by Amanda Maginley – from her Facebook posts made during and after her father’s final illness
I honestly love this photo of my father. He was a true sea man and loved every minute of it. He looks a bit of a scallywag in this, but he is nothing short of an officer and a gentleman. There were standards to be met, and he lives by them, even today.
Old photos are the best.
A little story about this young kid with the dark locks: he wanted to go to sea. A friend who was quite older than him, named Mr. English (not in this photo), lived in a shack of a house by the sea in the West Indies. He told him about boats and sailing and merchant ships and different places in the world, all of which fed a thirst for adventure.
As soon as he could, at age 15, he was off working on ships and joined the Merchant Marines by the time he was 18, doing transatlantic trips regularly.
The first trip from the Caribbean to England was during the war, and his little ship was escorted between two giant ships for protection. As he tells it, if he was fired upon he didn’t know it because they were fully protected.
This is the beginning of a lot of stories, which I will tell as we journey through this transition. They are mainly for my sake, but you might find them interesting too.
What strikes me is the difference in resilience between people back then and people today. He jumped on that boat to seek adventure and had no real foreknowledge or information from other sources. No pre-programmed fear by false narratives. His information was received through experience. Cold hard troubleshooting on the fly.
He jumped on that boat solving life threatening problems that this type of lifestyle can bring, always referring to every experience with a joie de vivre. It was “look what happend, and look how we solved it!” mentality.
Today, with the internet especially, I find we are a society of “we better not do that because all of this can happen and it’s not safe.”Life is not meant to be safe all the time. It’s meant to be “I don’t mind dying as long as I’ve had fun!”
This guy has had a lot of fun.
At 18, Dad made his way into the Conway, a ship and school for becoming a Merchant Marine. He said you didn’t really get schooled, you absorbed.
While at sea, he went back and fourth from England to New York, up to Newfoundland and back over to England. The ships were sturdy and captained by skilled sailors. They handled these ships in massive storms with waves as tall as the masts crashing down on them.
And the cold! In along Newfoundland with icebergs and winds. I asked him “how did he keep warm?” “Wool!” “But weren’t you cold?” The nod came with such a distinct memory of how bone chilling cold it was, I felt like I could see it.
He was at sea for four years before he made his way back home to Antigua for Christmas. He asked to be put on a line going back to the Caribbean, and because he had befriended the guy who organized the crew, he got on the next swing down. They arrived later than expected and Dad missed his connection to Montserrat. He spotted a schooner that was heading that way and jumped on board. To his complete embarrassment, after being on all those ships and in all those storms, and in all those rocking waves, it was this little schooner going between his home islands that made him completely seasick.
Below is Dad and his father going for long walks in the mountains at Christmas time. His father worked in a rum factory owned by his in-laws. An afternoon treat was dipping bread in the froth just as the rum started fermenting. He enjoyed his month and a half long stay but was wanting to get back out to sea, seeking more adventures.
Stops in New York were among his favourite. On shore time was taken full advantage of, going to swanky clubs, dancing, listening to jazz, heading to broadway shows, going to the Met. It was a high life on a small budget. He said “you go to the Ritz, dressed appropriately, and have one drink cause that is all you could afford. Then you go onto the next place. We used to meet up in a club and the girls would meet us sailors there. We’d dance into the morning. I dated a girl who thought I should do more than the merchant marines. We broke up though and she married this guy I knew. That was fine by me. I just moved on.”
The high life at sea as a merchant marine was not all roses. They were basically cargo ships going back and fourth, this one carting cars. His ship was t-boned by another ship just outside the harbour leaving New York. It was a matter of luck the ship hit where it did. She was taking on water, but no vital parts of the ship were damaged. They were able to bring it back into port on her own reconnaissance for a refit. What cars were not damaged were transferred to another ship, and off they went again. It was quite an event and made the newspaper.
Other crazy things happened at sea besides having his ship t-boned and sliced by another ship. The US Navy often ran drills off the coast, shooting missiles and torpedoes. They were just practice torpedoes, but were a danger to small crafts. This yellow one, which the US Navy lost in one of these training missions, was hauled onto the deck of his ship and returned to them. I’m sure with a nod and a smirk of a smile.
By his mid twenties, Dad decided he wanted a country. He’d been out to sea for several years, visiting many countries in the world and wanted to settle down somewhere. He figured he could choose between England, New Zealand or Canada.
He chose Canada and joined the Royal Canadian Navy, entering through the reserve force as far as I can piece together. This (below) is one of his reserve training squads. He entered the regular force in the officers program, and they took him without hesitation.
