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Robert Bundy civil service reflected his passion for parks areas and abundant parking, a fervour that often led him to butt heads with people who did not share his views.

Courtesy of the family

Robert Bundy, the powerful Toronto civil servant who oversaw the expansion of the city's parking system and parks, eventually meeting his match in the stubborn residents of the harbour islands, died of heart failure on May 8 in Toronto. He was 94.

A property developer who had served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War and was decorated twice by Russia for his role in the Murmansk Run supply convoys, Mr. Bundy moved into public service at a time when city bureaucrats enjoyed substantial clout.

"He knew how to get things done," said former mayor John Sewell, who was chief magistrate for the old City of Toronto while Mr. Bundy was parks commissioner for Metropolitan Toronto (which then encompassed the city and its suburbs). "We had a very high expectation about the civil service and their ability to give advice. They were not seen as political appointees."

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A large and authoritative man, Mr. Bundy fit in comfortably at a civil service with a tradition of strong leaders. But he found that his influence had limits when he tried to turn most of the archipelago in the city's harbour into a park. He wanted to include land that people were living on as part of the park, and they had long refused to leave. He denounced the island community as "a form of anarchy," but had to watch as their presence was legitimized by the provincial government.

Decades later, Mr. Bundy remains a villain to some island residents, who declined to be interviewed for this obituary. But those close to him say he bore no grudge over the fight.

"He accepted [the loss]. He was just doing his job for the department of parks," said Reverend David Mulholland, then the vicar of the St. Andrew by-the-Lake Anglican church, on the island. The two men later became close friends and the priest believes Mr. Bundy intervened to make sure the city assisted with restoring his church.

Robert Bundy was born in Toronto on Jan. 25, 1923, to Claire (née Sunter) and Harry Bundy on the kitchen table of their east-end home. He attended Duke of Connaught Junior School and Riverdale Collegiate Institute, where his family says he distinguished himself as a star athlete and a scholar.

War broke out when he was in his teens and in 1941 he volunteered for officer training with the Royal Canadian Navy. Allan Baker, who trained with him in Halifax, remembers that those who did well enough could request a post. Mr. Bundy opted for a secondment to Britain's Royal Navy.

"I think he wanted to get in big vessels and we had only small ones," said Mr. Baker, who served in the Atlantic and at Normandy during D-Day, and remained friends with Mr. Bundy for the rest of his life.

Mr. Bundy served as a junior officer aboard HMS Furious, a battle cruiser converted into an aircraft carrier, which was part of the 1944 action to sink the Tirpitz, the German sister ship to the Bismarck. And he served on convoy duty to the northern Russian ports that were used by the West to resupply their beleaguered ally.

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Among his service medals were the Burma Star and the Atlantic Star, his family says, and he was also decorated by Russia in 1995 for the convoy work. He is also listed by the Royal Naval Association among the thousands of veterans of this campaign awarded the Ushakov Medal earlier this decade by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a group award recognizing "personal courage and bravery."

After the war Mr. Bundy took an accelerated degree in commerce at Victoria College at the University of Toronto and founded Bundy Construction.

He married Waltraud (Trudy) Gundlach in 1956 after she turned his head at a function, Mr. Baker recalled. The couple went on to become fixtures at social occasions, with Ms. Bundy in particular appearing in the The Globe and Mail's society column.

He leaves Ms. Bundy, as well as their five children, Karl Sunter, Claire-Anne, Harry Brock, Stuart George and Derek Robert; eight grandchildren and extended family.

Early in their marriage, Mr. Bundy joined the city bureaucracy. His construction business had been successful and "he didn't have to worry about finances," his son Brock said. "He really truly believed he was doing something to make everyone's life better, and you can see that all the way through."

The elder Mr. Bundy became general manager of Toronto's parking authority in 1958, a time when creating plentiful and cheap parking was seen as crucial to helping the city compete with the suburbs. A 1968 annual report for the agency shows that in his first 10 years in the role the number of municipal off-street parking spaces nearly doubled to 14,440.

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In the late 1950s, he also chaired a committee trying to ensure that sufficient development followed the route of Toronto's east-west subway line. And he pioneered the concept of a business improvement area, which recruits local merchants to help make their surroundings more attractive and marketable.

The importance of abundant parking, however, remained a passion for years. He was co-founder of what would become the International Parking Institute and travelled to learn from his peers across the continent. Decades later, when he was part of a pitch to redevelop Toronto's Greenwood Raceway, the proposal was built around extensive new parking.

However, he was cognizant of the needs of non-drivers as well. As Metro's parks commissioner, he oversaw great swaths of new green space. His family said he was particularly proud of Rosetta McClain Gardens in Scarborough, a park specifically designed around the needs of people with disabilities.

During his tenure, the city created bicycle trails in some of its green spaces, routes that proved so popular they led to friction between cyclists and other users. But Mr. Bundy had little patience for people using the space in ways that did not meet his approval.

In 1980, as roller-skating took root as a trend, he called people using them "a doggone nuisance." Two years later, he took a swipe at cyclists riding too fast in parks. "If people are riding along at 30 km/h, they can't be looking around enjoying the park," he told The Globe and Mail.

His no-nonsense approach comes through on a number of issues. Asked why Metro would sell a historically significant lifeguard station that had fallen into disrepair, he said: "If you owned it you'd want to sell it too." And he took an similarly unsentimental position with the West Rouge Canoe Club, whose run-down building he argued should be demolished, though Metro Council eventually overruled him.

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"I don't think you'd want to run afoul of him. He was pretty direct," said Paul Christie, who sat on both Toronto and Metro councils and called Mr. Bundy "a leader in so many different things."

"Maybe it's force of personality, because he certainly had that in spades."

Mr. Bundy served with a number of prominent Toronto institutions. He was on the board of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, a director of the Canadian National Exhibition, a governor of both the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Sports Hall of Fame and president of the Toronto Hunt club.

He also served as chair of the Mission to Seafarers of Southern Ontario. Even decades after his time in the navy, he remained "interested in all things nautical," explained Mr. Mulholland, his friend and then the chaplain of the mission.

In 2004, Brock and his wife took his parents on a cruise that visited some places Mr. Bundy had seen during the war. Brock remembers his father insisting on going to the Rock Hotel in Gibraltar.

It was the place he would go when his convoy came in, Brock explained. "They'd order gin and tonics, wait to see who didn't come back, and then they'd toast them."

Raw footage of the flooded picnic area and grass fields on Toronto's Olympic Island
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