Donald Henry Cowan
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Professor Emeritus

Department of Medicine,

University of Toronto

It is with deep sadness that the family of Donald Henry Cowan announces his passing. Born in St. John's, Newfoundland on March 27, 1932. He died peacefully, surrounded by his family, at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, on December 22, 2014. The love of his life and wife of 58 years, Norma (Duffe) held his hands until his final breath.  Father of Anne (Mike Montrose), Linda (Ian Murray), Ian (Beverley MacLean) and David. A special acknowledgement  to Shirley Pettit.  Adored grandfather of Garth, Jake, Tess, Colin, Devin, Natalie and Graham. Don was one of the finest physicians one could hope to encounter as either a patient, colleague or student.  He was a gifted teacher of medicine, and passed on the gift of excellence in treatment and compassion towards his patients, to countless young physicians. He had a profound impact on how cancer is treated in the province of Ontario. His resume is extraordinary, including Chief of Medicine at the Sunnybrook Medical Centre and Associate Dean of Medicine at the University of Toronto. But Don was an even better person. His family was always his priority. He was affectionately known as "Skipper" to his grandkids. He enjoyed spending his time in his workshop, his garden and his cottage on Dickie Lake. He will be remembered by his family and friends as someone who willingly spread his wisdom, compassion, humour and kindness to all he met. A special thanks to the Staff at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. A visitation for friends and family will be held at Mount Pleasant Visitation Centre, 375 Mount Pleasant Road (east gate entrance) on Sunday, December 28th from 5-8:30 p.m.  A Memorial Service will be held on Wednesday, December 31st at The Donway Covenant United Church, 230 The Donway West, Don Mills at 11 a.m.

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Published in Toronto Star from Dec. 24 to Dec. 26, 2014.
No memorial events are currently scheduled. To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
Memories & Condolences
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19 entries
January 7, 2015
Dear Norma, I was greatly saddened to see that Don had died. Although I had been in touch with him over the past year or two, I did not realize he was ill - certainly not when we four sat together at that history dinner at St Mikes. Don was the associate dean for our program in occupational therapy at U of T in the 1990s. During my time as chair he was a great support, encouraging us to develop our own path for the program and helping us to champion our cause. Don was a great listener and he had the ability to re-frame confusing issues so as to enable people to move forward. In later years, we commiserated over the difficulties in writing health histories. Last summer, we emailed about seeing "Radical" the play about Vera Peters and he mentioned some of the issues he had to deal with for his book on her. I do hope that all his hard work and dedication will be recognized in a publication soon It will make a wonderful contribution and be a lasting tribute not only to Vera Peters, but to Don himself.
With my deepest sympathy,
Judy Friedland
January 6, 2015
Dear Norma: Don will always b e remembered by Joanne and I as a great person with a marvelous compassion for other humans. He had a warm personality, great sense of humor and was always interested in what we were doing. My only regret is that we did not get together to try some mature Scotch Whiskeys. Our best to all your family in these sad times. We shall always remember Don!
Joanne and Terence O'Heany
Terence O'Heany
December 30, 2014
Dear Mrs. Cowan, Anne, Linda, Ian and David, I am truly sorry for your loss. Dr. Cowan was and will always be a shining example of what a truly good person is. He was a friend, mentor and even a father figure to me growing up and most certainly had a positive influence on me. It is with great sadness that I am writing this today. You are all in my thoughts and prayers. God Bless.
Stephen Pond
December 29, 2014
Dear Norma
Please accept my sincere condolences for your loss. I have many fond memories of Dr. Cowan on our trip to Egypt. Y0u both added greatly to the pleasure of the journey with your kindness and thoughtfulness. I feel blessed that our paths crossed. Rexine Hummel
December 28, 2014
Dear Norma, Linda, Garth and family,
My warm thoughts and sympathies are with you. May you cherish the fond memories to help you at this sad time.
Susan Saksun
December 28, 2014
Dear Mrs. Cowan; It was such a pleasure to speak with you last night. I am so touched that you took the time to contact me regarding the loss of Dr. Cowan. That was so very kind of you.
I am unfortunately one of these people that never seems to know the right thing to say when someone we love has been lost. I am always at a loss for for words, but please know that Dr. Cowan was such a positive part of my Mother's life for many years and she enjoyed working with him so very much!
I am so very sorry for the sadness and loss that you feel right now, but I had a thought today.
If it is possible, I am sure that your husband and my mother will once again team up, work together and make heaven a much better place for all! I can't think of two better people for the job.
With my sincere sympathy,
Lori Thompson, daughter of Marilynne Henry.
December 27, 2014
Dear Norma,
Knowing Don was a great privilege and honor. His friendship during our undergraduate years in medicine will never be forgotten.
Our deepest sympathy to you and your family.

