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1930 - 2012
The fact that you're reading this today means that I have died in my 82nd year. My first wife claimed I was too bossy, my second that I always had to have the last word. They were probably on to something because here I am, indulging myself and writing my own obit.
I was born in Montreal in 1930 where, like many inner city kids then, I went to school and played on the streets, not thinking much about what I'd do when I grew up. After high school, and with no money for further education, I took a routine office job in a big company where I was bored for the next three years. I took night classes at a local college, but at 20 and wanting a more adventuresome life, I thought I'd join the army to fight in Korea. My stepfather, who had survived the Somme and Passchendale, talked me out of it!
Almost by chance, I joined the Mounted Police. The Force was very much smaller then, in some respects like an exclusive club, with many rules left over from the nineteenth century. Discipline was strict; members were liable to be posted anywhere in Canada and they had to remain unmarried for five years. We worked long hours with no concern for overtime, and members were constantly challenged. I loved it!
I worked general police duties in Nova Scotia; spent time assigned to the Security Service in Ottawa, and a couple of years as an instructor at the training depot in Regina. I volunteered for northern service and spent two years at the RCMP's northernmost detachment where, among many adventures, I learned to drive a dog team long distances around Ellesmere Island. My formative years in the Mounted Police were memorable.
The Force sent me back to University to complete the Commerce degree I had started back in Montreal, then gave me a series of management and leadership postings, each with increased responsibility. The best by far was the four years I spent as the area commander in NW Saskatchewan, for it was there I believe I really learned my trade. No one ever mistook me for a professional detective, but it turned out that I had some small talent in organizing men towards a common purpose.
By 1972 I was a Superintendent in Victoria with 21 years service. I was destined for a transfer to Ottawa HQ, a fate which didn't excite me, so when the Calgary Police Commission offered me the leadership of the Police Department in Calgary, I jumped at the chance. Given clear direction to innovate, I found an organization with much skill and experience but a lack of focus on appropriate goals. In what I think was a first in Canada, we started referring to the Police Service rather than the Police Force, and that led to significant culture change. Members were encouraged to speak up about where and how improvements could be made, and a broad cross section of officers at every level contributed to the development of different, imaginative approaches to the job. Constant review and adjustment since then has led to the current Calgary model of policing which I believe leads the country in virtually all meaningful measures. I was proud to have been in at the beginning.
After almost a dozen years as Chief Constable, I retired from policing and was appointed Alberta's Ombudsman, a role in which I enjoyed jousting with bureaucrats in the interest of making government systems more customer friendly. I later took a senior position with Canadian Airlines, from which I retired for good in 1991.
I loved clever jokes and bad puns, and had several friends with similar tastes. I particularly valued the friendship of those who saw that this is indeed a funny old world, and that it is important, essential even, to be ready to laugh at yourself.
I remained good friends with Heather, to whom I had been married for 16 years and with whom I had three children. For the last 25 years of my life I was married to Brigid, a widow with three adult children, and we enjoyed a long and adventurous retirement, full of laughter, travel and good times.
I enjoyed reading and talking about history, politics and religion, and I usually had a mystery on the go. I stayed healthy with cycling, squash and golf. I liked to cook, for which Brigid was eternally grateful. While I could be outgoing if the occasion required, I enjoyed my privacy and preferred the company of family and a few close friends. At 20 I was looking for adventure, and by being a bit of a risk-taker and very lucky, I found it! I got to see most of Canada first hand, and enough of the rest of the world to appreciate that we live in the best of all possible countries. While I wasn't in any particular hurry to check out, I'd had a good run and was ready to go.
I am survived by Brigid, Heather, my three children (Jon, Jill and Elizabeth), three stepchildren (Jane, Mike and Tim), four grandchildren (Jake, Edie, Penny and Greta), my younger brother Mike in Vancouver, and several step-grandchildren and in-laws, all of whom got along unusually well with each other and all of whom I loved and will miss.
I don't believe in an afterlife, and would just as soon there be no funeral or ceremony to mark my death. A private family celebration of a full life, plus the thought that some friends and colleagues might raise a glass to good memories, is my idea of the appropriate way to go. But I have a hunch my family has other ideas, and I may not have had the last word. Cheers, everyone.
In lieu of flowers, a donation to the Tom Baker Cancer Centre is welcome.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Calgary Herald on Oct. 2, 2012.
