Sometimes death takes you by surprise. Ric's death was one of those. He was downhill skiing in February, gone March 26, 2020.
Richard Brooke Edwards was born at Wellesley Hospital on December 13, 1930, middle child of Caroline (nee Davis) and J. Charles Edwards. Ric's siblings Davis and Jane are well, John and Robert predeceased Ric.
Ric considered that his parents were the first thing that made him lucky. Caroline was involved with the school board, and Charles was a surgeon. "Dickie" was raised in and around Newmarket. As an infant he survived whooping cough, a 50 percent fatal disease…more good luck.
Growing up during the Depression shaped his thinking, he could happily manage with very little, but was a generous soul.
He graduated Royal Roads Military College in 1951 as Midshipman and the University of Toronto in 1957 as a Medical Doctor.
As a young man he was employed by Simpson's Department store; by the Province of Ontario as an inspector and then by Ontario Hydro in its construction division. Construction meant the hydroelectric dams being built on the Abitibi River to provide electrical power in Northern Ontario; Otter Rapids to be exact. Ric's job was to oversee the construction and equipping of the hospital and provide healthcare to the men who worked building the dam and their families.
While in Otter Rapids, he talked of the 10 bed hospital full of influenza patients, or the number of injuries to the workers, approximately one per day, but no deaths at that point. The challenges of living in a trailer in -30 degree F weather with his wife and first child Susan. How the condensation that froze to the windows and walls of the trailer would melt in a torrent when the weather warmed.
Mostly he realized that he hadn't learned enough, of what he felt he needed, to be an effective doctor. After the adventure in Northern Ontario, he proceeded to obtain his anesthesiology credentials.
As Milton, Ontario needed an Anesthetist in 1961, Ric and his family moved there. He opened an office at 181 Main Street and joined in the important components of the local culture like playing hockey and continuing to ski on his "antique" skis in his signature style. In 1963 the family moved to the home Ric and Beryl had built, and both passed away in.
He had his moment of celebrity when a baby girl, whose birth he attended in February 1964, turned out to be the smallest survivor in Halton County up to that time. (1 lb 14 oz. – 850 gm)
Ric practiced for thirty six years as a doctor in Milton. At one time his list of anaesthetics was almost as long as the population of Milton (7500). Among other notes were serving as Chief of Staff at Milton District Hospital and District Chairman of the Ontario Medical Association.
In the early days, being a doctor in Milton meant 75+ hour work weeks. With a young family that caused some challenges. One story features his second daughter Nancy. Perturbed that she had not seen her Daddy in over a week, she rode her bike with Susan to Ric's office on Main Street. Where she asked Ric's wonderful secretary of many years, Dorothy Hadley, for an appointment to see her Daddy. Dorothy explained the situation to those in the waiting room and Nancy saw her Daddy.
When it became time to slow his career down, Ric first gave up covering the Emergency at Milton District Hospital. Then gave up his practice to Dr. Tony Chan. Ric gradually retired medicine by setting himself up to do dental anaesthetics. This allowed him to do work when he wanted from 1988-97. Thus ending the grab your tie and suit jacket and head to the hospital, any time of the day or night, life he had experienced up till then.
This also allowed him the time to follow some of his other interests. A Sailboat was always one of Ric's favourite places to be, especially leaned right over with water over the rails. Or learning how to create stained glass windows, one his own design and creation is in the front hall of his home.
A third addition to the family a girl named Carol came in 1965. Then the special delivery of a son, James, in 1967.
Despite the many hours at work Ric was active in Boy Scouts, Halton Children's Aid Society, North Halton Community Living, Deborah's Home, St. John Ambulance, Bruce Trail and many more. He had helping people, running through his veins; both figuratively and literally. Ric was a long time blood donor too. When it came to helping people he just couldn't help himself from doing so.
An example was while packing up after a sailing trip with two of his friends, both fellow doctors. The wheelbarrow piloted by a fellow sailor, loaded with luggage, went around the corner on the dock just a little faster than the load allowed. A piece of luggage ended up in Honey Harbour. What does Dickie do? Peels off his clothing down to his underwear, jumps in and rescues the rapidly sinking luggage. How many eighty something year olds do that?
Ric married his childhood sweetheart, a teacher, Beryl Climpson in 1956. They had four children. Susan (Gavin Edmondstone), Nancy (Ed Elzinga deceased), Carol (John Giles), James (Janet Bousquet). Grandchildren (by age), Ed, Julia and Christopher Elzinga, Dakota, Veronica, Ray and Alexandra Edwards, Jasmine, Jessica, John, and Jeremy Giles. Great grandchildren, Joshua Bennett, Sarah and Abigail Elzinga.
Ric was fortunate to travel much of the world. A trip to India designed for him to do anaesthetics so those with significant dental problems, could get them tended, turned out instead to be an introduction to photographer George Hunter. George and Ric traveled together for many years, Ric happily being the ox for the photographic equipment, learning photography and seeing the world along the way. His travels with Beryl were tamer, but also covered a lot of ground. Brother Davis was also a frequent travel companion and sailing trips with friends Vello and Diane were welcomed adventures.
There were also ski trips for many years with his Doctor and Dentist "Stress Seminar" friends. These trips were always sort of like "what happens in Las Vegas", none the less little bits slipped out over the years including a picture of Ric in a blondie wig and not too much else. Ric's ski buddies were extremely kind to the family when Ric was dying.
When Beryl became sick in 2008, Ric's world came apart. Beryl's Alzheimer's required learning and adapting. Ric did his best.
Beryl's illness meant we needed to hire the first of the wonderful Caregivers who have generously shared their lives with us. First was Flordelita, then Rachel. Later Julie, Grace and Louise. Special thanks to Grace and Louise for their fantastic care of Ric, on his final journey.
Following Beryl's death in October 2009, Ric started back to travelling, working on the Bruce Trail, sailing and more.
Through Beryl's illness Ric had his first interaction with Acclaim Health. Acclaim Health ran Alzheimer Education Classes and support. Ric's second interaction with Acclaim Health was during the 13 days to his death. COVID-19 restrictions had just started. Acclaim, and their wonderful palliative care nurse Yda May, helped support Ric, through his death at home. Thanks also to Dr. Schachter for his continued support.
With continued COVID 19 restrictions, this obituary and any "celebration of Ric's life" has been in limbo. Sadly, the latter remains in limbo.
Ric would likely ask that you remember him by doing some kind act today. If your kindness is to make a donation, here is the information about three charities that were important to Ric; yes it was hard to choose. Feel free to ignore this suggestion and pick your own.
Bruce Trail: www.brucetrail.org
Acclaim Health: www.acclaimhealth.ca
University of Toronto Bursary in Genetics (year 1957): MAA online donation page
From Ric's journal in September of 1980: After supper, out on a house call, it was sunset. Rosy color filled the northwest and the sky displayed its many shades and hues of blue. The radio was playing "The Swallow". A surge of joy overcame me and I stopped the car and got out to soak up this prosaic miracle. It diminished not a whit in spite of all the glory that fell on my greedy soul. The first star came out and I wished….for happiness and fulfillment for myself and my family. And I realized the wish had been fulfilled before it was even enunciated. Who could ask for more?
Richard Edwards, aka "Lucky Dickie".
December 13, 1930 – March 26, 2020
A most fortunate life lived.