Nature 10

Robert Wallace Southern

October 27, 2019


 “I only have 10 years left. Every moment in those 10 years, it is important to express kindness to others.” Bob Southern

Robert Wallace Southern, fondly known as Bob, passed away on Sunday, the 27th October, 2019, at The Glebe Centre Long-Term Care, Ottawa.

A kind and compassionate man, Bob served his family, friends and the community in numerous ways. At his church, the Bells Corners United Church, he actively held roles in property management, the nursery school, parish counseling and bereavement counseling. As an engineering teacher at Algonquin College, his passion for teaching and learning was recognized by Algonquin with their College Award in 1993. Internationally, Bob was remembered for his tireless assistance to raise funds for a children and women’s education and nutrition program in Sri Lanka.

Bob was a graduate of Ryerson University’s Engineering program. A member of the Alouette I team, Canada’s first satellite which was launched in 1962, Bob was involved in studying the earth’s ionosphere. On the occasion of The Silver Anniversary of Canada in Space, on 29th September 1987, Bob’s contributions, along with many others, were recognized by the Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Years later, Bob would make a presentation of Alouette I in his grandson Donald’s classroom, to the latter’s pride and joy.  As a professional engineer, coupled with his strong sense of creativity, Bob used his talents to serve his family and the community. He built calculators for son Paul and daughter Janet, designed a scuba gear (with a garbage can and air pump) with brother Bill (deceased), and repaired baseboards, skylights, eves trough, and roofs. He was indeed an inventor and problem solver. With his aptitude for designing, a project Bob took pleasure in was building the family cottage.

Dedicated husband of 51 years to Margaret Carol Bycroft (deceased in 2009), Bob’s care for his children took on a new meaning after she passed away. “What did Mum do for you?” was his question to Paul and Janet, as he wanted to replace her role in their lives. With that, Bob undertook to cook meals – for the first time – and to assist with the children’s education.

A caring father, Bob raised his two children to uphold the values of integrity and responsibility. He also modelled for them industriousness and selflessness. As an attentive grandfather, Bob showed his support at times when they were sick, and at times when they played cool gadgets. To all, Bob’s creative humour and flair for word puns were often at the center of fun banter.

Bob was a life-long learner and an adventurer. In his 80s, Bob taught himself to cook and to play the clarinet, and although he was battling with Parkinson disease, he continued to play badminton. Sports played such an important part in his life that his peers admired his athletic abilities. Besides badminton, sailing, canoeing, snowboarding, wilderness camping, and cross country and alpine skiing were staple activities. An avid traveler, Bob had explored The Andes Mountains of Peru, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, as well as visited Nunavut, Hawaii, Turkey, Greece, Holland, Singapore, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and the Caribbean.

The family express deep gratitude to the staff of The Glebe Centre Queenswood Fourth Floor, St Vincent’s Hospital, and the Bells Corners United Church community.

Bob will be lovingly remembered by his children Paul Richard (wife Anne and children Meilani Rita Southern and Donald Saunders Southern) and Janet Leigh (husband Robert Taylor and children Benjamin Robert Taylor and James Andrew Taylor) and his sister Patricia Jeanne Watson. 

Family and friends are invited to visit at Bells Corners United Church, 3955 Old Richmond Road, Ottawa, on Saturday, the 2nd November, 2019 at 10am, followed by a memorial service to celebrate his life at 11am. Reception to follow.