Memories & Condolences
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56 entries
September 29, 2013
Dear Brigid, a year has passed since your dear husband passed on. That I should at this very time just today become aware of this is an unusual coincidence and I do want to send you my very warm thoughts. Chief Sawyer opened Discovery House when I was executive Director in the 80's and I had the pleasure of having you and Brian join our 30th birthdate party for the calgary womens shelter in 2004 when I was the E.D.there. I so enjoyed our notes over those years and you and Brian were very special people and it was my good fortune to know you both. I am blessed to have the chance to write this note before this guest book closes. Thinking of you at this time. Mary Ann Sanderson Calgary.
Mary Ann Sanderson
July 11, 2013
A dear friend and neighbour from our years on Kootenay Lake has passed with dignity and pride! Brian, we will miss your astute reasoning powers, your wonderful sense of humour, your loyalty as a friend and neighbour, your mastery as a Chef, your boat-building skills and your generosity. May you rest in peace my friend.
To Brigid and all of the family, we extend our sincere condolences.
Al and Marilyn Strachan
Al and Marilyn Strachan
June 27, 2013
To the Sawyer family: I had the privilege of working along "the Chief" in the early 1980's. It was my first professional position, and I was indeed fortunate to observe the best leader I have seen in my 30+ years of public service. Brian was extremely intelligent, and had a "common sense" approach to leadership and policing that was seldom seen then, and since. His contributions to the city of Calgary have been everlasting. And I am a better person for having known him.
David Horne
February 8, 2013
Immpresisive obit mine will be similar

Jim Howells Oshawa
January 19, 2013
December 19, 2012
November 2, 2012
Sincere condolences to your extended Family.
I was honored to have served you and the citizens of Calgary for the time I did.
Myself and my Sergeant, Jim Graham had the honor of demonstrating the benefits of the new "all weather" uniforms to the City 'Fathers' to gain support for the very progressive change in apparel. Though I never really got to know you, I remember the conversation when we all got into your Staff Car and you asked "So you work with Jim do you?" My totally nervous response "Well he's my Sergeant Sir" and your reply "Well I guess you work with him, don't you?", was a direct reflection of who you were. You were a master at building Es'prit De Corps while being a hard act to follow.
You have made an indelible mark Sir and I'm glad to have worked 'with' was my good fortune. When I look at the names here of the people who have passed along their condolences and comments, I see so many who I once served with...oh the nostalgia. Rest in Peace.
Bruce MacKenzie
October 26, 2012
On one occasion I tried to compliment and credit Chief Sawyer for his vision and accomplishments to which he reminded me that he couldn't have done it alone. He made sure to emphasize the contribution of the members that worked "with" him made it all possible. I noticed that he didn't say "under" him. So humble for such an accomplished man. To all his family my sincere condolences. He left a great legacy.
C Fisher
October 18, 2012
Chief Sawyer it was a great pleasure to work under your direction and inspiration during your full tenure with the Calgary Police Service For the guidance and opportunity you provided, I thank you. My condolences to your family

Ken Handy, Calgary
Charles K. Handy
October 9, 2012
Your Obituary was a great read. Could not wait to read about what a great life you made for yourself.
October 9, 2012
Brian I have never met you but what a great idea writing your own OB and I enjoyed reading it very much. It was like reading a short story! You lived a wonderful life and glad that you could share all your stories and adventures.
M Sanders
October 9, 2012
cathy yates
October 8, 2012
You were a great man (and a great chef!) You've lived a very interesting and successful life and I wish I could have gotten to know you better before you passed. You will be missed.
Michael Heinz
October 8, 2012
To Jon, Jill and Elizabeth,
Kelly, Kari and I would like to send our regards to you. Your father was a remarkable and wise man, we enjoyed the times we spent with you. Jackie
October 6, 2012
I have good memories from my time working in the Chief's Office as Executive Officer. It was fascinating - a different slice of police work from other areas in the CPS. Brian had a hawk-like attention to detail and an uncanny talent for spotting important points and issues. You felt good when a report came back with a big 'S' (with no other comment). He had an elephant's memory for names and events, and made a deliberate attempt to become familiar with all the members and their families. His leadership was fair and principled: "Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done." I am sad to hear of his passing, and regret not seeing him in retirement. He was an exemplary commander.