I asked him if he had to do basic training with every switch in careers. “Many times! It became automatic training.”
He landed in Halifax. He was known for his navigation abilities, his ability to train troops, and his skilled seamanship at first. Many other skills presented themselves as time went on. He was an overall huge asset to the navy.
Here he is with a visiting admiral inspecting his troops. “It was only a parade.” I think they all looked pretty sharp anyway. AND he gets to hold a sword.
He was considered “old” when he joined the navy. Most were in their late teens or early 20’s. He was in his mid twenties. He also had a considerable amount of experience. He was a real “guy’s guy” and always spent time teaching and helping his fellow comrades. He is well read too, enjoying poetry and Shakespeare. Limericks became a competition of sorts. To this day, he can throw one together off the top of his head.
[After consulting him:] I was right about his entry into the Navy. He completed something called a Jolt course that made a temporary assignment permanent. This moved him into the regular forces.
The first ships they put him on were the minesweepers. They constantly trained. He was the Shift Officer of the Chaleur. His first trip was down the seaway to the Great Lakes, which he found interesting as he’d never been to the interior of Canada.
The minesweeping practices were done by sending out this long trail that cut the tie to the bomb. It took several guys to work the line. When the tie was cut in practice, a yellow buoy would float up to say you were successful. In a real situation, the mine would rise to the surface and they’d shoot it.
The captain of the fleet of minesweepers was a guy who survived bombing in WWII and all sorts of near misses in the war. This Cold War training exercise meant nothing to him. As Dad said, he didn’t give a damn! He would do these four abreast exercises where they would line up the ships, then change the order of them. A complicated manoeuvre! As Dad said, the Captain was just showing off because compared to the actual war, this was play time.
His second ship was an aircraft carrier. He was the officer in charge of the planes taking off and landing on the ship. It took a lot of organization and timing was everything. They spent time testing these planes (in the second picture) from the States which worked out well, but the Canadian government didn’t invest. The Australians bought in though, mainly because these tests went so well. The name of this aircraft carrier was the Bonaventure.
The Bonaventure brought him to Cyprus, helping with American army troops, deploying equipment and supplies…and helped with more training procedures. The Cold War was all about getting ready for war that never came. It was high alert and hurry up and wait, and wait, and wait, and wait. Training and running procedures is what filled up the time.
So, Dad joined the Navy in 1955, and married my mother in 1957. They met in Halifax at Mills Brothers. This company hired girls with a certain “look”, and I guess mom fit the bill. A friend of his was dating another girl that worked there, and they thought Marilyn and Doug. should meet. Dad went in to “buy a scarf” and asked her out.
She was quite taken by him. Being from Sydney, a small town in Cape Breton, Dad was a tall, dark, intelligent, worldly drink of water with a sexy accent. (A mix of English and Caribbean) A ticket to adventure.
To Dad, Mom was a beautiful, intelligent, funny, driven, smart woman who could hold her own and look good on your arm. He said “She was a dish!”
There is ten years between them. For the next few months while Dad was at sea, they wrote to each other. They got to know one another through these letters, and before long he said “well, we better get married. I’ll write your father for permission.”
They dated, in person, for about 3 weeks total, and through letters for several months. (I am happily still in possession of those letters.) By year’s end, they were married. The wedding was quite something, even walking under a saber arch. She was 18, he was 28.
I sort of jumped the gun when I started talking about the Bonaventure. I was so focused on his ships, I skipped some important details about his family life. So, now that I’ve got him married, I’ll backtrack a bit and throw in some children.
Mom and Dad were a great pair at parties. They both had high energy and enjoyed the officer parties and clubs, but they also wanted children. Mom miscarried her first child and then another. There was something going on wrong that wouldn’t allow them to carry a baby to full term. Dad was sad about this, but what really got to him was how devastated my mother was about it. They agreed to adopt.
In came Rachel to save the day! They loved her beyond. She was a beautiful blond baby girl and only a few days old when they got her. Mom gave her the middle name Anne after her mother and herself.
After Rachel arrived, she lost a third child, so they adopted again. This time a beautiful boy. Robin’s middle name was after my father which started the tradition of giving the boys in our family two middle names, and the girls one. (We’ve done that with our children too) Robin Charles Douglas!
Then, I guess you could say a thank you gift from the universe came wrapped up in a long, long, very long package. Mom managed to carry a baby to full term and gave birth to David. He got Brian (after my mother’s brother) and my father picked Tristan, from a storm, for his middle names.
I’ve just learned a story from his very young years. I may need some help from my West Indian family to correct me if I get some things wrong.
Back in the 30’s there used to be supply ships that came to the islands. When the war started, the ships simply stopped. There was one ship a year to collect the cotton, and that was it!
They had to make do with what they had. So, they managed to make a bit of flour, some cornmeal, and another grain that’s gone out of my head [cassava]. They had cows and chickens and pigs, and they were able to buy fish from the local fishermen. The fishermen sounded a conk shell to let the people know they were coming in with the catch.
There was fresh fruit and vegetables on the island as well. He especially loved guava jelly, soursop, bananas and plantains, Surinam cherries (which are in the shape of a pumpkin, but cherry size), mucalla apple, which are actually pears, mangos (of course. He ate so many of these as a child, he won’t touch them as an adult), eddoe, which is a vegetable, and yams, which are green bananas (he didn’t like these actually).
The pigs ate slop and eddoes. The chickens gave them eggs, and ate cornmeal, and the cows gave them milk and ate grass, I presume.
They made their own coal for the ovens too. Willy, who worked for the estate, knew how to make bread. He knew which stone to use in the oven for each type, because they all conducted heat differently, and you couldn’t afford to burn it.
They made do and survived the shortage of supplies. You did what you could with what you got.
After being on the Bonnie, there were two Canadian officers, one asked to go to the states, and one to England to do some training. Dad was asked to go to England. They packed up three kids, sold the house they had in Halifax, and flew over.
Dad took a course and then took over teaching and training in minesweeping. Basically, he taught the course he just took. The Canadian navy had decided mines were not a threat anymore, but found the training useful for other countries. Dad added to the context with his distinct knowledge with his ship maneuvering skills, navigation ability and tactical skills in sweeping. Plus, he was just a good teacher.
Settled in Portsmouth, England, they managed to have another baby. A boy, Christopher, was given the names Norman, from an uncle of Dads, and William from my mother’s father.
Four children was quite the brood, and they figured their family was complete.
Funny story: my mother was walking down the street with the three older ones (who are only a year apart, by the way: 5, 4 and 3) and pregnant with Chris when a woman came up to her and said, “Oh my goodness! Your husband must be a brute!”
After a couple years in England, Dad was posted back to Halifax. They just landed and bought a new house and were settling in when he was asked if he wanted to stay in Halifax and run sessions with the two minesweepers, or go to Victoria and captain a fleet of four minesweepers. He said Victoria, without a seconds hesitation. My mother was pissed! He took off, and she had to handle the selling of the house they just bought, pack everything up, and get the kids and herself on a plane to go across country. (Government supplied plane, btw). He knew my mother was upset, but says to this day he’d make the same decision again!
Running those four ships up and down the west coast was a posting from heaven. It was like the navy said thank you to him by giving him his own personal yachts. They were decommissioned as minesweepers and refitted as training ships.
At one point, he was pulling into port, close to some rocks and another training ship ran abreast of him. The two ships collided as gently as possible along the side, and it started pushing his ship dangerously close to the rocks.
The situation could not be avoided, but they were about to have heavy damage and decommission the ships permanently when they hit the rocks. Dad pulled back on the engines a bit and eased the ship starboard while the other ship cut engines altogether. He managed to skillfully push them away from the rocks and pull forward, averting catastrophe, and saving both ships with minimal damage. He was never commended for this, but he thought he should have been. Instead, they were never reprimanded.
An unusual opportunity for my father was working with and training cadets from Singapore. One fellow, John Leong became very close to my father and the family. Dad invited him to the house with a couple others and they sort of become part of the family, there every weekend. John went back to Singapore, but they never lost touch. They exchanged Christmas cards every year, including this past year.
“John Leong See Kiong. He was originally from the Royal Malayan Naval Volunteer Reserve Force. When the Republic of Singapore Navy was formed on 5 May, 1967, John joined as the pioneers. He, together with 5 other Midshipman were the first batch who were send to be trained by the RCN. They spent 2 years. Charles trained John and the others were posted to the other Sweeps.”Cheok Wing Choy
It was possible for them to speak just last week. It was the first time in decades. <3 It was a tearful moment, for sure. This conversation truly represents how wonderful technology is. An opportunity to say thank you and good bye.
Time in Victoria brought on a total surprise for my parents. A little lunchtime soirée resulted in me! Mom was convinced I was going to be a boy and she and dad picked the name John for me. It was a difficult birth for my mother and she nearly died.
After some recovery time and getting their head around the fact I was a girl, they had to pick a name.
So, life long friends develop while in the military. One of these friends was the Draige family. They had adopted a daughter who passed away of a childhood cancer. My parents helped them while she was sick and supported wherever they could. She was sweet and kind they tell me, so they decided to name me after her.
