We Remember

CALDWELL, Ardley Howard

August 7, 1938 — July 11, 2022

“I warmed both hands before the fire of life.”

The passing of Ardley Howard Caldwell (“Ard” or “Art” to most) leaves relatives and friends sorrowful yet peaceful. Sad because his love, wisdom and clever wit are forever gone; and at peace because we all take comfort knowing that during his time with us, he touched our lives and the lives of many other people from all walks of life with his counsel, humour and generous acts of humanity. Who was this man? He was just another man but a different sort of man. He was intensely loyal to his personal friends, whether janitor or corporate president, professional or someone driving a forklift, working from a toolbox or sitting behind a desk, highly educated or uneducated, whether wearing an expensive suit or grimy coveralls. Such shallow distinctions made no difference to him. What was inside a person is what mattered, not their skin colour and not their station in life.

He was complex. He was sociable yet very private. To close friends he was like a brother; to some he appeared enigmatic; to many he was refreshingly knowable. To him life and death did not demand the intercession of some deity. He believed in the laws of science, not theology. He believed there is only one species, only one ‘race,’ regardless of appearance. We are all the same, Homo sapiens. We evolved in Africa, so we are all Africans. He believed that our only life should be lived discovering the profound natural beauty and rhythms of earth, learning the only indisputable language of human existence. He believed we have only one life to be lived. We are born, we live for a time, and we die. While we live, he believed we should explore the exciting opportunities for self-discovery and for gaining evidence-based knowledge.

To him, equality and social justice for all humans should be humanity’s universal credo. Holding firmly to these beliefs, he remained undaunted by smallminded, racist thinkers. He never shied from asking difficult questions. During his successful career, he played a valuable role as devil’s advocate, seeking to achieve well reasoned decisions, whether popular or unpopular. In possession of a quick and restless mind, he was a keen student of human behaviour.

He was born August 7, 1938, in Eugene, Oregon. Raised at the edge of poverty, he was rescued from adoption or foster care by his extremely pious maternal grandmother in Oakland, California. He graduated from Oakland High School in June 1956. Overcoming the privations and emotional turmoil of his childhood, dreadful conditions which he never forgot, he claimed a life far removed from his nightmarish beginnings. Turning 18 and not wishing to wait for the U.S. military draft, he volunteered his draft and served two years on active duty in the U. S. Army. After basic training at Fort Ord, California, he was transferred to a crack, combat-ready infantry outfit at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where he was pursued to become an officer and make the military his life. He graciously declined.

Following the military, he entered San Francisco State University in 1958.  Admitting to being rather scholarly, an “egghead jock,” he was nonetheless humbled, but not persuaded, when called an intellectual. A cerebral undergraduate student, upon graduation, he accepted a coveted position in graduate school as teaching assistant to the Chairman of the Sociology Department at Cornell University. There he began his graduate studies, preparing for a career of university teaching and research. There he became an activist in the Civil Rights movement. Later, he was appointed an instructor of sociology at the University of Nevada, Reno. He loved university teaching and found campus life exciting and rewarding, but academic politics were not to his liking. With great remorse, he abandoned his dreams of academia, choosing to pursue a corporate career.

From management trainee in labour relations with General Motors in the United States to vice-president of several Canadian corporations, he was always a role model, mentor and teacher. He considered himself a catalyst for humanizing outmoded corporate cultures. He never spurned the yoke of leadership, quite the opposite. He wanted to move into positions where he could influence corporate policy and practices, where he could be an effective advocate for all employees. He was a thoughtful, skilled leader, a natural leader, who relished the challenge of decision making, while accepting the full weight of accountability.

Seeking reliable career employment and seeking relief from the sheer madness and national shame of the Vietnam War, he and his wife immigrated to Canada, becoming Canadian citizens. Wherever he was employed, he wanted to make the organization successful whilst creating a better place for all employees to work and prosper.

Drawing heavily on his academic training in sociology, psychology, social psychology and economics, he promoted an enlightened attitude toward labour relations by using a non-adversarial, interest-based approach to conflict resolution and collective bargaining. He was highly respected by both union leaders and management groups; however, most of all, he cherished the honest affection, mutual respect and trust he received from ordinary employees, union and non-union alike.

He had a passionate sense of social justice. He was confident yet down-to-earth, strong yet sensitive. A proud man, he confessed that his intense pride was both his ally and his anguish. When closely examined, his credo was straightforward:  humanity, humility and personal credibility. Amid his failings and successes, amid his times of near fatal despair and moments of joy, he never lost sight of who he was, his humble beginnings and all the caring people who helped him.