Al Johansson
October 6, 2012
In 1969 I'd just assumed responsibility as Executive Director of Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary. My biggest challenge? Finding a way to provide a summer camping experience for 20 kids we couldn't fit into our oversubscribed Camp Adventure Summer Camp Program. My solution… try to find 10 adult volunteers who would join me in taking these kids on a week-long canoeing adventure through the Bowron Lakes. My salvation… I happened to be listening to a CFCN driving-to-work radio interview with the then newly appointed Calgary Chief of Police Brian Sawyer who declared one of his primary objectives was to get police officers more directly connected with kids. I got to my office and made one of those “ You don't know me but for you I've got a deal” kinds of call…”Chief Sawyer.. My name's Keith Pattinson and I've got 20 kids who are going to be denied a camping experience this summer and I can't make it happen without people like you.” We agreed to have coffee together. Over the intervening years Brian Sawyer and volunteers we recruited canoed the Bowron & Wells-Gray Lakes three times with over 60 Boys and Girls Clubs Kids, created the Enviros Wilderness School as an alternative to traditional incarceration for young offenders and together experienced Calgary becoming one of Canada's pioneers in community policing. I'll always remember a snippet of a conversation I overheard early one morning between Brian and his twelve year old paddling partner in the bow of their canoe as they worked their way down Isaac Lake in the Bowron Chain.. “ How are you doing this morning Bill?..... I'm fine Chief…just fine!”
Brian became one of my most treasured friends and significant people in my life… Thank you Brigid, Heather, Jon, Jill, Elizabeth , Jane, Mike, Tim, Jake, Edie, Penny and Greta and brother Mike for sharing such a remarkable man with the Pattinson family.
Keith Pattinson
October 5, 2012
After reading your obituary I thought, this is quintessential Brian Sawyer. As Chief you were recognized as being committed to the the police service and communiy you served, and being fair, forward thinking, and compassionate. You made the CPS what it is today i.e. one of the most respected, innovative, best equipped, leading edge police departments in the country, whose members sworn and civilian alike take pride in serving their community. You were well liked and respected by the rank and file, the police commissions you served under and the politicians of the day which in itself is a remarkable achievement. What you brought to policing and the community of Calgary is a legacy that your personal family and policing family can be proud of.
I was proud to have served under your leadership.

Sandy Dunn
Sandy Dunn
October 5, 2012
Brian, as Chief of Police you became the Canadian icon of contemporary policing professionalism and excellence—a visionary, far ahead of his time. I join thousands of Canada's serving and retired police officers in thanking you posthumously for your principled convictions and exemplary leadership, which to this day continues to be the paradigm of public service. We also thank you for having engaged us in meaningful, stimulating and spirited—though respectful—debates and discussions; they engendered tremendous goodwill throughout the rank-and-file and within the community-at- large. You have made a tremendous difference in our personal and professional lives and you will never be forgotten.
Jon Netelenbos
October 5, 2012
I have no words to adequately describe this remarkable man and our 50 years of friendship. Gonna miss you, Brian
Ed Witherden
October 5, 2012
Good way to get the last word Brian!

My sympathy to Heather/Brigid and all the family.
Brian was a special man. We were part of the same RCMP squad in 1951.In the gym I often laid on my back to see Brian doing a somersault as I was wondering how may bones I had just broken.
The RCMP lost a great leader but it was Calgary's gain. His further careers continued to demonstrate his leadership skills.
An honor to have known him. He truly was a great Canadian.
I salute you my friend.
Chris Tiller
October 5, 2012
You were always a close friend and we had good times togethe!
Fred Styles
October 5, 2012
Brian and I were bridge partners for several years and we often raced home on Elbow Drive after bridge - where we were occasionally stopped
by a red light. He sat in he back seat of his chauffeured car and when the light changed he would throw his scarf over his shoulder and his
chauffeur accelerated his gasoline hot car past my slow diesel - he won ever race. He was a wonderful determined fellow - mel
October 4, 2012
Brian Sawyer was a brilliant chief of police, a pioneer in community policing and an innovator in the art of modern organization. It was my good fortune to serve as Chief in Edmonton during his years in office and to share in his philosophy of public service. One of the great chiefs. His legacy will live on in the ideals he espoused and the lives he touched.
Robert Lunney
October 4, 2012
I feel privileged to have known Brian and I know Ray felt the same. What a great obit for a great guy! Jeannine Palardy
October 3, 2012
Chief Sawyer, you will be remembered! Thanks for being my boss and friend.
Michael Guinn
October 3, 2012
What an amazing obit. A shining example to us all. May you rest in peace, Brian.