Elizabeth just seemed to go with it.
Christmas in Victoria was rainy, and it brings more gifts than you’d expect….From Cheok Wing Choy:
When I joined the RSN in 1972. I was in the 3rd batch of RSN Midshipmen. A group of 6 eventually withered down to 4. We started in C F Officers Candidate School at Chilliwack. When 5 of us arrived at Esquimalt just before Christmas day, we stayed at the Wardroom Annex about a KM down from 993 Admirals Road. Boxing day was cold miserable rainy day. There wardroom kitchen was closed and had no food that day. John Leong had asked us to deliver a present, a book about Singapore to CD. [CD is Dad]
Late afternoon, we marched up the hill to the large house at the crest. Knocked on the door. Well, we were welcomed by Marilyn and the rest of the family. There was much food from the festivity to share.It was a day to remember. The warm of family, love for strangers and that’s how we became livelong friends.
Over the year, from late 1972 till we left Esquimalt in April, 1974, we became part of the family.
Albert Lee, Ron Yap and Low Join Tiong and me was in the group. Albert is now a Canadian and lives in Vancouver. Ron and Low lives in Singapore.
Over the years, I stayed in close contact and visit my friends in Canada every 10 years or so. Before my last visit in January, I came to Halifax in late summer 2006. CD came to meet Ivy and I together with Jun. We have a separate gathering with Marilyn, Chris, Rob and David. My former CO, Tony Goode on the Chigneto, another of the Sweeps was there too.
Photos below from the wonderful visit in January.Cheok Wing Choy
Dad was recruited to be an Intelligence Officer because of his Merchant Marine days. Russian ships were coming into port and dad was hired to be an “inspector”. He was a spy.
Today he says he wasn’t a very good spy. He thinks he was too nice of a guy.
One time he took Robin with him to to the “office.” They entered a door, walked down a long, long corridor and Robin was told to wait. Dad disappeared.
Being a young boy, Rob started looking around and found a ladder that went up to a hatch that was open. He decided to climb it, poke his head out the hole and saw he was in the middle of a field far away from any buildings anywhere. It was probably and escape hatch, but open for ventilation. It was totally odd and didn’t make sense.
Climbing down the ladder, Dad emerged from somewhere and they left. It was like a Men in Black moment. (Sans aliens.) No explanation given.
When he got promoted however, he found his strength in the spy world. Turns out he was a really good analyst. He was asked to guess where Russian subs might be hiding to spy on Canada and America. When he debriefed his commanding officer, he pointed out the most likely locations and why they’d be there and when they’d be there. He found out later by another life long friend, Admiral Crickard, that he was exactly right. It helped prevent a spark that might have launched the war.
Dad had a successor for his spy job when he went to the analyzing side. He worked with him before he went out in the field and knew the guy was fairly aggressive in his spying. He was sent over to England to search some ships over there, and was identified.
Back in the Cold War days (and maybe even now) it was popular for the Russians to murder people by injecting them with something that brought on a mysterious disease. They didn’t do that with Dads successor. The injection itself killed him.
My mother tells a story of getting the phone call. Dad answered and said “Yes. Yes. Ok, I understand. “ and he hung up.
He never said another word about it.
Devastating things happen to families. Sometimes miracles happen too.
Having five kids was a lot of work. Before knowing autism was a thing, it became apparent something was a little different about Chris.
Children on the spectrum are often runners. Something catchers their attention or they get a thought stuck in their mind and it becomes like tunnel vision. They can easily be there one minute and gone the next.
One day Chris disappeared. Everyone was searching frantically for him, and he wasn’t anywhere. Neighbours of ours, and another set of life long friends, the Conners, came to help find him too.
He was found in the water, face down, off the Canadian Forces Sailing Associations wharf.
A guy named Michael West tried to reach him with a boat hook and Chris sunk down. Using the hook to sort of gauge where he might be, he was pulled up and hoisted on the wharf.
A nurse who was there started CPR and continued until the ambulance arrived. There was no pulse or heartbeat.
He ended up in a coma. He also ended up all over the headlines. Every stage from accident to miracle recovery was in the news.
My parents were catastrophically devastated. They stood in the driveway, mom screaming and dad crying with the terror of knowing, without knowing, the ambulance that roared by their house on the way to the dock was for their son.
Miracles on top of miracles, he survived.
Ah! I almost missed a major story! Backtrack time again!
When my father was in charge of the sweeps, he received a message from his parents that they needed mattresses in Montserrat.