His corporate management career, the majority of which was in Canada, spanned nearly 35 years, generally in senior and executive positions in such industries as automobile and aerospace manufacturing, health care, aluminum smelting, oil and gas, education and telecommunications. In addition, he and his wife operated a successful consulting business offering clients consultative services in administrative management, computer systems, human resources and labour relations.

In 1989, while consulting to Okanagan B.C. School Trustees, respecting collective bargaining and labour relations matters, he was the tour de force conceptualizing and then implementing a province-wide computer database and information retrieval system, which was designed to assist school administrators and school trustees across the province with their decisions, utilizing key policy comparisons, collective bargaining settlements and outcomes of conflict resolution procedures. When operational, the system was headquartered in Kelowna and was known as ERIS (Employee Relations Information System). He wrote training guides on employee and labour relations that focused on conflict resolution and bargaining techniques, promoting a collaborative style as a forward-thinking alternative to old-style adversarial bargaining.

But above all, he treasured children, all children. He often spoke with strong emotions about his most rewarding life experience being when employed by the Oakland Recreation Department (Oakland, California), while working his way through San Francisco State University. Across the city, he provided counsel, positive learning experiences and athletic coaching to all manner of deprived, impoverished, marginalized children and youth of all colours and ethnicities. They loved him. He loved them. They were all “his kids.”

In Calgary, two children, Corlyss and Jarvis, were born to Ardley and Jeanette, his wife of over 50 years. His love for children and their athletic activities found a home coaching various team sports like his son’s championship Calgary Little League baseball teams. His son’s and daughter’s competitive swimming inspired him to accept an Executive Committee position with the very successful Cascade Swim Club of Calgary; and he became immersed in his son’s Lake Bonavista community youth hockey program.

While working in Calgary health care, he served on the Alberta Provincial Bargaining Team; and as a vice president of administration in the oil and gas industry, he chaired the Standing Committee on Human Resources for the Canadian Petroleum Association. As well, he was a Founding Member of the Alberta Society for Training and Development.

As a volunteer, he served the United Way of Calgary as Vice President of the Board and as Chairman of the influential Services Planning and Review Committee (SPARC). As Chairman of SPARC, he spearheaded funding for several vital social services which had previously been denied funding, having been deemed “politically” unacceptable by the Board of the United Way of Calgary. As well, nationally, he served the United Way as a sitting member of the Board of Directors of the United Way of Canada, Ottawa.  Wherever he lived, he was always involved in the community.

In Kitimat, British Columbia, he was Alcan’s corporate representative on various municipal, sector and social committees. He was the organizing force behind a Problems of the North Conference held in Prince George, drawing participants from corporations, unions, three levels of government and First Nations. Living in Delta, British Columbia, he acted as facilitator for a self-help group sponsored by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Delta for parents of ‘problem’ teenagers. He was assistant coach of his son’s South Delta Secondary School volleyball team and a supporter the Vancouver Symphony.

In Kelowna, British Columbia, he was a member of the Okanagan Symphony Society and a member of Chamber Music Kelowna. With a son and a daughter still in competitive swimming, he supported the Kelowna AquaJets Swim Club. He was his son’s Kelowna baseball coach and assisted with coaching his daughter’s KLO Senior Secondary’s basketball team, as well as supporting her many triathlon and rowing successes. In Lake Country, British Columbia, he was Vice Chairman of the Community Development Committee and a Charter Member of the Lake Country Chamber of Commerce.

An astute student of human behaviour, he was able to grasp complex ideas that seemed but vague notions to many others. To him, the outward expression of human emotions was normal, functioning as productive tools for well-being, whether it be humour, tears of joy, or tears of sorrow. As in literature and music, emotions become key elements of humanity and expressing them was often positive, not negative. Making people laugh became his personal hallmark. He was perceptive, quick and reflective, a master at repartee, double entendre and facetious humour. He was one of those unusual people capable of seeing the whole forest as well as individual trees.