Don and Shirley Steele Scottsdale AZ
December 26, 2014
Dear Norma (Duffe) and Family:
Our condolences to you and your family at this sad time.
Many are of the opinion, the word 'love' is the most misused, and misunderstood word in the English language. It is not popular for men to use this word. But, there is not a more accurate word for how a group of men can share a deep and genuine concern for each other. Don, as a husband, father, grandfather, doctor, teacher, mentor, friend, colleague, etc, deserved that concern and love.
I was filled with love for Don and will cherish innumerable memories of him. We were roommates in residence and graduated together in the class of U. of Toronto, ‘56. Both Gretchen and I prayed for his well-being and comfort as his health declined.
Don was at peace with his fate. As his friend of over 64+ years, I knew of his faith in a higher being. He was not ready to ‘go' as it were because of unfinished business… for example his creating a biography about the pioneering work of Dr. Vera Peters in the treatment of breast cancer. God had other plans for Don.
Don had his family, countless friends and colleagues ‘surrounding' him with their own caring love. Many of us were able to communicate with him in those final weeks via personal contact, phone calls, e-mail messages and so on. It was our way of saying ‘good-bye' to each other. We will miss him greatly.
Fred and Gretchen (Walsh) Los Gatos, CA
December 26, 2014
Condolences to the entire family for your loss. I am sure he will be missed by many people in many ways. My deepest sympathies.
Bill Just
December 26, 2014
My fond memories of Don are filled with fun, respect, humour, and a good deal of amazement. He was a wonderful friend and classmate from high school through meds and retirement.
Doug & Eila Kennedy
December 26, 2014
Dear Norma and family,
Our sincere sympathy is extended to you all at this time of your great loss of Don. He will be remembered by us in thoughts and prayers.
Brendan and Betty Sweeney.
Seal Beach, California.
December 26, 2014
Sharon and I deeply saddened with Don's passing. As fine a person, as I have known, in my lifetime and a great classmate.
Sharon and Robin Arnold
December 25, 2014
Dr. Cowan was a tremendous force behind the book the History of Sunnybrook Hospital. He was always so kind in his memories of others and gave the most accurate accounts of any story he provided. He made the edit process enjoyable with his words of encouragement. He was very understated despite his many, many accomplishments...He was a real gentleman. And, I will miss him.
Francesca Grosso, author, The History of Sunnybrook Hospital
Francesca Grosso
December 25, 2014
Dear Norma and family, we are with you in our thoughts, and share your grief.
Tatjana and Darko Kolakovic
December 24, 2014
Dear Norma and family. I am so sorry for your loss and at this time of the year too. I admired Don greatly and was pleased to call you both a friend, over these many years since he stepped down as the Sunnybrook PIC. You and the family have my sincere condolences. I am currently in Calgary but will return on Sunday, hopefully in time for the visitation. Janet Fraser
Janet Fraser
December 24, 2014
Don was such a strong part of the lives of everyone he knew - loved, respected, envied by all. I know my MD classmates of U of T 1956 join with me in conveying their deep sympathies. He'll be terribly missed.
Laurie Naiman
December 24, 2014
Dearest Norma:What a magnificent fellow, whose friendship counsel and help I will remember. I share your grief
Bud Godfrey
December 24, 2014
In loving memory of a wonderful person who contributed so much, to his family and friends.
With love,
Marilyn Jackson.
December 24, 2014
I am so sorry for your loss. May the Most High God comfort you as you mourn the loss of your loved one. (Psalm 83:18)
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