PITMAN, Walter George "The arts are, above all, how we express the finest elements of our humanity – our understanding, our compassion, our caring, and our love." Walter was a remarkable man who led a remarkable life. Keen, vibrant, and insatiably curious, he supported the arts, social justice, environment, and education – everything that is good and right. A man of rare integrity, he fought passionately for equality and justice. And he did so with compassion, kindness, and joy. Walter was born in 1929 in Toronto to Ernest and Elsie (Kendrick) Pitman. In 1952, he married the love of his life, Florence Ida Collinge (1925-2016). They lived a life of great beauty, generously supporting artistic communities and cultural institutions; almost every day of the week attending opera, film, galleries, museums, symphony, theatre, book launches, and choral concerts. Their home was both a gallery and meeting place, celebrating their commitment to creativity and family. Ida herself was a master spinner and weaver, and together they sought out craftspeople all over the world. Always on the go, Walter was an avid marathoner, skier, sailor, piano player, and choir singer. With Ida, he was a dedicated member of the Trinity St. Paul's church. Walter and Ida had four children, their pride and joy: Wade (Mary), Cynthia Lynn (Don), Mark (Jeanne-Marie), and Anne (James). They adored their grandchildren: Matthew (Esmaralda), Lisa (Sascha), Dan (Alison), Jeremy (Heather), Diana, Jaclyn, Blair, Josh (Jennifer), Zoe, Alexandre, Jared, Kieran (Charlie), and Noah (Taylor). They were beyond delighted to welcome great-grandchildren: Sebastian, Callista, Xavier, Keagan, Mackenzie, Dexter, Walter, Julian, Isla, and Kai. Adam and Val were cherished family, found later in life. Walter Pitman began his career as a dedicated high school history teacher at Kenner Collegiate in Peterborough, quickly becoming the head of the History department at Langstaff Secondary School in Richmond Hill. In 1960 he made history by becoming the first New Democratic Party (New Party) Member of Parliament for Peterborough, where he and Ida made their first family home. Passionate about education, he became the Dean of Arts and Science at what was then, a new Trent University. In 1967, he was elected as a member of the Ontario Legislature for the NDP where he became a well respected Education Critic, chair of the NDP caucus, and, in 1970, Deputy Leader of the Ontario NDP. After a short time, he turned back to education where he eventually was offered the Presidency of Ryerson Polytechnic Institute (now Ryerson University). Here, he immediately brought his penthouse office down to the ground floor in order to more accessible to students. Pitman Hall, a residence at Ryerson, was named after both Walter and Ida, at Walter's insistence. After Ryerson he moved on to be Executive Director of the Ontario Arts Council and then Director of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. He was a proud Member of the Order of Ontario and an officer of the Order of Canada. He was the Chair of Elderhostel Canada, Ontario Education Association, Canadian Association for Adult Education, Energy Probe, Arts Education Council, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Project Ploughshares, and Interim Waste Authority. Walter was a Member of the Board of National Ballet of Canada, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Toronto Children's Chorus, and Campaign Against Child Poverty, and was one of the founders and on the steering committee of For Our Grandchildren. He wrote for the Peterborough Examiner and submitted a weekly column at the Toronto Star. In "retirement," he became an accomplished author of five books, supporting arts in education, and official biographer for Louis Applebaum, Harry Freidman and Mary Morrison, Elmer Eisler, and Victor Feldbrill. Walter's awards and accolades are just too many to mention. Walter died gracefully, in love, surrounded by his family. To honour Walter's lifelong generosity of spirit, please consider a donation to The Stephen Lewis Foundation, Orpheus Choir Toronto, For Our Grandchildren, or Parkinson Canada. A celebration of Walter's exemplary life will take place on Friday, June 22nd at 7 p.m. at Trinity St. Paul's United Church at 427 Bloor Street West, Toronto. Reception to follow.
Published in Toronto Star from Jun. 13 to Jun. 14, 2018.