This was a challenge, but he happened to be charged with taking the sweeps down the coastline, through the Panama Canal and back up the east coastline. That track happened to swing by his home island.
Question: how do you get mattresses approved to go on minesweepers to your parents?
Answer: you leave that up to your wife to solve.
Mom came up with a brilliant plan. A letter exchange with the kids at Esquimalt with the kids in Montserrat. A good will cultural exchange. She laid that on the Admiral, and he thought it was an amazing opportunity. Mom even volunteered to organize it!
Load several bags of letters and two mattresses onto a minesweeper, and Bob’s your uncle. I mean, they were going there anyway.
So, ya, challenge accepted. (Insert mic drop here.)
It was time for Dad to retire from the Navy, and move onto his next career. He became a teacher at the Coast Guard College. He moved us all back to Sydney so we could be closer to our grandparents, and he bought himself a sailboat.
Rachel got to go with him to get the boat. There was this really rich guy in PEI who flew them over on his private plane. The guy had a zillion toys. Dad bought his boat and they sailed it over. He called her the Vita which means life!
His marriage to my mother was on the rocks too. There was a lot of bickering and fighting. Had been back in Victoria too.
My mother decided to buy the house across the street and turn it into a music school, but when they needed space in the marriage, dad moved over to that house.
He knew something else about my mother. He knew she was in love with another man. One day, he walked across the street and told her she should go to him, and they should end the marriage. So they did.
My mother left with Chris and me to Saskatoon, and the three older ones stayed with Dad to finish highschool. 21 years of marriage finished.
Working for the Coast Guard College was a bit of play time for Dad. The ships were ice breakers mainly, and he got to take them up as far as Baffin Island. Up north, the sun can be up for 24 hours a day or it can be dark for 24 hours a day. Either way, Dad found it a challenge to adjust to the right sleep cycles.
He saw polar bears and seals, and arctic terns. He got pretty good at identifying birds in general.
He was a stellar teacher, always relating stories to the content and engaging the students.
He was a huge history buff as well. The amount of information in his brain about ships and historical events is hard to capture. I’ll try this: he corrects google.
As soon as Mom left, Dad went through “the year of anger”. He didn’t want to have anything to do with any woman on a social level. It was quite difficult for the three older kids who stayed behind, but they realized he was working through some stuff.
His father died and he brought his mother up from the West Indies to live with him. She died at the age of 90 in my mother’s arms.
David and Mike were friends in highschool. Dad went over to Mike’s house to look for David, and a woman who was scrubbing the kitchen floor, bra-less, looking a little disheveled from all her hard work answered the door. He was quite taken. Dad and June started dating which was definitely a little awkward for David and Mike, ha ha. It didn’t take long for them to marry.
Robin was the best man and June’s daughter, Heather, was the maid of honour. We all came for the wedding, including my mother. She helped with the food.
Chris and I started making trips back to stay with Dad and June every two years or so. He always took us somewhere to do something. This five day sailing trip through the Bras d’Or Lakes was a memorable trip. I really enjoyed it but threw up for four out of the five days.
I didn’t get the seafaring gene. Mine is the seasick gene.
I’m going back to the buying of Dad’s boat story.
Rachel went with him to go buy the boat. Robin drove him down to get the ferry to then sail the boat back to Pictou. These were two separate occasions.
Dad bought the boat and then turned around a bought a car on Wednesday because he felt the house needed a second car. He and Rob were the only two with licences, so Rob was basically “This is my new car!” 🙂
Rob drove Dad down to meet with his friend to take the ferry over, but when the got as far as Port Hawkesbury, Dad realized they forgot his life jacket, so they had to turn around.
They started back, and Rob was like “oh, F@*! When we get there, I have to get in the house before Dad does” in his head. He knew Rachel was throwing a massive party as soon as she learned Dad would be gone for the weekend. When they arrived back in Sydney, Rob turned to Dad and said, “I have to run in and use the bathroom” and bolted into the house yelling “We’re back! We’re back!” Rachel hid everyone throughout the house and by the time Dad came in,(he spent time finding his life jacket in the garage) it was just her and Rob standing there. Rob and Dad were off again to get back to Pictou. It was party on after that. By the way, the day this happened was Friday.
When they were in Pictou, one of the friend’s kids got his allowance and wanted to go spend it. Rob volunteered to drive him to go get something, because hey, he just got this new car! They were driving down a dirt road and Rob started to go right in the fork, and the kid said, “no, left!” so they swerved left and lost control of the car. Rob got it to stop on the shoulder and then the shoulder gave way. He grabbed the kid and they rolled the car down the bank 4 or 5 times. They were OK, but had to walk three or four houses to find a phone to call Dad. Dad and his friend came to pick the two of them up and look at the car, which was now totalled. This was Saturday. The car cost $1000 and lasted 3 days.
Dad finally made it over to PEI to bring the boat back, and Rob and his friends jerry rigged a rope to tow the car back to Sydney. Dad was happy and pissed off all at the same time. That’s parenting reality, right there.
A while later, Rob was standing in the kitchen and Dad came roaring in with a rolled up newspaper and started beating the hell out of him with it. Rob didn’t know what was happening. It scared him so much he bolted up to his room. When he felt it was safe, he came out and went downstairs, seeing the paper open on the kitchen table. The headline said a teenage boy had driven off a road, over a cliff, and crashed into a tree and died. It was in the same spot Rob rolled the car.
Rob was like “OK, Dad really loves me.” That’s parenting fact, right there.
Being a step parent is not easy. Dad stepped up to the plate for the Holm kids, and managed to build solid relationships with all of them. Here in this picture is Heather and Carol with June and Dad. June also had Pamela and Mike. Most of the kids on both sides of the family were adults or almost adults.
David started to get cancer when he was 19. I say started because he had several rounds of it. The first two were in Saskatoon. Dad flew out for the operations. It was weird having him in Saskatoon as we always went out to see him, not him come out to see us.
David’s cancers were scary. They were repeated life and death situations. After the first one, David decided to go to seminary school. We are far from a religious family, but David’s experience led him down this path and Dad supported it. In fact, quite proud of him.
I remember having a conversation with Dad on the phone when David had his second round. He asked me if he should come out. I remember saying to him “Well if you don’t and something happens to him, how are you going to feel then?” He was on the next plane.
David had two more rounds of cancer after he moved back to Halifax. We all came together as a family for those ones too. The fifth operation for cancer left us the happiest of all, because it wasn’t cancer at all. It was an old hernia operation that grew through a mesh net which they used to fix the hernia, and it made it look like cancer. Major operation for a false alarm. He’s managed to stay clear of cancer since.
David had a near death experience which he didn’t speak about for many years, but which he remembers vividly. After years in the church, he landed a job at the QEII as a Chaplin working with cancer patients. He also wrote a book available for $20.79 on amazon. Beyond Surviving: Cancer and Your Spiritual Journey (That was totally a plug for that book.)
What David’s experience and career brought to the table for people who are facing illnesses and/or death is amazing, and it is for us too. He has managed to have conversations with all of us, and with Dad in particular, which has helped form some of our views in how to face such crises, and what happens to us after we die. The connection you make in having these raw conversations is unbreakable. It helps you grow in love.
Dad retired from the Coast Guard College after 21 years of teaching.
He did a little stint with NSCC in teaching certification classes for vessels. He drove 1 1/2 hours from Sydney to Port Hawkesbury everyday and totally minded the drive. I have no idea why he didn’t stay up for the week. He felt he needed to be home at the end of the day, I guess.
I found out recently that one of the lead teachers at the Nautical institute at NSCC was one of his students at the Coast Guard. When I graduated, she said “I didn’t know you were the Maginley of this Maginley.” I could tell there was a lot of respect and admiration for him. I’ve since been in touch with others at the CGC and learned that the respect and admiration runs deep with a lot of people.
After his stint with the NSCC, he retired again! He and June moved to a small town called Mahone Bay and opened a B&B. It was now 1990. The business was called The Garden Gate Bed and Breakfast.
June was an avid gardener and Dad became an avid digger.
After the B&B, they built an unusual home at the time that was very environmentally conscious. It was an interesting but expensive project.
After that home, they settled into a small bungalow.
Flash back time again!
Dad was away at sea a lot when we were kids. It was considered normal he be away more than home. However, that didn’t diminish the fanfare when he did come home.
Every time Daddy came home I gathered the boys and half a dozen neighbourhood kids to have a parade. Dad would ask mum what is Rachel doing out there? Mum would say she’s organizing a parade for you Doug. I remember singing or chanting “Daddy’s home…Daddy’s home”. I actually made this an ongoing thing having parades for any reason. Dad and mum would be laughing at the window or in the driveway along with the Sears, Isaacs, Taylor’s and Harvey’s parents. Oh the things you do….
Every time dad came home he brought gifts from countries where he was at port. I had a collection of marionette puppets from around the world…Then began the puppet shows & a host of international voices….Rachel Maginley
Between all the house selling and moving around, there was a stint in Ottawa. Dad was commissioned by (and may have proposed the idea to) the CGG to write a book on the history of their ships. They gave him a grant to live in Ottawa and access to as much research material as he needed.