Gill Maden
October 3, 2012
Chief, shortly after taking over the reins in Calgary,you were to us young cops,"The Man" We admired your leadership and guidance. You always rembered our first names and treated us like peers.In your moving obituary you gave credit to the serving members of the service for your success in making the Calgary Police Service an innovative and progressive organization. It was you alone that took us into the highest level of credibility. You did this with your outstanding skill as an organizer and administrator along with your personable approach to your people.
You will always be "The Man" to your friends and colleagues.
Peter Jackson
October 3, 2012
Chief Sawyer, you never failed to impress me with your leadership, compassion & strength. You were the right man in the right place at the right time. That was a great ride, Sir.
October 3, 2012
I met Brian and his family when I moved to Calgary in the early 70's. A very kind man. I am ever so grateful for his support during some difficult times. My prayers and thoughts are with him and his family.
Tina (Turcotte) Roach
October 2, 2012
A note for Jill - Jill it was a great honour to have met your father while you and I were friends in school together, and I think of your family often. He was a truly fine man, and I am in awe of his incredibly moving autobiographical obituary. My love and deepest sympathies to you and your family. Marney Lutz.
October 2, 2012
Goodbye Chief. It was truly a privilege to have worked and learned under you. Your strength of will and leadership brought the department into the 20th century, for which we are all grateful. You also recognized that ability wasn't tied to seniority. You will always be remembered, and your legacy is patrially what you accomplished, but mostly who you are!
Jim & Charlotte Mathews
October 2, 2012
I started my police career under his leadership. A very good Chief, and a very good human being. You are missed.
Chris Large
October 2, 2012
As a civilian member when Brian Sawyer became Chief, I was in awe of this powerful man. I was working on CPIC one night in the late 70's when the chief asked for a license plate check, which in itself was unusual. After I relayed the information to him, he asked my name. I thought perhaps I was in trouble until he arrived in Records with his faithful driver, Hans, asking for me. He explained that he thought female voices on the radio came across better, they were clearer and were more soothing than male voices and he was considering having women work in the dispatch unit. He encouraged me to apply. I had no idea at that time what a visionary the man was, but his transformational leadership style left an indelible mark on the policing community throughout Canada, not just with us at CPS. We were just fortunate that he was ours.
Sandra van den Brink
October 2, 2012
Thanks Brian for showing me the way and your still the best golf partner I have ever had.
Gordon Banack
October 2, 2012
The Chineses believe that you are not dead until the last person in the world forgets you.You have given reason for many many people to remember you, Therefore you Live On..

Via Con dios
Jack Downey CD
October 2, 2012
Under Chief Sawyer's leadership the Calgary Police Service became recognized as one of the finest law enforcement agencies in North America, a reputation that continues to this day. I started my watch under his command and news of his passing saddened me greatly. He is an iconic and legendary figure in the history of the CPS, and for the rank and file members who served under him.
My sympathies go out to his family.
Cheers to the Chief! He will be missed.
Gord Bryant
October 2, 2012
A wonderful caring man. I am proud to have served under his tenure as Chief of the Calgary Police Service.
marilyn mcgraw
October 2, 2012
Brigid, so sorry to hear of your loss. I'm recalling years past, your visit to Maui and your happiness with Brian in the years that followed. Life moves on. My sympathy to you and your family. Dotty Wilson
October 2, 2012
As I read your obituary my mind went back many years to when you came to Calgary and took the Calgary Police Service to be one of the best if not the best in Canada. I was proud to have served with you and you will be missed. RIP.
Mike Johnston
October 2, 2012
I got to know Brian when I represented the Calgary Police Association and also as a Board Member for the Burns Memorial Fund. Although we sparred from time to time and we disagreed often I was always assured that he would be fair and impartial in his decisions. His outstanding leadership with the CPS catapulted us in the 20th Century and his vision and passion for the CPS ensured that we would continue to be a leader in policing right through the Millenium and beyond.
Rest in Peace Brian.
Michael Dungey
October 2, 2012
What a beautiful way to say goodbye. Our thoughts are with you Elizabeth, and your family.
Rachelle B
October 2, 2012
I too had the privelage of working with Chief Sawyer when he came to Calgary. At first I was skeptical of bringing in an outside chief, but as I got to know the man I came to realize we had discoverd a real gem. I believe he took the Calgary Police Service from the dark ages and layed the groundwork for the modern, foreward thinking, open, organisation we have in Calgary to-dy. May you rest in peace my friend.
