Gary Robert was born on December 19, 1940 in Galt, Ontario to parents Henry Robert (Bob) and Ivy Marguerite (Sargeant) Letcher. He was an only child and grew up on Park Avenue in Burlington with his mother, father and Grandfather Letcher, affectionately known as “Gov”. Easterbrook’s hotdogs were a great favourite of Gary’s, especially when Mrs. Crouchley tipped him 25 cents for milk delivery on Saturdays.
Gary attended Waterdown District High School, graduating in 1959. He enrolled in Hamilton Teachers College and obtained a teaching certificate in 1960. He and Marilyn Coleman married and welcomed a son, Shawn Robert Nichol in 1962, with daughter Tara Michelle completing their family in 1969. His first teaching positions were with Beverly Acres and Crosby Heights public schools in Richmond Hill. While working fulltime, Gary continued his education and attained a Bachelor of Arts degree at York University (1970) and a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Toronto (1974).
After working for the York Region District School Board, he took a position with the Simcoe County Board of Education. Gary was a talented teacher and quickly became a vice-principal and principal. He loved teaching Math, English, poetry, and many other subjects, as well as being involved in his students’ athletics. Gary was devoted to his students and his staff. He served at several schools, including Hillcrest, Innisfil Central, Goodfellow, Forest Hill, and Assikinack public schools.
Gary also became involved with the Ontario Public School Teachers Federation (OPSTF). During his time with the organization, he served as treasurer for six years and as grievance officer for four years. He then served a one-year term as President. Gary was a forward-thinking administrator, often considered ahead of his time. Upon retirement, he was named an Honorary Life Member of OPSTF.
Tobermory was one of Gary’s great loves. His parents, Bob and Ivy, bought a cottage on Hay Bay in the early 1960s. There were many years of fun and unforgettable family visits, creating wonderful memories for Shawn and Tara. Gary purchased his uncle’s cottage in the 1980s, just down the road from his parents’ cottage. He made the trek to Tobermory on weekends and worked tirelessly on the cottage, cutting brush and landscaping the rugged terrain.
Tobermory became Gary’s permanent home when he retired. He continued to improve the property, expanding the cottage twice, creating a welcoming sanctuary. He loved woodworking, restoring furniture, landscaping, fishing, boating and hunting. The hot tub was a favourite place to relax, usually with a nice cold beverage! However, shovelling a path to it was not much fun, so Gary, Reg and Shawn built an amazing indoor hot tub room, complete with cathedral ceiling and beautiful wooden beams, overlooking the lake. Paradise!
Gary was an excellent euchre player. He was a frequent prize winner for his “lone hands” at events throughout the Peninsula. He loved a good game of Backgammon (especially when he back-gammoned his opponent) and he also enjoyed chess. He was an avid reader, with authors Baldacci, Grisham, Clancy, Cornwell and Patterson being favourites. He also had a great sense of humour; many pranks were played back and forth with friends and colleagues over the years…
Gary was a life-long supporter of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the New York Rangers, attending live games with friends whenever possible; he almost never missed a televised game. He also loved the Chicago Bears. There’s a suspicious tale that he was once mistaken for the famous football player “Bronko Nagurski”. He signed quite a few autographs that day before he and co-conspirator Reg Thacker made a quick get-away!
Gary enjoyed cross-country skiing, travelling and theatre. He went on a number of cruises both before and after he retired. He loved spending winters at the Magic Tree Resort in Florida and had a real fondness for “corner spot” at the Magic Tree pool. Other favourite places included Portugal, Cuba, Mexico, Italy, Hawaii, Ireland, England and Europe, travelling throughout the US, and visiting New Brunswick with Lois for some down-east lobster dinners with family. Everyone who knew Gary knew how much he loved food, especially potluck dinners. And desserts!
Gary was an avid collector of Ontario art and paintings. He also collected Canadian paintings on decorative plates. He especially enjoyed scenes depicted by Cornelius Krieghoff. At one point, his green Depression glass numbered over a hundred pieces. He also loved his chess sets. He refinished antique furniture and loved a good yard sale, especially when there were antiques to be found and bargains to be had! However, he was a master negotiator when HE was hosting a yard sale.
As a youth, Gary joined the Royal Canadian Army Cadets. Then as a young man, he joined the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Reserves and served five years, attaining the rank of Sergeant. He was a Legion member for over 30 years: a member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 290 in Tobermory and, most recently, a member of Branch #383 in Tara.
Gary and Lois met at the Toronto Airport during a bad snowstorm in 2005. They fell in love and married in Fredericton, NB. Gary graciously donned a kilt for the ceremony and looked quite dashing. Summers in Tobermory brought relaxing rides on the Chi-Cheemaun ferry, visits from life-long friends, happy hour with fellow cottagers, and delicious dinners at Gary’s harvest table. Winters were spent at Magic Tree. They were devoted to each other. Gary was also devoted to Ivy. He took excellent care of his beloved mom and missed her very much when she passed away, peacefully, in 2008, at the graceful age of 91.
Gary was affiliated with several churches over the years. He served on the Board of Stewards at Burton Avenue United Church in Barrie and has one of their original tiffany lights in his home, a prized possession. He and Lois attended the Tobermory Anglican church with Ivy and later attended the Tobermory and Tara United Churches, as his health allowed.
Their lives changed drastically when Gary was diagnosed with Parkinson’s/Lewy Body Disease in 2014. Their cottage in Tobermory presented too many physical barriers so they relocated to an accessible home in a wonderful neighbourhood in Tara. His strength, fortitude, sense of humour, and courage continued throughout during his illness. Lois cared for Gary’s every need, always putting him before herself. She continued to show unwavering love, tenderness and support to Gary throughout this difficult time, never leaving his side.
Sadly, Gary passed away on Sunday, November 24, 2019 at the Chesley Hospital, at the age of 78. Beloved husband and best friend of Lois (MacLennan). Loving father of his children, Shawn Letcher (Patti) and Tara (Peter) Koeyers, and step-father of Victoria Clowater. Fondly remembered by nieces Natalie and Nikki and nephews Andrew, Matthew, Mark, and Carter. Long-time friend of Reg (Karen) Thacker, Ron (Joanne) Andriet, Linda (Bud) Godhue, Douglas (Joan) Bailey, Bob (Marilyne) Wilson, Keith and Jane Balfour and many others. He will be missed by in-laws Alan (Karen) MacLennan, David (Shonda) MacLennan and Vivian MacLennan. Also missed by his cousins Carol, Judi, Sherry, Ed, Debbie, Yvonne, Pat, Marlene, Sabine and Peter. He will be fondly remembered by his former colleagues, students and neighbours. He was predeceased by his parents, Henry Robert (Bob) and Ivy (Sargeant) Letcher.
Gary’s dedicated team of in-home PSWs went above and beyond to support and care for him (and Lois) during the past few years. The family wishes to extend their sincere gratitude for their kindness, compassion and devotion. They also extend thanks to the dedicated nurses, doctors and staff of the Chesley Hospital and the Owen Sound Hospital for their expert care.
Friends and family are warmly invited to the Rhody Family Funeral Home, Chesley, on Saturday, December 7, 2019 from 2 - 4 p.m. and 5 - 7 p.m. for visitation; a Legion service will be held prior to visitation at 1:45 p.m. The memorial service celebrating Gary’s life will be held on Sunday, December 8, 2019 at 1 p.m. at the funeral home. Interment will take place in Dunks Bay Cemetery, Tobermory, in 2020.
Memorial donations to the Chesley Hospital Foundation, the Tara United Church or the charity of your choice would be appreciated as expressions of sympathy.Send to friend