MIDDLETON, Robert Morrice
February 24, 1931 — January 8, 2016
The Middleton Clan has lost our Patriarch. Robert Morrice Middleton passed away peacefully with his family by his side on Jan. 8th in Kelowna at the age of 84.
Grandson of William and Catherine Middleton, a prominent pioneering family who had immigrated to the Vernon area from Scotland in June of 1892 with Lord & Lady Aberdeen to their newly acquired Coldstream Ranch. In 1893 they purchased a large tract of land from the Aberdeens and established what was to become Midmar Ranch at the base of Middleton Mountain in the Coldstream and which would ultimately become Robert’s childhood home.
Robert was the third son of William (Billy) and Jessie Middleton and was born on February 24, 1931 in Truro Nova Scotia while his father was serving as the Provincial Horticulturalist for the Nova Scotia Government. Young Robert was dotted on by a loving older brother Douglas who was 11 years his senior. His second brother John had been born in 1929 but sadly died in infancy in 1930. With a change in government the family moved back to Vernon in 1933 to take over operations of Midmar Ranch where young Robert became enthralled with horses and farm life.
In 1938 his father was appointed Assistant Fruit Trade Commissioner for Canada in London England. There Robert at age 8 was enrolled in a prestigious private Boys School for which he still has one of his school uniforms (we mounted it in a Shadow box for his 80th birthday). Unfortunately that posting disappeared with the outbreak of World War 2 and the family had to come back to Vernon in March of 1940. On their return to Vernon his older brother Doug enlisted with the BC Dragoons – 9th Armoured Regiment and later in the RCAF. His career when overseas was always a concern for young Robert until his safe return in 1946.
It was during this time that his father did his best to lure Robert into ranching or at least teach him some sense of responsibility. He somewhat succeeded in getting Robert to at least raise a couple of cows in a youth programme for judging but discovered that while Robert liked the cattle shows and the money from the sales, he didn’t do too well with the care and feeding that preceded it. What he was successful in getting Roberts interest in was horses and the sport of Polo and Equestrian riding. Robert ended up having a lifelong interest in horses and remembered the names of all of the horses he or the family owned over the years.
In 1949 Robert graduated from Vernon High School and was selected to give the Valedictory Address – a moment honored & treasured by his parents. That fall Robert headed off to UBC in Vancouver where he again excelled academically, including a near miss at a Rhodes scholarship. 1952 saw his brother Dougs wedding to Evelyn Cools, the eldest daughter of another pioneering Vernon family Joseph & Vera Cools. In 1953 he graduated from UBC with a B.A.(Honours) in Economics degree.
After some vacation time in England he joined the Department of External Affairs in 1955. The first two years were spent in Ottawa training for his first posting which was from 1957 to 1959 at the Canadian Embassy in Djakarta, Indonesia as Under Secretary. His next posting was to Rio de Janerio, Brazil in 1962 as First Secretary and Charge d’Affaires until 1964. In 1967 he was sent to Washington D.C. as a Counsellor until 1971. In late 1967 he was pleased to host his Brother Doug, wife Evelyn and two of their children. In between those years were, one might say, ‘short’ stays in Ottawa to prepare for his next postings interspersed with special assignments to other parts of the world for sometimes what seemed to be confidential missions.
Throughout this time he managed to travel ‘home’ to visit his parents and brother Doug’s family. Uncle Bob, as he was now known to his niece and 4 nephews, always managed to bring the coolest new toys from faraway places that no other kid had, especially when those trips were at Christmas. It was also during this time that he introduced that generation to things like Skiing either at Silver Star or the old Tillicum Valley Ski Hill. Sadly the mid to late 70’s also saw the passing of his father in April of 1976 and then within 48 hours the tragic death of his nephew Robbie whom had been named after him at age 18. Then his Mother Jessie would pass in May of 1978.
By the mid 70’s his ranking in the Foreign Service had risen and he held several interesting positions based in Ottawa and elsewhere culminating with his posting as the High Commissioner (Ambassador) to Ghana in August of 1976 where he also had responsibility for Benin, Liberia, Togo and Lesotho until January 1979. At that time, instead of heading back to Ottawa, he was appointed the Ambassador to South Africa, a somewhat difficult posting during the era of apartheid. He would remain in that posting, with additional responsibility for Swaziland and Lesotho, until August of 1982 when he was brought back to Ottawa to Head up he referred to as the Human Rights Department.
In 1985 he took a short leave of absence to move to London to take a course in valuing & researching antiques with Christies – a field he had been introduced to by his mother many years earlier. He also undertook the huge effort to trace the Family Tree history by spending a huge amount of time researching through records and such in libraries, government offices and church records – something that we now use a computer to do on-line.
By 1986 he was back in Ottawa as the Director General for African affairs a post involving a continent he was by now very familiar with. In July of 1989 tragedy struck again when his brother Doug’s wife Evelyn passed away after a long illness. In typical fashion he was there to support his big brother as best he could. In September of 1989 he was appointed the Ambassador to Cuba another hot bed of political activity at the time. Here he met with Fidel Castro and in 1991 hosted former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau and his now late son Michel on a visit to Cuba. This posting lasted until 1992 when he returned to Ottawa once more. This would be his final stay in Ottawa where shortly thereafter he decided to call it a career after 37 years of service to his country in a job he loved and in which he was able to meet countless heads of state & royalty and travel the world.
