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facts & arguments

Stewart Saxe

Lawyer, negotiator, toy collector, Disney World expert. Born on April 20, 1947, in Toronto; died on Nov. 23, 2014, in Toronto, of respiratory failure, aged 67.

We were a very odd couple for 42 years. But until the four dreadful last years, he was the centre of my life, my adviser, my protector and my best friend. And now he is gone.

Stewart Saxe was determined, and persuasive. He made a deal with his high-school Spanish teacher: He would get the necessary language credit in exchange for a promise to never speak Spanish. At university, he inveigled the Georgetown Lions Club to send him to Russia, to debate at a Model UN. He edited an influential student newspaper, the Chevron, at the University of Waterloo and organized a national student advertising collective. And he persuaded me to marry him, rather than my then-fiancé.

Stewart started practising law on the union side, then became counsel for the Ontario Labour Relations Board. Once our three children began to arrive, Stewart built a management-side labour and employment practice at Baker & McKenzie, then the world's biggest law firm. He won many cases before the labour board and private arbitrators, sometimes by playing the country lawyer. The many books he wrote or co-authored about employment standards and contracts sold thousands of copies. From 2004 to 2008, he turned a $4-billion deadlock between the Ontario government and the province's doctors into a productive conversation about how to finance and deliver health care.

Stewart was bald from his 20s, but made up for it with a formal, dignified appearance: fancy car; three-piece suits with watch and chain; a centre-hall plan home with traditional mouldings. He liked to have a beautiful woman on his arm; fortunately, he thought I qualified. He loved to build and run organizations. He was a good judge of people and of practical politics, and he had a wonderful sense of humour, though not everyone shared his passion for Defending the Caveman.

Stewart fostered odd gender stereotypes: Our children thought religion, books, physical exertion and the outdoors were the purview of girls and women, while entertaining, television, shopping and matters of appearance were exclusively male activities. He worked long hours; he could be away for a week before the children noticed. But he gleefully bought them things I didn't approve of, took them to Disney World in Florida, and set off backyard fireworks to a chorus of delighted screams. He was secretly fond of the dog.

Stewart had three passions, besides work and family: lead toys, poker and Disney World. He had a world-famous collection of lead toys: soldiers, sailors, and Mounties; circus animals, igloos and suffragettes (plus the lonely figurine vainly seeking alms for poor lawyers). Stewart played poker with the same group of friends for 40 years. And he could not be outdone in his enthusiastic knowledge of Disney World: which gates opened early, where to eat to watch the best fireworks on Tuesdays, where to feed a vegetarian.

His summary: "Good wife, good kids, good life." Despite disappointments and medical challenges, culminating in cancer and a devastating stroke, Stewart was remarkably sanguine, always hoping to wake up one day and find everything better again. He died peacefully, in my arms, just after the birth of a second grandson an ocean away. And now, unbelievably, he is gone.

Dianne Saxe is Stewart's wife.