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lives lived

Bud Rabjohn.Courtesy of family

Bud Rabjohn: Patriarch. Skier. Gardener. Craftsman. Born Feb. 27, 1930, in Toronto; died May 13, 2021, in Toronto, of natural causes; aged 91.

Born Arthur Albert, but known to everyone as Bud, this father of five lived a quiet life. He lived and worked all his life (and even met his future wife) within sight of the place he was born at the corner of the Queensway and Kipling), but Bud drew his circle wide. And while he would never admit it, Bud’s life was remarkable in many ways.

Bud did well at school until his stuttering created too much grief for him. He left in Grade 10 to help his father on the family’s market garden. In the late 1930s through to the 1950s, the corner of Etobicoke he lived in was alive with gardens growing vegetables, fruit and flowers for the Toronto markets.

Bud met Maureen Yarnell at the youth group of St. Elizabeth’s Anglican Church on the Queensway. Maureen and her identical twin sister had fun confusing Bud from time to time, but he persevered. They had five children – David, Lynda, Stephen, Shirley and Glenn – and Bud and Maureen were married for 65 years.

Bud rode his bike to work before it was cool and came home for lunch every day. He was a master gardener, famous for green beans, tomatoes, zucchini and marigolds. Whenever the garden needed tending, he got one or two of his kids to help. The rest would top-and-tail the beans for dinner. The work could be tedious but time in the garden with their father was special.

Bud was also a woodworker. His furniture pieces were typically made from oak, including babies’ change tables and he liked to carve Santa figures. If you see a wooden Santa outside a home, it’s likely a Rabjohn-family home. But modern gadgets baffled Bud. He said, “I’ve never seen such a thing,” so much that the phrase is still heard at family gatherings.

He made friends that lasted a lifetime (several from elementary school attended his 90th birthday party) and maintained his Anglican faith throughout his life. He taught Sunday School for decades and gave much of his time to St. John the Baptist Dixie.

Above all else, Bud’s passion was skiing. In the 1950s, he and his buddies (The Triple S Ski Club) spent many weekends clearing trees in Barrie, Ont., to carve out runs and install basic ski lifts. They started what grew into Snow Valley Ski Resort.

Early in their relationship, Maureen realized she would have to learn to ski. And Friday nights in winter were always ski tune-up nights for his family. They all learned how to care for their equipment in his workshop.

For more than 20 years, Bud worked with the Toronto Ski Hawks to teach the blind to ski, guiding them down as their “eyes.” He liked to travel with his skis in North America and Europe, but always had to be at the airport early. If his flight was at 7 p.m., he’d want to be at the airport by noon: Bud was on time, every time, to a fault.

One of his favourite spots was Sun Peaks resort in British Columbia, where he enjoyed skiing with Olympic champion Nancy Greene and trying to keep up with her.

For his 80th birthday, his family bought him new skis. He’d taught them all how to ski: his children, his nephews and nieces, their girlfriends and boyfriends and, eventually, his 12 grandchildren. For fun, he’d often lead a train of family members from the top of the hill to the bottom.

The funeral Bud deserved was not possible due to the pandemic. He was cremated and laid to rest in Norval, Ont., next to his parents. The family will celebrate his life later – likely with a day on the ski hill, a long line of Rabjohns snaking across the hill in his honour.

Lynda Tendijowski is Bud’s eldest daughter.

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Lives Lived celebrates the everyday, extraordinary, unheralded lives of Canadians who have recently passed. To learn how to share the story of a family member or friend, go to tgam.ca/livesguide

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