Paul's eulogy / memories
====2-EARLY DAYS====
When one lives to 88, lot to observe…
Develop a perception / sense of a person’s character
What was he like?
•Some of you have seen him as an uncle, great-uncle, grandfather
•Others as a colleague
•Others as a fellow church-member
•Others as a neighbour
•And as a Dad or father-in-law,
•my wife Anne said he was a great father-in-love
What shaped him?
What made him the way he was?
I will refer to him in the 3rd person “Bob” here.
====SHAPED BY====
1-Financial situation
Born in the depression times.
Father worked for the railway, starting at age 15 carrying luggage and worked there 50 years retiring as a financial analyst.
His grandfather owned a grocery store and Dad told me how he gave food or extended credit to people going hungry and in the end, he went bankrupt.
He told us about bananas being a special treat you got once a week, except during WW2 when they were unavailable. Oranges were a treat, usually at Christmas.
•Learned to be wise with money.
•Learned to focus on needs, not wants.
•Learned delayed gratification.
•Learned to enjoy the simple.
2-Spiritual life
Parents were Christians
Relationship with Jesus Christ
•Learned about right and wrong
•Learned about integrity
•Learned that character, reputation matters
3-Live in and maintain a family environment
Bob was the eldest
Pre-deceased by brother Bill
His sister, Patricia Jeanne / Aunt Pat is here today.
•Learned that family is a blessing
•Learned how to get along or agree to disagree in a respectful way
4-Inventive, creative
•Learned to take action on ideas
•Learned to try, do something
Many of these and I will speak about these throughout
====3-HIS STORY====
====Young adult====
Grew up in St. Thomas Ontario
As a young fellow many cottage vacations.
Boats, water very common
•For me – photo taken when I caught a fish
•For Dad – in a boat
INVENTIVE - Diving helmet using a bucket, a garden hose and a bicycle pump (his mother / my granny told me that – she was truly scared).
As a teenager and young adult he held summer jobs of driving an oiler tanker truck and jackhammering concrete.
When he started jackhammering he was pretty thin fellow… he was told that if he drank tomato juice he’d look like a thermometer.
He survived that job, came out a lot stronger but he said caused him early hearing loss.
But that hearing loss may have been selective…. What I observed was he would sometimes not hear Mom’s requests until it was repeated several times and his response sometimes was “yes Carol, I heard you the third time”.
Started at Western University but only lasted a year
Ryerson in Toronto, graduating 1954 in Electronics Technology
INVENTIVE – Built a camera
One year during college he hitchhiked to Princeton with several Ryerson buddies
Searched out Albert Einstein.
Bob captured phots of Einstein using that camera.
====Adult, working====
First real job after graduation in 1954 was with a scientific research arm of Dept of National Defense in the area of intercontinental radio transmission
•and how to protect them from Canada’s foe (Cold War)
In the job application queue he spoke to the young lady in front of him… and they eventually married and celebrated 50 years of marriage a year or so before she died.
He was posted to Resolute Bay
Later Bob became a space cadet
He worked on Canada’s space program
Launch team for Alouette 1 Canada’s first satellite.
His (and many others) contributions were recognized by the Prime Minister
Plaque at Science and Technology Museum
Got a teachers’ certificate
In 1964, employed by Algonquin college, recently formed
Taught electronics
Dad was one of the early adopters of digital technology at Algonquin
had to prepare courses on the PDP 8 and PDP 11 computers
He would often bring Paul into Algonquin on Saturdays where Paul learned to code in punch tape and cards.
One of things he enjoyed was the good cartoons of him, made by students
They liked to poke fun at his often-repeated request to “get your feet off the chairs”
INVENTIVE – From computer boxes – Dad made a gigantic plastic bubble house 12’ diameter to sit in in the winter sunshine (*)
KIND - Befriended foreign students and visiting professors
•Agondiak and Tilia - Tanzania
•Mr. Ha – seaweed
CREATIVE – Igloos in the backyard
CREATIVE – Wrote 5 books on computers…. Selling 50,000 copies and one still selling 30 years later.
INVENTIVE – Cottage – Whole other story…. Short story HE designed and WE built a log cabin. We built it over 4 years and then repaired it for the next 30 plus years. Many family and friends have visited. Summers were fun then.
CREATIVE – Taught me how to drive on the 401, steering with your knees to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken
Developed a passion for the sailing
Windsurfers or a Laser at the cottage or the Caribbean / Mexico, etc.