He wrote that book, and two more after that. Retirement lead to a writing career and developed his reputation as a Nautical Historian in general.
(Heather’s husband) Steve helped translate the first of these books into French for Dad. Due to the technical lingo it required a group of people who specialized in Marine translations. Dad thought the translations were quite suitable. He was also bilingual, by the way, but in conversational French, not technical specifications.
Cancer strikes again.
Dad and June spent time in Toronto after Ottawa. Mike, June’s son, was living there and was just diagnosed with cancer, had surgery and was starting Chemo. They spent the year there to be near him, to support him. It was a good thing because Mike had an allergic reaction to the chemo and nearly died. He made it! Another survivor!
Mike said Dad’s presence was super important during this time in his life.
While in Mahone Bay, Dad managed to get himself involved in the community fairly well. He played Bridge for 30 years with his Bridge partner Ursula. He went dancing, he joined the Wooden Boat Festival. (That was quite an amazing festival actually. They had to build a boat from scratch and then race it. He was a judge.) Heather adds:
You’re remembering the Fast and Furious boatbuilding contest, and it was always hilarious to watch the “sea trials” as the sailors often went down with their ships in the shallow water near the town wharf. But he was also in charge of the serious sailboat races for some years. He got to fire the starting gun which was the obvious part, but I’m sure he was also involved in setting the course and assigning handicaps. I remember discussions afterwards about the results.Heather Holm
He went to Tai Chi, acted in plays and also attended a whole bunch of plays. He gave lectures. He connected with artists and other marine organizations trying to preserve history. He was the “go to” guy if you needed information.
He even played Father Christmas one year.
As the years went on, a friendship of sorts developed between mom and her husband, and Dad and June. Mom and Robin (husband) moved back to Nova Scotia to retire and they opened a B&B in Margaree. I have no idea how it morphed into moments of spending time together, but being near kids had something to do with it. They spent some Christmases and birthdays and other occasions just because they had time for it.
The four of them rose above the usual issues (most of the time) to be with family.
There were also dinners and gatherings with June’s ex-husband, Flemming Holm.
I feel like you are on this planet and you create these families, and things change all the time, but you grow with it.
I remember visiting a museum with Heather one day. I was “solo” camping in the mountains near her home outside Wolfville. We were standing in the museum looking at a piece of art and a couple people came up and stood beside us to look at it as well. Turned out is was Carol and her father, Flemming. We went out for lunch and Flemming insisted on picking up the tab. I said “Thanks, Dad!” Lol. The table erupted with laughter.
It was only moments here for and there for some of us, but in retrospect I find the ability to accept things for what they were and the roles people had enlightening.
[On Meg’s birthday] Meg’s Granddad often participated in her birthday celebrations. Here he is dressed as the a Salmon King for a crazy interactive play I wrote for her 10th birthday. He was very regal!
[Heather adds: Here he is as the Wizard of the Woods in a similar “Adventure Quest” we did for Malcolm’s 5th birthday. He always loved to get dressed up in a costume.]
Dad always tries to make special time with grandkids. They were pretty spread out in age and location, but he’s proud to have them all.
Lots of things in life take you down a path you weren’t totally expecting. June was not feeling well and when admitted to the hospital, was found to have terminal cancer.
Dad’s immediate reaction was “I’m going to be there for her. It’s my duty.“ He was there for her, and the Holms as much as he could. It. Was. Fast. She never came out of the hospital. When she died, he called and cried.
They were married for over 30 years and they had a lot of life together.
By the time of June’s passing, he was 85. He decided he probably only had a few years left, and he wanted to dedicate them to living fully and to his family. We didn’t quite know what that meant initially.
In England there is this “Conway Club”. Members all went on the ship and trained in that school. He is one of the oldest members. He took a trip over there for their annual gathering. He also managed a trip to France with lifelong friend Sandra Hardy.
One of the first trips he managed (by inviting himself, lol) was going back to Montserrat with my brother Rob and his wife, Valerie Bellamy. He didn’t think twice about it, he was going.
He walked the island as much as he could, and he swam, and He toured all around Plymouth on a group tour with a guide. He actually took over the tour because he knew more about the history and landmarks than the tour guide did.
He became well known on the Island, and quickly! Monserrat has a unique history in that a volcano erupted in 1996 and destroyed 80% of the island. Where my dad lived in Paradise and where his parents are buried are long gone under lava rock and ash. He was visiting the ruins of his home town, but had vivid memories of how it used to be.
