Philatelist, geophysicist, sailor, humorist. Born on Oct. 16, 1918, in Toronto; died on March 5, 2015, in Ottawa, of natural causes, aged 96.
For a precise, logical man, Eric Manchee had an off-beat sense of humour. Pretty much everything was open to examination and satirical assessment. During one difficult hospital stay, he burst into a jaunty song that detailed being woken in the middle of the night and involved needles in untoward places.
Born and raised in Toronto, Eric was in his teens when he met Melva Laing, who attended a nearby school. Their first date was to the opera, and classical music would remain a shared passion throughout their 58-year marriage.
During the Second World War, Eric served as a radar specialist on the East Coast, a job that reflected his fascination with scientific endeavours. When the war ended, he returned to Toronto and married Melva; they soon welcomed son Rod and daughter Ellen. Eric attended the University of Toronto, earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering, specializing in geophysics and seismology.
The family then went west and Eric worked finding oil deposits for the U.S. giant, California Standard. They moved around the Prairie provinces, nesting in Brandon, Man., where daughter Janice was born. Finally, they moved to Alberta, yo-yoing between Edmonton and Calgary as Eric moved up in the corporate world.
Despite their many moves, the family found friends in Alberta's folk music community. Eric loved to strum the guitar and ukulele and singalongs in the car were frequent. During this period, and later, touring musicians would often stay with the family, including Peggy Seeger and Guy Carawan.
Eric and Melva were also committed members of the New Democratic Party and were concerned about the impact of U.S. investment in the Canadian resource sector. In 1962, in an unusual mid-career switch, Eric left his oil industry job and moved the family to Ottawa, where he took a pay cut to work for the public service. He was hired by what was then the Department of Mines and Technical Surveys to set up the Yellowknife Seismological Array, Canada's main contribution to the International Monitoring System (which monitors earthquakes and verifies compliance with the multilateral nuclear test-ban treaty). Eric remained at what became Natural Resources Canada until he retired at 65.
His life was balanced with many interests beyond work. A life-long philatelist, he won national and international awards for his exhibits of stamps and postal covers. He edited the Postal History Journal and, in 2003, published The Ontario Post Office Atlas, a record of the province's postal history.
He was an avid downhill skier, finally breaking a hip at 80, but only because he slipped on ice in the ski-hill parking lot after, he would proudly tell you, having had his runs. As a member of Ottawa's Britannia Yacht Club, he sailed both a Y-Flyer and a Shark, winning and placing in regattas at home and on the road. He sailed well into his 80s.
After Melva's death in 2003, he moved to a retirement home in Ottawa, where he made new friends and continued to debate politics, enjoy music and make jokes. He and his grandson, Dan, kept up their exchange of irreverent and sometimes verbally complex stories and jokes.
Over 96 years, a person touches many lives. Eric will be remembered for his sharp intellect, his concern for our country and world, and for the laughter he created and shared.
Janice Manchee is Eric's daughter.