He bought a sailboat with 2 others which he kept on the Ottawa River.
He and mom also did several flotilla sails in the Mediterranean and Aegean and I sailed with them for a couple days there.
While in the hospital he took painting classes and a sailboat was in several of his works.
====Latter years====
Mom had died in 2009
On his own
Lots of visitors
Drivers license taken away 2015
I was able to visit approx. every year, enjoyed BBQ
•Dad would BBQ in rain, snow, freezing rain, whatever
•One summer we had burgers or steak with peaches and corn every single night for a week
CREATIVE - Learned the clarinet at age 80
One day he was cooking his breakfast on the stove and went for a walk for an hour
2017 into long term care
There was one young lady I’d like to thank.
Karen Hall, visited him weekly for well more than 5 years
Karen would update Janet and I on how Dad was doing
We thank you Karen, Dad really appreciated your visits and care
I’ve taken you forward through his life.
I started with the shapers, what he learned early on
Now look back
In acceptance there's peace
Anne and I have a small home church
Someone said this
Very wise
In acceptance there's peace
We all have challenges, troubles, issues come up, tragedies, etc…
The average family has one a year
In acceptance there's peace
In acceptance there's peace
====What was Dad accepting? ====
Dad accepted life is not about accumulation, assets, stuff, impressing neighbours, don't have to compare, keep up, be one up
•Simple cars – No Oldsmobile, not even a Buick… we had a Chrysler Valiant, Plymouth Volare
•No cable TV, no color TV
•Peanut butter sandwiches for lunch most days for 30 years
Dad accepted you don’t have to be a people pleaser, need to take a stand
Reputation matters, integrity matters
•Shutting down lobster sale at the Legion
Dad accepted life is not fair
•Parkinsons (badminton and stair climbing)
•His wife died at 75, a decade ago
•The cottage he worked on for 30 years was just lonely, kids didn't use it
In accepting all those things he got peace
His peace was to be free of all those fears, uncertainties and doubts, of judgement of gossip
Therefore, in that freedom he was at peace
That peace enabled him to flourish, and one way he chose was to share kindness, eg:
•Sri Lanka for some months to develop course-ware and teach digital to improve economic opportunity is a post-war area
•In Sri Lanka, stayed at an orphanage and raise funds for a children and women’s education and nutrition program
•Would pick-up hitchhikers
•Property management here at this church
•Sunday School lead here at this church
•Getting me to help neighbours
•Lots of work at Janet’s house
•Lots of babysitting for Janet
•Grief counselling
====Final years====
Dad suffered from Parkinsons
Never give up spirit…
Janet wrote this.
When walking became too challenging Bob would walk with his bedside table to attend art class at the hospital
When Bob could not be escorted to the gardens at the hospital he learned to study the shift change of the nurses and make a “ beeline” to the service elevator in my wheelchair
When Parkinson’s affected his ability to swallow he simply started with dessert first.
When Parkinson’s affected his cognition he found humour in the fact that he could not remember the name of my “memory meds”
When Parkinson’s took away his ability to travel he went to Paris in his mind.
When Parkinson’s affected his ability to create things, he watched a construction site out the window and told us he was living there.
When Bob realized that he would be separated from his family one day he would look us in the eyes and tell us how much he appreciated them
I can say with total certainty that Dad sure appreciated Janet.
She did so much. He trusted her.
When I would ask if he could do this or that Dad would say ask your sister.
Janet, you did a superb job at taking care of Dad.
In a few minutes my wife Anne read from Ecclesiastes “a time to… live and a time to die”.
•In that time to live he never gave up, until it was time to die
And in a few minutes Donny will read Ps 23 “in the valley of the shadow of death, no fear”
In his time to die in his shadow of death Dad confirmed to us he was at peace, accepting it all, accepting what’s next, no fear
How do we know that? We asked him and he said so
So my greatest memory of Dad is his quiet confidence in God – that he felt God’s acceptance and God’s peace all his life and in the shadow, including the shadow of death.

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November 2, 2019

10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Bells Corners United Church
3955 Old Richmond Road
Ottawa, Ontario K2H 5C5

Memorial Service
November 2, 2019

11:00 AM
Bells Corners United Church
3955 Old Richmond Road
Ottawa, Ontario K2H 5C5


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