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Bill Keating
Bill Keating

Lives Lived: William Nenon Keating, 101 Add to ...

Naturalist, banker, lover of life. Born Feb. 26, 1912, in Fort Frances, Ont., died April 15, 2013, in Kitchener of cardiac arrest, aged 101.

Bill was the second son of Dorothy and Reginald Keating. One of his first memories was of men in uniform marching down the muddy streets of Fort Frances to fight in the First World War.

Times were tough. The family hardware store failed, and Reg trained as an engineer, moving his family to Thorold, Ont., and then St. Catharines, taking up a job with the Ontario Paper Company. For many years, Dorothy was virtually a single parent, raising her brood of four while Reg worked on hydro projects in Quebec.

Parenting Bill was quite a challenge. As a youngster, he was a fully engaged but uninformed naturalist. He learned to identify poison ivy through a painful personal encounter, skinned snakes in an unsuccessful plan to make a belt, caught baby owls and put them in his mother’s knitting bag, to the ruination of both the knitting and the bag.

His penchant for collecting small creatures continued into early adulthood, when he found some orphaned baby skunks at the side of the road and put them safely into the trunk of his new car. He thought skunks did not develop scent glands until they were grown.

Through all of these antics, Bill was much indulged. His grandmother doted on him, making pie from sparrows he had caught. His mother admonished him with “Oh, Billy!” but loved his high spirits. Our guess is that his siblings, Bob, Norah and Warren, found his antics somewhat less charming. Bill taught Bob to ride a bike by giving him a push at the top of a hill. The bike was demolished. He taught his sister to play “duck on a rock,” a game that involved him throwing stones to try to dislodge a pile of rocks placed right in front of her.

Who would have expected this exuberant child to become a banker? Bill joined the Royal Bank as a teller in 1929, beginning a long career in towns across Southern Ontario. It was in Brampton that he met Ruth, the love of his life. They married in 1940, endured almost five years of separation during the Second World War, and contributed, modestly, to the baby boom generation with their two daughters, Norah and Debbie.

Ruth had many wonderful qualities, not least of which was a large extended family who knew some of the best trout-fishing creeks around Orangeville and Caledon East. Bill taught his daughters to catch trout and bullfrogs. They learned not to be squeamish about cleaning fish or frying frog legs that twitched in the pan.

Bill retired as the manager of the main branch of the Royal Bank in Niagara Falls. He and Ruth travelled the world, played bridge with friends and watched their granddaughter, Laura, grow into an accomplished young woman. Bill cared for Ruth during her final illness and death in 2009.

At the end of his life, Bill moved to Kitchener, close to his daughter Debbie, who in turn cared for him. We told him often that he was our favourite father. He laughed and told us he loved us. Farewell, Dad. The fish and frogs in Caledon East creek are breathing a sigh of relief.

To submit a Lives Lived: lives@globeandmail.com

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