a grizzly bear warning sign insisting the bear was on the other side of the lake, nothing to worry about. The park ranger disagreed and pointed the family back to the car.

As a young man, while surveying Penyghent Pot, a deep and challenging cave in Yorkshire, a colleague died. When asked by his daughters how that made him feel, his response was, “Feel? What do you mean, feel?” Keith was a stiff-upper-lip kind of man. His love was expressed through sports, song, travelling and by showing up for his family’s sporting events.

Yet he did feel. He felt very deeply. When Anita died after 55 years of marriage his grief was profound. Then, at age 82, he met Margaret and they explored the world together. He loosened up a little, too; he wore jeans for the first time and his British brogues became Italian loafers.

Keith was an attentive grandfather and great-grandfather. He lit up when the children were around. They called him Dadcu, Welsh for grandad, and he talked about rugby with those who played and shared with them all his love of hiking. His grandchildren made his heart sing.

Alison Braithwaite is Keith’s daughter.

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