Paul Ruggles
October 2, 2012
I had the priveledge of working under Chief Sawyer during the early 80's and respected him so much. You are missed.
Adeline Maxim
October 2, 2012
It has been many years since Dennis and I knew Brian in Calgary. We knew Heather, and can understand why Brian and Heather remained friends. They were both exceptional people. Our Condolences go out to Brians Whole family. Rest in peace Brian.
Dennis and Kay Graham
October 2, 2012
I had the pleasure of serving under Chief Brian Sawyer whilst with the Calgary Police Service. I respected him very much and am very saddened that he passed away. May his soul rest in peace and my deepest condolences to his family.

Corporal John Skorupa ( Retired )
Abbotsford Police Department
October 2, 2012
I had the priviledge of being a member of the Calgary Police Service as Brian re-named it both before and after he was the Chief Constable. He was instrumental in ensuring we had the proper equipment and training to effectively perform our duties. At the same time, he was personable and always knew and spoke to both myself and my wife as friends...he will be missed.
Verne Fielder
October 2, 2012
I joined the Calgary Police Service about the same time Brian Sawyer did, but at the bottom of the organization while he occupied the top. Brian proved to be an innovative, honest and decisive leader for whom we enjoyed working. He became a role model and mentor. He provided great value to the citizens of Calgary while he transformed our organization and to Canadians in general as influenced significnat changes in police agencies across Canada by his leadership here. We were proud to be part of the Calgary Police Service under his command, and that pride greatly influenced our work in positive ways. During the past dozen years he became a close and dear friend who was always ready to discuss and dissect politics, policing, history and a wide array of other topics over the dinner table or over a cold beer. While I am deeply saddened by his passing and extend my sincere condolences to Brigid and Brian's families, Brian provided comfort in the way he faced his death as "all part of the process." He retained his nimble mind and towering intellect to his last waking hours and there is comfort to be found in that. Enjoy the journey Brian; you were one of a kind.
John McFadden
October 2, 2012
Brian, as I read your obit, I felt as though I was back in your boardroom with all of the Executive Committee as you directed us to heights we had never before even considered. I have fond memories recollecting your brain storming with some of your brilliant friends, like Sheldon Chumir and others. Your leadership and friendship is truly valued by all of us.
I am truly blessed to have known you and worked under your guidance. To Brigid and all of your Family, our most sincere condolences. You will be missed by all of us. God Bless.
Len & Fran Esler
October 2, 2012
It has been an honour and a privilege to serve with and for you. You and your legacy to this community and policing in general, will not be forgotten. I personally have appreciated your advice, guidance and support throughout my career. Thank you "Chief Constable", God Bless and Cheers Aye!
Gordon Pelly
October 2, 2012
Dearest Brigid

How sad terry and I were to read of Brian's death. As you know we are over in India but our love and thoughts are with you especially and your entire family.
Fondly, Terry and Sandy Gibson
October 2, 2012
Brian Sawyer you remarkable man! You possessed the qualities I cherish in a friend. You were a proven leader with vision, showing strength when necessary but always with humility and compassion. You were a challenge because of your tremendous sense of humor. You were passionate about the things that mattered and that is really what did matter.
To Brigid and the rest of the Sawyer family I send my most sincere condolences. This is a man about whom can be written - " a life well lived"
October 2, 2012
Calgary was so fortunate to have you as their Head of the Police Service. I loved reading your obituary as well. Thanks for your wonderful service to Calgary.
October 2, 2012
Chief Sawyer, your commitment to community policing set the bar very high for the members of the CPS and the partnership formed with the citizens of Calgary. My career with the CPS started under your watch and for 25 years your standard made me proud of the role I played serving the citizens of Calgary. Thank you for your service.
Charles lee
October 2, 2012
I grew up in Calgary and Remember Brian Sawyer as a wonderful Police Chief. Condolences to his family.
Leslie Holmes
October 2, 2012
Reading his obit was as good as reading a novel. I laughed, I cried, I learned something new, and I wished I had known him personally. I only know him by his outstanding reputation. My sincere sympathy goes to his family and friends. I can only imagine how much you miss him. We are all better off for his having been here.
Susan Garner
October 2, 2012
Thank you for your years of public service and putting the Calgary Police Service on the map of one of Canada's best police departments. You were ahead of your time.
T. Bahl
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