Richard Headley Baylis: Engineer. Father. Gentleman. Aeromodeller. Born March 3, 1927, in Droitwich, U.K.; died Nov. 18, 2020, in Montreal, of heart disease; aged 93.
Richard Baylis was a good man and not by accident. He worked at this.
He was a generous man. For more than 30 years he lived with diffuse heart disease. In November, he consented to a high-risk angioplasty, a procedure only a handful of Canadian doctors would attempt given the risk of mortality in his case. This was performed successfully at the Montreal Heart Institute Friday the 13th. He was discharged four days later. “They did a wonderful thing for me,” he said, asking his daughter to arrange a donation to the institute. He was always looking to give back. The next day, he died.
Richard was a courageous man in a quiet gentle way. He moved to Canada from the United Kingdom in the early 1950s, and in 1956 married Gloria Leon Clarke, a Black woman. His mother did not approve. He defied her. Together they had five children – Pia Maria, Françoise, Frank, Peter and Penny. Their first-born, Pia Maria, died at one month of age and Gloria experienced a major depression. Richard was her rock. As a mixed-race couple, Richard and Gloria were subject to cruel taunts and discrimination; he was never cowed. His beloved wife died in 2017 after more than 10 years with Alzheimer’s disease. He was a steady, loving presence at her side. Ten years after Pia Maria’s burial, her headstone was brought home. It sat in a basement cupboard until Gloria died and then it was affixed to her stone. This is the headstone under which both Gloria and Richard now rest.
Richard had strong opinions. He was engaged and interested in the world around him. He read three newspapers every morning with breakfast and the Economist arrived once a week. The night before he died, he talked at the dinner table about U.S. politics. He also debated the removal of John A. MacDonald statues. He asked, “By whose standards should we judge a person’s life?” The conversation ended with, “You know, I never thought I was old until I turned 90.”
Richard was a man of precision. This was an exceedingly valuable trait in his last job as quality control for the satellite division of Spar Aerospace. This trait was also critical for his lifelong hobby as an aeromodeller. At home, his family knew not to touch anything in his office because if a pencil had been misplaced so much as an inch, he would know. In retirement, this control function was transferred to the dishwasher. There was a secret art to loading it, which nobody but Richard ever mastered.
Richard was a gentleman with a suit and tie for every occasion, even chopping wood.
Richard was a man of faith. He took care of his spiritual health. He prayed every day. He went to confession regularly. One Sunday morning, even though he had been having chest pains for close to five hours, he went to church – then he went to the hospital.
Richard was a good man. He had a good life. From his perspective, his greatest accomplishment was his children. With considerable pride, he would say, “I have three doctors and a millionaire.” (Françoise and Peter have PhDs, Penny has an MD and Frank is a successful businessman.) After Frank was elected a member of Parliament, in 2015, he changed this to, “I have three doctors and … [with a wide grin and a mischievous glint in his eye] a politician.”
Françoise Baylis is Richard’s daughter.
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