A confirmed lifelong Bachelor, his retirement years after 1992 were spent in the cultural mecca of London, England the place where he enjoyed pursuing his passion of antiques, genealogy, going to the latest Plays, Symphonies and Museums with friends and occasionally family. He also enjoyed attending the famous Travelers Club – described as the “quintessential English Gentleman’s Club” by the LA Times. The clubs honorary members included members of the British and foreign royal families, various Ambassadors to England and particularly distinguished travellers. Uncle Bob fit the criteria for membership and thoroughly enjoyed his association with this club. Several nephews and grandnephews were honored and privileged to attend with him on a few occasions over the years.
During this time he settled in to a comfortable townhome in a nice area of London where he hosted his various family members on visits and friends. He managed to travel now for his own pleasure and often made the trip back to Canada to visit his family in the Okanagan which was growing with the marriages and subsequent children of his niece and nephews. Sadly in 1999, and 10 years after the passing of his wife Evelyn, his brother Doug passed away in July. He was now the last of his generation and assumed the role of Patriarch, a role he thrived on to the end.
In 2002 he sold his first townhome and purchased a new, larger one nearby in what was said to be the same complex that Princess Diana had lived before marrying Prince Charles. Much more suited to his growing antiques collection he thoroughly enjoyed his time there and even sat as a director & then secretary of what we would call their Strata council. In 2003 he decided to take a Swan Hellenic Cruise in the Far East. As not to be unexpected with Uncle Bob this was not your typical cruise in that it was geared towards “specialising in tours of historical or cultural interest aimed at the upper end of the cruise market”. He thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and wrote extensively about his trip, the historical sites they visited and the opportunities on board to rub shoulders with the who’s who of typically British High Society.
With advancing age and various ailments taking their toll by the mid to late 2000’s he ultimately made the decision to spend his declining years with his extended family back in Canada. In September of 2009 he sold his ‘Flat’ in London and moved back to Kelowna, where his niece and 3 nephews lived, and moved into an Independent Living facility Sandalwood Retirement Resort. Here he enjoyed the ‘Good Life’, as they advertise, and met several interesting residents while taking time to get out to the various cultural events around the city where he met other like-minded individuals.
During this time he also gave generously to the Okanagan Symphony, Ballet Kelowna, the Kelowna Art Gallery and attended the services at St Michaels & All Angels Anglican Cathedral. He also enjoyed visiting the local Museums and especially the Vernon Museum where they had significant references and records relating to the Middleton familys pioneering efforts in the Valley. He also helped pass the torch on to the next generation to continue his genealogical research into the Middleton family tree – something that we have taken on in earnest with the advent of the computer age and which has possibly identified some royal blood – something that he was surprised about but which he demanded further examination and confirmation of course.
The last couple of years were very trying for him as his health declined. His family rallied behind him giving support, frequent visits and when he was able and took him to church on Sundays. It was also at this time that the family arranged for a special care aid – Oliver Sabados – to provide care, emotional support and assist him with his daily living challenges. Words cannot express our family’s gratitude and appreciation for this man who can be best described as a saint sent from up above. He made Roberts last years at least more comfortable with his care and genuine compassion.
Our last memories of Uncle Bob were at SunPointe Village Residential Care facility where he was cared for by Oliver and a very capable staff of nurses and care aides. In the 6 months prior to his passing he was able to spend time at the lake in Vernon with his niece & family, attend one of his grandnieces wedding, and one of his grandnephews promotion to 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force. The last events some of us were able to spend with him were a non-denominational Christmas Eve service at the home where he sang along with the carols and then sat and had cookies and tea. He also had a Christmas Brunch with his niece and family at the Yacht Club where he was able to look out at the water. Then we were able to gather most of the extended family together on Saturday January 2nd for a family New Years celebration where, despite not feeling well, he was able to spend some time with us. Little did we know that 6 short days later he would pass away. Words cannot express our love for our Uncle. He was an exceptional man who lived a full and exciting life and who will be sorely missed by family and friends.
A Funeral service will be held on Friday, January 15, 2016 at 10:00 am at The Cathedral Church of St. Michael and All Angels, 608 Sutherland Ave., Kelowna, BC. In lieu of flowers please consider donating to support your local Museum, Symphony or Arts society in your community as those organizations were near and dear to his heart.
A Funeral service will be held on Friday, January 15, 2016 at 10:00 am at The Cathedral Church of St Michael and All Angels, 608 Sutherland Ave., Kelowna, BC. In lieu of flowers please consider donating to support your local Museum, Symphony or Arts society in your community as those organizations were near and dear to his heart. For those wishing to send a condolence, photos or share memories, may do so by scrolling down this page to the area called “Share Your Condolences.”
The service for MIDDLETON, Robert Morrice is scheduled for Friday, January 15, 2016 at 10:00 am . Below you will find the map for the service location and the contact information should you have any questions.