You are now on Your site use is governed by their Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy. Any purchases are with Learn More
Graeme Cameron GIBSON
1934 - 2019
{ "" }
Share Graeme's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share
GRAEME CAMERON GIBSON August 9, 1934 - September 18, 2019 Graeme Gibson died peacefully in the University College Hospital in London, England, with friends and family beside him, as the result of a hemorrhagic stroke. He was in his 86th year. Graeme Gibson was the son of a Canadian Army Brigadier General and an Australian musician, and grew up in London, Ontario, Toronto, Ottawa, New Brunswick, Halifax, and Australia. He was a well-known novelist, essayist, authors' rights advocate, and bird conservation activist. His novels were Five Legs (1969), Communion (1971), Perpetual Motion (1983), and Gentleman Death (1995). His fictions, whether set in and around Stratford in the fifties and sixties, in rural nineteenth century Ontario, or in wartime Toronto, combine humanity and compassion with irony and the darker sides of human nature, and have been said to belong to "Southern Ontario Gothic." He also wrote for film, television, and radio. Eleven Canadian Novelists (1973) was the first book of interviews of Canadian novelists to be published; it tells us much about the earlier days of Canadian fiction writing, through the voices of Alice Munro, Margaret Laurence, Mordecai Richler and Matt Cohen, among others. His two highly popular nature works, The Bedside Book of Birds, An Avian Miscellany (2005) and The Bedside Book of Beasts: A Wildlife Miscellany (2009) combine artwork from around the world and texts from many places and ages with personal anecdotes as a way of celebrating humanity's interaction with Earth's other intelligent forms of life. Graeme was the driving force behind the formation of The Writers' Union of Canada, which advocated for the fair treatment of writers, and then The Writers' Trust, in the 1970s, which now supports writers and their writing at many different levels. He then went on to act as the President of the newly-formed PEN Canada for two years in the 1980s, pulling together the most diverse Congress that institution had ever held, and working with International PEN to protect free speech and assist writers imprisoned for their writings. He then turned his attention to the natural world, chairing The Pelee Island Bird Observatory beginning in 2002, and acting as Honourary Co-President of BirdLife International's Rare Bird Club for ten years. He also organized the first bird-watching trips in Cuba, and helped naturalists and scientists there set up the Museum of Nature in Havana. He loved the Arctic and the Canadian Boreal Forest, and was at one time an ardent canoeist and hiker. He was a magnificent cook, an enthusiastic host, a singer of songs and a teller of tales. His key contributions to both Canadian society and the international world were recognized with many honours, including the Toronto Arts Award, the Harbourfront Festival Prize, an Order of Canada, a Royal Canadian Geographical Society Gold Medal, and an "environmental champion" honourary degree from Cape Breton University in 2019, on the occasion of the inauguration of the Farley Mowat Chair in Environmental Studies. Graeme had a wide circle of friends from many parts of the world and all walks of life. He was an excellent father and an adoring and adored spouse. He will be greatly missed. Graeme Gibson is survived by his children Matthew and his wife Petrina Andonova, Graeme the Younger and his wife Sumiko Onishi, Jess and her husband Alec Bemis; by grandchildren Maddy, Rowan, and Alder; by the members of his extended family Sarah Gibson, Jessica Gibson, Ruth Atwood and Ralph Siferd, and Harold and Lenore Atwood; and by his partner of forty-eight years, writer Margaret Atwood. A celebration of his life will be announced at a later date. Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to the Pelee Island Bird Observatory, to Nature Canada, or to Dying With Dignity.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The Globe and Mail from Sep. 19 to Sep. 23, 2019.
Memories & Condolences
Not sure what to say?
13 entries
October 3, 2019
I once read an anecdote by Graeme Gibson. He had decided to turn his parrot over to a place where he believed it would more fully realize its parrot nature than with them, in their family home: a decision very difficult for him and his sons. As they began to leave, their former family member called out- for the first time ever- "Dad! Dad!"
I wept at this and I still weep at times when I remember it. This was a story of what to me spoke of depthless mystery.
I never met Graeme Cameron Gibson. But how I feel I know him.
Marie Lloyd
October 3, 2019
I first heard Graeme Gibson speak at the Humber College summer school for writers in the 80s. The description of his first terrible attempts at writing and his encouragement to stick with it were touching and funny. I met him again at a Pelee Island writers' retreat and my initial impression of a kind, honest, generous, thoughtful human being were reinforced. Thank you so much for all your good work.
Cheryl Clarke
September 28, 2019
Thinking of you at this time, Graeme the Younger.
Trevor Owen
September 26, 2019
While I have never met either of you I have been on an adventure Canada cruise,many years ago to the North and adored it all. My deepest sympathy to Margaret, one of my favourite authors with her wonderful wit and intelligence. You were lucky to have found each other and to have shared the years you had together. May the birds he so loved watch over him.
Sandy Turner
September 23, 2019
My sincere condolences. I will miss Mr. Gibson's writing and sense of humour. It was such a delight to see him and Ms. Atwood side by side all these years.
Noriko Yabuki-Soh
September 23, 2019
Our deepest sympathy to Graeme's family. We remember him sitting around the table at Greenwood in Hudson telling his marvellous stories. We will cherish his signed copy of "The Bedside Book of Birds" in our library.
Audrey WALL
September 22, 2019
My Pink Dogwood
Dear Margaret and Family,
My deepest sympathies and condolences for your great loss. It is such a blessing that Graeme passed with his family in the dignity he was so passionate about.
Love and best wishes your neighbor, Anna Parana, On Huron St. with the Pink Dogwood Tree.
Anna Parana
September 20, 2019
My deepest condolences to all of his family.I believe that his deep humanity will be invoked and requested for many years to come has he had a birds eye view.With Deepest Respect. Rev. Karen Harrison
Rev.Karen Harrison
September 19, 2019
We, all who make the BirdLife International family, are deeply saddened by the passing of our champion Graeme Gibson. We will miss his wisdom and his love for nature, but offer to honor his legacy by continuing our mission to stop nature loss and protect the birds Graeme was so fond of. Our love and sympathy goes to Margaret and the rest of the family.
Patricia Zurita
September 19, 2019
Very sorry for your lost but will always be remembered for his love of Pelee Island and with every bird.Sending love to your family.
Heather Garrett
September 19, 2019
I only met my second cousin on my moms Burgess side of the family once. I was determined to meet him when he was the honourary representative of the Robbie Burns day polar bear swim in Port Credit. My husband did the swim so we could go and I introduced myself to him. He was very gracious and I have a picture taken with him that I was thrilled to have.
Sincerely, Barb Vassallo
Barbara Vassallo
September 19, 2019
I would like to express my sadness and condolences at the passing of Graeme in both my and Larry Gaynor's name. I know he would also feel very saddened by the news.
Klara Elek
September 18, 2019
Robert day
Invite others to add memories
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences