Charles Jasper Saunders passed away suddenly on December 21, 2023, in his 50th year. He was born on May 30, 1974, to Clifford Stewart Saunders and Norma Cheryl Shepherd.
Charles is survived by his loving wife Mary (née Camelon) and his two sons, Charles and William, his siblings Cheryl (Johnny) and Mithra (Mary), his father Cliff (Anne-Marie), and his best friend Kevin McEvoy (Chantal). Much loved brother-in-law to Janis (Russell), Jennifer (Jacques), and John (Eva) and uncle to Caitlin, Michael (Fontaine), Annie, Pierce, Marc, Jacob, Desmond, Fiona, and Sophia, and almost uncle to Dylan, Malcolm, and Desmond McEvoy.
Charles had a brilliant mind, always looking for answers and exploring new ideas. His passion for learning led him to complete a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry (Queen’s 1997), Bachelor of Arts in Economics (Queen’s 2000), Master of Arts in Economics (Carleton 2011) and Doctorate in Economics (Carleton 2015).
He worked as an economic advisor for Informetrica for twelve years (2000-2012), and once his doctorate was complete, he became an Assistant Professor at the University of Western Ontario in 2015, with the added responsibility of Director of the Master of Financial Economics program starting in 2018.
Born in Birmingham, England, Charles, and his family moved to Canada, then Saudi Arabia and back to England before landing in Carp, Ontario in 1983.
In Saudi Arabia, the Saunders kids played in the desert with other expat kids. They chased sparks from bonfires, hunted scorpions in the compound walls, and played baseball on the sand dunes. They were chased by camels, ran through the market stalls, and learned how to make friends with anyone from anywhere. While they were living in Saudi, they used the opportunity to travel through Africa, around the Mediterranean, and to Sri Lanka.
His family returned to Reading, England for a year and then moved to Canada picking a hobby farm on the ridge in Carp as their new home. On the farm, the kids went hiking in the woods, and sledding and skating on the pond in the winter. The summers were filled with playing with his black lab (Emma), avoiding weeding the garden, and instead playing “War Games” through the barn and fields, where each game ended with fights about whether they were shot by or dodged the imaginary bullets.
When he was in grade 5, his parents split up. Charles and his siblings continued to live in Carp with their mother. On Saturdays, the kids would go out for breakfast with their father, where he would explain the newest scientific discoveries from popular science journals, and they would do “Daddy Science” (little experiments at the restaurant table). For many years, Charles and his brother were part of the Christ Church Cathedral Men and Boys Choir. Singing was a large part of the Saunders family’s life. On all road trips, the family sang old English show tunes and pub songs.
While in high school, Charles was active in drama and improv groups. He competed with his school team in the annual Ottawa Improv Olympics. He also acted in the school plays. In one memorable role, when Charles was 17, he shaved his head to look like the 40-year-old character he was playing. “It’s no problem, the hair will grow back”. But the hair did not grow back fully. Charles was destined to go bald, and he lost a few more years with a lush head of hair for a gag.
Charles was tall, broad, and immensely strong. He started weightlifting as a young teen and it was a hobby that he continued throughout his life. At his gym in London, some of the young staff and trainers affectionately called him “gym dad” as he would chat and workout with them. Charles was once part of the high school wrestling team, where he won second place not due to skill, but due to his overwhelming size and strength. He used his size to protect his friends and family by looking tough, but he was an absolute softie. He took care of everyone, and his hugs were all encompassing.
His life with Mary started in grade four in 1983 and they were lifetime friends, with paths crossing again when they both attended Queen’s University for their undergraduate degrees. An unexpected but very special romance between the two of them started during Mary’s first year of teaching and it was so clear it was meant to be. Mary and Charles were married in 2000 and lived in Kanata on the west side of Ottawa, welcoming sons Charles in 2004 and William in 2006. Their household was always filled with love and laughter, Charles being the perpetual comedian/entertainer. He was a big kid at heart and his boys adored playing with him and learning from him - building snow or sand sculptures, taking creative photographs, and learning how to manipulate the rules of a game to your advantage. In 2018, the family moved to London, Ontario to start a new adventure when Charles was offered the Director position at Western. He was always the biggest cheerleader for his family, celebrating each of their successes with pride as each of them established themselves in a new city, and for the boys as they navigated their path to post secondary education.
Charles had a positive outlook on life and filled other people’s lives with happiness. His laugh was infectious, and he was very quick witted. He made new friends quickly with his smile and approachable demeanour. Friends knew they could depend on Charles to help them with anything they needed, and that he would make any get together fun including frequent rounds of golf for anyone willing to play, the Spence Family Reunions in Nova Scotia, and his very own Saunders St. Patty’s Day Open House. Charles did not let distance get in the way of friendship, keeping tabs on high school friends, university friends, Ottawa friends, work friends, and continuing the antics and escapades with his best friend Kevin - a legendary improv duo. Charles and Kevin truly loved to entertain each other, and their families and friends were often left in stitches laughing at their shenanigans.
Charles lived a life filled with curiosity, kindness, love, and laughter. He was a gentle giant whose life ended far too soon. He will be deeply missed by those who knew him.
Family and friends are welcome to say their farewells and share their stories in either city.
In London on January 5 at 11am, there will be a memorial service at the University of Western Ontario in the Great Hall in Somerville House.
In Ottawa, visitation will be at the Carp Chapel of Tubman Funeral Homes 115 Rivington Street, on Tuesday January 9, from 6 pm to 8 pm. The funeral will be held at St. James Anglican Church, 3774 Carp Road on Wednesday January 10 at 2 pm. Reception details will be available in the near future.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.