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Gerald Stanford.Courtesy of Congregation Emanu-el

Gerald Bertram Stanford: Sailor. Lawyer. Family man. Music lover. Born April 23, 1931, in Hamburg, Germany; died May 25, 2022, in Victoria; of Lewy body dementia; aged 91.

Gerald B. Stanford excelled in two divergent careers: The first, 27 years spent at sea, fulfilled a childhood dream; the second, as a lawyer specializing in maritime law, began after his retirement from the Royal Canadian Navy. Neither would have been possible had he not escaped from Nazi Germany in 1938.

Gerald (Gerry to friends) was sole child of Walter Steinhardt and his English gentile wife, Camilla Harrison. The Steinhardts were members of Hamburg’s upper-crust Jewish society. Walter and Camilla divorced when Gerry was young and Camilla returned to England, while Gerry remained with his father and grandmother. A golden childhood – until his seventh year – gave him an appreciation of family life he never lost.

Shortly before Kristallnacht in 1938, Walter received an anonymous message to “get the boy out,” and within days Gerry was en route to England, where he would spend the next eight years with his Harrison grandparents under his parents’ supervision in the Cheshire village of Alderley Edge. At King’s School, Macclesfield, Gerry found he had to be more English than the English to fend off taunts about his German origins. In later years, he would change his surname to Stanford.

His love of boats and the water led Gerry to a seafaring career which began at a London nautical school.

Armed with some seagoing credentials, he joined the cargo vessel MV Maltese Prince in 1947. From merchant shipping, he joined the Royal Navy, thence to the Royal Canadian Navy, a move recommended by a Canadian naval officer. He was accepted into the RCN in Halifax in 1950. Gerry’s naval career saw him on both east and west coasts, with the final four years at the Maritime Warfare School, Halifax, where he lectured on the Law of the Sea. When he retired from the navy aged 43, he was ready for a career in law; he graduated from Dalhousie Law School, and was called to the Nova Scotia Bar in 1978.

Gerry loved the family he created with his adored Briany, whose passion for the sea equalled his. The pair met in Halifax, but when Gerry was posted to Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt in 1952, he found that Briany was herself stationed there, in charge of physiotherapy at the base hospital. They were married in 1957, welcoming Michael in 1960, and Nichola in 1962. As Gerry was fond of recounting, HMCS Antigonish somehow changed its schedule to return to Esquimalt on the day Briany went into hospital to give birth to Nichola, and returned again when she took their daughter home.

Gerry’s favourite contribution to family life was as chef at weekend breakfasts, when he invariably toasted too many rolls, ending up eating them himself. This earned him the nickname Bunz, used by his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. In his last months, one granddaughter read him excerpts from Winnie the Pooh, a book he had read to her as a child.

In the early 1980s, Briany persuaded Gerry to move to Victoria, where he continued his law practice while Briany created a vibrant gathering place for family and friends. Her death in 2007 left Gerry devastated and he turned to his Steinhardt family roots, converting to Judaism in 2009 and becoming a member of Victoria’s historic Congregation Emanu-El. He also endowed the Steinhardt Library at Victoria Chabad Family Synagogue in memory of family members, some of whom died during the Holocaust.

Toward the end of his life, Gerry found companionship and love with Gillian, who shared his passion for music. The pair married in 2019 in their Victoria home. It was there he died, as he had wished, supported by his family.

Gerry is buried in the Victoria Jewish Cemetery.

Gillian Minifie Murad is Gerry’s wife.

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