Father. Husband. Granddad. Woodcarver. Born Nov. 8, 1928, Peffers Corners, Ont.; died Nov. 7, 2016, in Oakville, Ont., of cancer; aged 87.
I've often thought obituaries list people's lives like stats on hockey trading cards. The card for A. Bruce Holmes, my Granddad, would be a one-of-a-kind collector's edition.
Marriage: 66 years
Career: 43 years at Metropolitan Life Insurance
Favourite quote: "Make every occasion a great occasion."
Born and raised near Peffers Corners, Ont., Granddad was the epitome of a farm boy who sought to carve a new life out for himself in the big city. In Toronto, he started his career and met his wife, "Amazing" Grace Harris. He and Grace had a country mouse/city mouse relationship: They were timelessly romantic with a comedic twist, the stuff that Frank Capra movies are made of. Although they called Toronto, Ottawa, London, Mississauga and Oakville home, they were never short of friends or memories. Granddad was both Bruce Holmes, vice-president of Metropolitan Life Insurance, and Bruce Holmes, terrible Pictionary teammate.
Bruce's farm days stayed with him. Never one to remain idle, it was in retirement that he pursued his love of gardening and explored his creative side with wood and soapstone carving. Each of his grandchildren (Michael, Jacqueline, Rebecca, Gabrielle, Jesse, Alex, Matthew, Casey and myself) can recall receiving a beautiful carving, along with a colourful story about how he had obtained the material. In one instance, Bruce brought a piece of dried-out saguaro cactus from Arizona through customs, claiming it was his walking cane. To his credit, he did eventually carve it into one.
The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is often strong and Grandad and I truly felt the old Welsh proverb, "Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild." We had a special bond.
As I entered adulthood, he was emphatic in encouraging civil political discussions, despite the fact we often found ourselves on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Grandad would usually throw out some outrageously obtuse statement, only to laugh as I'd get all riled up. He was the master of unintentional teaching moments. In many cases, the lesson was this: Don't take everything so seriously.
Bruce's booming laugh became subdued in later months but his familiar mannerisms endured. At one of our last family get togethers, he said how much he hated people fussing over him and instead offered glasses of wine and snapped pictures on his camera. We laughed and cried at how unfair it was that he wouldn't see his pictures developed. Although he had graduated to a digital camera, Bruce had the display function turned off, and after every family event, he would take his SD card in to get his pictures printed. Even in his later years, Granddad never lost his "talent" for decapitating anyone over six feet tall in group shots.
Bruce's family will remember him in the many photographs he took, the e-mails oft-peppered with inadvertent caps-lock and in the advice he gave (whether solicited or not). He possessed a heightened degree of emotional intelligence: believing that vulnerability was a strength, not a weakness.
I haven't been able to pinpoint the proper term to describe our relationship, but I know exactly of what it consists: adventures with a happy-go-lucky paddle-boat captain; afternoons hunting for a perfect cedar rail to complete a fence; and a laugh that invariably produced a domino effect in those around him.
Olivia Robinson is Bruce's granddaughter.