BALFOUR, Arthur Joseph “Art”
August 31, 1924 — January 30, 2024
Born August 31, 1924, in Toronto, ON, Art Balfour passed away on January 30, 2024, in Kelowna, BC. He is survived by his five daughters and one son.
How best to capture the essence of an almost century-long lifespan? Born in 1924, Arthur Joseph Balfour lived a childhood characterized by the Depression, served in WWII, married and raised 6 children, worked an oil patch career, and enjoyed a long retirement. He was a dedicated husband and father, a lover of jazz, an enthusiastic consumer of all things sweet, loved the horse races, played the stock market, loved hiking in the Rockies and Friday night beers. He lived through so much, and he had a very good Canadian life.
He made a great choice in marrying Mom (Ethel), who left us all too soon at the age of 63, but gave so much to us while she could. She and Dad were role models of a solid marriage, mutually loving and respectful, consistently of one mind when up against a child of a different mind, happy and productive throughout their marriage.
Dad recovered enough from losing Mom to meet the most excellent Mary Becker and forged a wonderful 25-year partnership that ended only when ill health entered the picture. Mary and Dad shared many adventures, both at home and abroad with a broad circle of family and friends.
Dad’s long life has been a sweet, sweet gift. We kids have known Dad as Hero Father when we were young (a role he continued to play til the end), as Uncool Father when we were teens pushing back and wondering why he just didn’t get it. He was a proud Father when each of us graduated university and made our forays into the working world. He became Grandpa in the early 80s (18 grandchildren) Great Grandpa in 2016, (14 great grandkids) and took delight in all of it. Throughout all, he has been warm, kind, supportive, inclined to see the best in all, disinclined to think negatively of others, and quick to make friends.
He created the expectation in all 6 of us that we would be university graduates. With hindsight, we all appreciate the well-intentioned manipulation Dad performed through bedtime stories of Yogi and Boo Boo that ended with Yogi going to university.
His own life, perspectives, and worldview were influenced by parents who came through WWI. His father was injured and miraculously rescued at Passchendaele, which left him disabled and in pain for the rest of his life. We think Dad was an ‘active’ child, which may have had something to do with his mother having her second a full 8 years later. But she went on to have 5 children. His sister Gail Osborne and baby brother David Balfour survive him. Dad was surrounded by family, doting aunts, and memorable times at a cottage on Lake Kashé.
Dad’s generation was steeped in a sense of duty that extended to putting one’s life at risk for country. He flew bombers during the war. The War, a tragedy for humanity, was a positive for Dad. His fortunes were boosted when he survived his pilot’s training, survived the war, and was sent to university upon returning to Toronto. With a BComm he was to benefit from the socio-economic effects of a university degree at an ideal economic moment. His career moves meant stints in Toronto, Buffalo, and eventually Calgary, where he and Mom settled for the long haul. They were comfortable living on one salary, raising us 6 kids.
As we grew, Dad and Mom pursued competitive bridge and helped found the first chapter of “The Great Books” club in Calgary. Dad enjoyed a long and prosperous retirement from Amoco Canada beginning in 1984. He took sailing lessons on Calgary’s Glenmore reservoir and eventually purchased a sailboat called, “Schnuddle”, a nod to Mom’s creative wordplay. Volunteer work took Mom and him to the NWT, Yukon, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Columbia, and China where Dad volunteered his information management skills and Mom practised English with the locals.
Dad and all of us were very saddened by Mary Becker’s death in August 2021. She had been a loving, welcoming, fun presence for all Dad’s kids and was thought of as grandma to Dad’s grandkids.
We were all relieved that he stopped driving at 95, a piece of freedom hard for him to give up. And we are amused that his final meal was chocolate, of course it was. He had a superior run.
“To live in this world
you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it
against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go”.
– Excerpt from “In Blackwater Woods” by Mary Oliver, from American Primitive. © Back Bay Books, 1983.
A gathering to honour Art is in the planning stages, more will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in support of your local YM/YWCA.
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