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facts & arguments

Patrick Gough

Geography professor, baseball lover, hitchhiker, grandfather. Born June 20, 1926, in Toronto, died Aug. 2, 2012, in Guelph, Ont., of a stroke, aged 86.

Patrick Gough stayed on daylight savings time all year, preferring not to change his clocks in the fall. "Why lose all that sunlight?" he'd say.

He also loved expounding on his theory that everything affects everything. When he was 12, he was walking home from school one day when he was struck for the first time with the realization that one day he'd die. Struggling to make this inevitability more agreeable (he was an atheist), he thought that perhaps part of a person could go on after death. "If you're always nice to people, that kindness will keep affecting others and live forever."

From early on Patrick loved baseball, playing the game with friends and knowing its facts and figures intimately. Anyone could ask him a random baseball question, such as "Who played third base for Boston in 1949?" and he'd always know. A star athlete at Runnymede Collegiate in track, basketball and football, Pat also once won the Toronto District Mile.

Patrick believed he invented the English-speaking world's most widely used expletive, or at least was responsible for combining its four-letter verb with "off."

At the age of 16, in 1942, Pat had had a summer job at the Toronto docks alongside tough older men who would tease him for never swearing. He decided to do something about it. One night he turned over in his head all the swear words he knew. Finally, the perfect phrase struck him. When he tried it out on the dockworkers the next morning, their jaws dropped, he said.

A year later, he began hearing the expression around Toronto. Recently, an etymologist friend confirmed that the phrase started coming into usage in 1943. Ironically, I never heard Pat use the phrase except in telling this story. He was too nice for that.

Pat was a lover of maps and any road leading somewhere new. He spent years travelling in the 1950s, hitchhiking around North America and canoe tripping in northern Ontario. After teaching high-school math for six years, he changed fields – to geography. He did graduate work in Madison, taught at Kent State, then at the University of Guelph until retirement. He was known to his students as the "Jimmy Stewart professor" because he looked like the actor and had his drawn-out, friendly delivery.

While teaching high school in Fort Frances, Ont., Pat met teacher Tena Kettles, a Manitoba farm girl with a lively sense of humour and keen intelligence. They married in 1959 and had two daughters, Linda and Laurie.

At 58, Pat developed a heart condition and was told he had a year to live. He retired early and lived each day thrilled to be alive. He went on for another 28 years, travelling, reading, writing and outliving the doctor who'd given him the prognosis.

As for his childhood theory on kindness, he held onto that belief all his life. He was the nicest guy I ever knew.

Laurie Gough is Patrick's daughter.