But his perceptive capacity often brought him despair and loneliness—heartache from seeing appalling inequality, poverty, bigotry, systemic racism, suffering and starvation, especially among Indigenous Peoples and persons of African descent who often lived amid obscene abundance, in full view of mankind’s inveterate indifference to the plight of his fellow man—too often driven by religion and corporate greed. It delivered anger and frustration to him seeing the disturbing rise of zealous ideologues duplicitously gaining political power, resulting from apathy, bigotry, racism or lack of knowledge by voting citizens, then cunningly attacking culture, science and secular institutions, the very foundations of democracy, human rights and social justice. It produced within him an unutterable loathing for religious fundamentalism of all descriptions and religious hypocrisy of all stripes. He agreed with Mark Twain that the human cost of religion is global atrocity, bigotry, hate, racism, intolerance, genocide and endless wars, nearly turning the entire planet into a graveyard in the name of one declared deity, dogma or another.

Generously sharing his opinions and thoughts, he was a freethinker and an iconoclast. He often joked about being burdened by an endless curiosity. He believed to exercise freethinking and have creative thoughts one must escape the dark clutches of piety and avoid the tyranny of intellectual conformity. He claimed he came into this world asking questions much as Mark Twain claimed he came into this world asking for a light for a cigar. He believed that only through a quirk in evolution was earth’s well-being entrusted to us, we Homo sapiens. He felt that as accidental stewards of our delicate biosphere, we have shamefully failed in our moral obligation to protect our delicate conservancy and our fellow creatures from irreparable exploitation and ineffable calamity. He mourned that unchecked climate change would likely be our end, if not nuclear war.

After meeting Ansel Adams in 1955 in Yosemite National Park, while still attending high school in Oakland, he became a life-long member of the Sierra Club, first in the United States and then in Canada. He was an avowed environmentalist. He supported the Wilderness Committee and other Canadian environmental organizations, seeking to emulate the beliefs of Indigenous Peoples.

He was a natural athlete and excelled at most sports. However, try as he might, he never managed to break 80 in golf, even using winter rules in August! He truly lived a vigorous life. While at San Francisco State University, his goal to become the first university graduate in his family and then attend graduate school were put ahead of signing a professional minor league baseball contract. He received offers from two major league teams while playing university and semi-professional baseball in San Francisco. Before immigrating to Canada, he was President of the Denver Track Club and a Founding Member and first President of the Rocky Mountain Roadrunners in Denver, Colorado.

He sincerely thanks and bids a very fond farewell to his ‘workout buddies’ at the World Gym in Kelowna—keep on keepin’ on and keep laughing! Your camaraderie was valued more than you’ll ever know.

Not an accomplished musician or an artist, but having eclectic tastes in both, he loved classical music, Motown, folk, jazz, blues, and he cherished art and sculpture. An unrepentant bibliophile, books, both fiction and non-fiction, were one of his two great personal passions, the other being classical music, especially Bach, Beethoven and Mozart—his Holy Trinity.

A raconteur of some repute and having harboured a life-long yearning to write, following his early retirement due to prostate cancer, he completed four praiseworthy, full-length novels. Highly acclaimed by peer reviewers and readers, his literary works remain unpublished. Possessing an impressive vocabulary, and an equally impressive ability to write, he respected words for their exactness and ethereal qualities, for their radiance and darkness, for their poetry and clout, delicacy and harshness. Tongue in cheek, he once declared he was the best unpublished Canadian novelist of his generation.

Husband, father, grandfather, and uncle, he is survived by his wife of over 50 years, Jeanette Adams Caldwell of Kelowna, British Columbia. He and Jeanette have a daughter, Corlyss Hagarty and son-in-law, David Hagarty of Guelph, Ontario; a son Jarvis Caldwell and daughter-in-law Lora Caldwell of Sacramento, California; and five grandchildren, Eamon, Maeve and Nola Hagarty of Guelph, Ontario, and Brooklyn and Clay Caldwell of Sacramento, California. He is also survived by nephews, Kenneth Caldwell of Denver, Colorado and Charles Caldwell of Eugene, Oregon, and two nieces Cheryl Tillinghast of Tampa, Florida and Laurel Aguilar of San Antonio, Texas. He was predeceased by his parents, Howard and Violet Caldwell, his brother Brice and his sister, Belva Cyrene.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations in his memory to Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society of Kelowna, 442 Leon Avenue, Kelowna, B.C., V1Y 6J3, a non-profit providing services to Indigenous and non-Indigenous members of the community, including ESL classes for immigrants; or to Sierra Club Canada, 412-1 Nicholas Street, Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 7B7.  A tree in his memory will be planted in Fish Creek Provincial Park, Calgary, to honour his years living in that city.

A Private Graveside Service was held for Ardley in the Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery on July 19, 2022.  A Celebration of Life will be held in Kelowna early September.

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