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Michael Ward was, as one of his doctor colleagues described him, a rare breed - a brilliant research scientist and outstanding clinician rolled into one.

Although his research was well beyond the ken of laypeople, the passion and focus of the scientist was evident closer to home - namely in the kitchen with his bread making, an ever-evolving experiment to produce the perfect loaf that fulfilled all nutritional requirements.

As a boy, Michael learned to sail with his father. This became another abiding passion. He first broached the notion of becoming a doctor in grade school. One evening, he was assigned by his parents, Bob and May, along with his lifetime friend Barry Mason to babysit his younger siblings. A bed inspection revealed his brother Joel asleep with a freshly chewed wad of gum stuck in his hair and the cat attached to his head. Michael's solution was simple and precise. He grabbed the scissors, cut the offending gum out, released the cat and declared, "I think I could be a doctor."

This decision eventually led to Queen's University School of Medicine. Michael graduated in 1981, then completed residency programs at the University of Toronto and McGill University. He worked for many years as a critical care physician at Montreal's Royal Victoria Hospital and as a research scientist at Meakins-Christie Laboratories.

In 1999, Michael and Suzanne, his wife of 24 years, and their four children moved to Toronto. Michael was appointed research director in the critical care department at St. Michael's Hospital and also worked as a clinician in the ICU.

Five years ago, Michael suffered a grand mal seizure. An MRI revealed a brain tumour. Michael's immediate concern was not about his health but about being there for his family and his colleagues.

Recently, he and Suzanne moved to Barrie, Ont. Michael relished the setting of their new place on a knoll overlooking a creek and bordered by wetlands. While recuperating from numerous bouts of chemotherapy, he would sit on the back deck for hours observing nature. He doted over the wildlife and would roam the property, filling bird feeders and replenishing deer food. A dedicated vintner, he built a wine cellar with 150-plus bottles in his collection. The Ward label flowed freely at many family gatherings.

Most importantly, the house was a bicycle ride away from Lake Simcoe, where his prized wooden sailboat was moored. Michael loved nothing more than to raise the mast on a warm summer day and set sail. Bon voyage. We miss you.

Sally Manning is Michael's sister-in-law.