MIDWINTER, James Robert
"Captain Jim" died peacefully, with family by his side, at the Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital on March 1, 2017 after a long battle with primary lateral sclerosis. As with all the challenges he faced in his long and rewarding life, he tackled his illness head-on, with determination and equanimity.
Cherished husband of Sally (nee Heard), beloved father of Stewart (Julie Muller), James (Pamela Weber), and Jenny (Marc Desjardins); much adored grandpa to Nigel, Ceara, Derrick, Calvin (Justine Robles), Olivia Stille, Andrew, and Julia Stille; younger brother of Cliffe (Sheila); son of the late Harold Kitchener Midwinter and Florence Stewart (nee Cliffe).
Born in Brandon, Manitoba, Jim's parents soon relocated to Comox on Vancouver Island, where Florence had been born to descendants of the first pioneer settlers in the area, and where her extended family still lived. This is where Jim's formative years were etched. These were the Thirties and Forties…tough times in a country slowly rebounding from the Great Depression. Fortunately, Jim excelled at school and secured a scholarship to UBC, where he studied Economics and Geography. More importantly, UBC was where two pivotal events in his life occurred…he met the love of his life and future wife Sally, and in the same year was awarded the Rhodes scholarship to attend Oxford University for a Master's degree.
Oxford was an engrossing experience for Jim, burnishing his education and expanding his world view. Upon graduation, Jim was one of only two selected that year to join the Trade Commissioner Service of the Canadian Government. Jim and Sally were soon married and embarked upon a ten-year adventure, living and working in exotic foreign lands including Guatemala, India, and Chile. All three children were born abroad and, along with their own children in turn, have become keen world travellers. After their eventual return to Ottawa in the mid-1960s, Jim entered a new phase of his career, firstly at Industry, Trade and Commerce, where he played a critical role in setting up the predecessor entity to the Export Development Corporation, then on to a challenging position in the Privy Council Office as Senior Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet during the dynamic and often raucous Pierre Trudeau years. Meanwhile, Sally entered a 40-year career in residential real estate, helping house the many friends and acquaintances met during their travels.
Jim was an avid reader of all forms of literature, from science fiction to the classics, as well as a broad range of non-fiction topics; his was a household of books filling shelves in all the rooms. Family dinners were a frequent occasion for debating the issues of the day, often interrupted with someone running to check the facts in his much-used 24-volume encyclopedia. (These will now be donated to the Trump administration.)
After a change in government, Jim was appointed Inspector-General of Foreign Operations, Department of External Affairs, a position which rekindled his keen interest in Canada's role in the world. Rounding out his career in fine fashion, Jim was honoured to accept the appointment as Canadian ambassador to Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, where he served, with Sally the perfect companion, for two enjoyable years. Jim and Sally enjoyed entertaining, and their three children grew up seeing many smoky cocktail parties in their Westboro home. The hospitality continued at their welcoming Carlyle Avenue home, with convivial dinner parties attended by many world-wide friends.
Jim chose to take early retirement at the tender age of 56, and enjoyed over two decades of continuing to indulge his life-long passion of sailing, with increasingly adventurous sailing trips up and down the east coast of North America on his beloved 40-foot yacht Vailima, often ending in the Bahamas for an extended winter break with Sally, and with frequent visitations of children and grandchildren. Possibly his most challenging trip was across the Caribbean to South America, barely surviving a hurricane while sailing single-handed off the Turks & Caicos. In his early 80s, "Capt. Jim" was diagnosed with PLS, a neurodegenerative disease similar to ALS. Gradually this stole his strength, then his walking ability and finally his speaking ability, but his mind stayed sharp to the end. He revelled in the exploits of his grandchildren as they grew into adulthood and enjoyed the many family get-togethers over his last years, including the "big one" for Jim and Sally's 60th wedding anniversary in 2014.
Jim was blessed with a loving family and a long and fulfilling life; he has set sail on his final adventure. Fair Winds and Following Seas Capt'n Jim!
A Celebration of Life Reception will be held at the Nepean Sailing Club (Dick Bell Park, 3259 Carling Ave, Nepean, Ontario, K2H 1A6) on Saturday March 25 from 3-5 p.m. when family and friends will gather to remember a life well lived.
Donations to the ALS Society are greatly encouraged.
Hulse, Playfair & McGarrywww.hpmcgarry.ca