He was invited to speak on the radio and tell the stories of his past. This notoriety took all of a week.
Photos and captions from Valerie:
Dedicating himself to the family was revealed over time to mean he would freely express his love and time with us. All of his Maginley children lived in Nova Scotia so he could visit at will, and he did. He drove up to Antigonish regularly, stayed with us and hacked around. He spent a lot of time with Mom. They sort of reunited. Phone calls every day, lunches out when he was up. When Dad had any medical issues, Mom would go down and stay with him. He kept saying “You are my family.” It was an important realization for him.
At first, I’d get questions from both of them asking if we were ok with them spending time together again. My thought process was at this age, you guys can do whatever the hell you want! All of his kids were thinking the same.
Mom’s dementia was starting to progress and she knew it. Before she went into the hospital last time, she told him she wanted him to meet someone and have a friend. She didn’t want him to be alone.
When I visit Mom in the nursing home, I show her old pictures. She can barely talk now, but when I showed her my favourite picture of Dad, she said “Oh! I’d marry him!” So delighted to find out she had.
Dedicating his time to us though, did not mean abandoning his relationships with the Holms. He remained very dedicated to them as well. Cancer came again. In 2019, Pamela Holm was diagnosed with cancer, and just like her mother, it progressed quickly and took her. We were all in awe of that. Dad was especially taken back by the similarities to June’s illness. Heather Holm was a true champion of supporting her sister through to her passing and openly documented her journey. It was a lesson in being forced to deal with a situation you couldn’t control, trying to make the right decisions, and in love.
Shortly after Pam’s passing, my brother Rob was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but he caught it early. He sat with the prospect of letting it be for about a second and then decided he couldn’t live the rest of his life knowing it was in him. He became the first recipient to have his surgery done robotically and it was a success.
Rob now does the Ride for Cancer fundraiser. This is his second year at it. He’s almost at his goal too. Almost 😉
Dad was at Thanksgiving dinner at Heather’s and struck up a conversation with Trish. They were talking about all sorts of things historical and metaphysical and wonderful. She was quite impressed because he knew the references she was writing about. She decided to give him her number on a napkin.
When Dad told me about her, he said he’d been waiting all his life for a woman to do that to him, and it happened when he was 89 years old. Her number on a napkin!
The friendship grew very strong in a short amount of time. (She is a bit younger than him, he’d boast!)
He says he’s not a ladies man by any stretch of the imagination, but he thought this was pretty good. He also admitted he’s not adverse to some vanity from time to time, either. This was one of those times.
Dad admitted to me last week he loved her. Not in the sexualized manner, but in a manner of companionship, which he felt was much deeper.
You go Pop!
On a ship you have a crew. Each crew member has a skill and an assigned job. You work together as a team so you can cross the bar and make it home.
You told the Palliative doctor you were going to die on Saturday and you did. 9:38am, Saturday Sept. 12th.
It was Pancreatic cancer.
Because of COVID you opted to die at home and we became your crew. Doctor on text message, crash course on drug administration from nurses. One last ship to sail. Positions assigned to each of us and we came on deck as soon as you said so.
We opened up all the doors and windows.
The last three days of your life were intense. It was something to see you not give a damn anymore and let us help you. We all took turns.
We stood around your bed.
The nights were particularly hard to get through. I was assigned medical by you, so administered the drugs as you requested them to ease your discomfort. There was no sleep and it didn’t matter.
We put our arms around each other.
In the last night, the apnea increased with longer and longer times in between. You were suddenly with us saying “yep, I’m still here!” and then leaving us again.
David put his hand on your hands.
There were times you were between both worlds. We witnessed you talking with those who had passed, lifting your arms up saying “come to me, come to me” and saying names of people who were no longer with us.
David said a blessing that was so beautiful and personal, and made us laugh at one point. Your lucid dreaming of all your dogs became a significant reference.
You came in and out of consciousness and at one point looked at me and said “I’m so loved, I’m so loved” as if you learned it was all about love on the other side too.
You took your last breath.
We felt like we handed you over to team afterlife and they were in the room with us as we did.
You were completely surrounded by all of us, helping you let go. David and Ryan, Rob and Valerie, Chris, Rachel, Heather, Steve and Malcolm, Patricia, Derek, Megan and myself. Even my dog Piper sat beside the bed.
David said to give us signs you were still near us, but don’t freak us out.
We sat in the living room after you crossed the bar and took a deep breath. A giant dragonfly flew into the room, hovered in front of each of us, bounced around the room a little, then found its way out the door again. It was huge! Biggest dragonfly we’ve ever seen.
And we miss you. Forever love Dad.