My father was a great man. I loved him dearly and already miss him. He died about two weeks before his 89th birthday.
Born in Vulcan, Alberta to farmers, my father was known affectionately as “Curly” since he was 2 ½ years old.
The story goes that his mother gave him the nickname to avoid confusion with his Uncle George with whom he shared the same first name and was living with them at the time.
The name stuck. He never heard his mother call him anything but “Curly” his entire life.
My dad was known as “Curly” to everyone, not just family.
I fondly remember walking the floor of my dad’s factory with him when I was about 12 years old. Dad was the president of the company. Every employee endearingly called out “Hi Curly!”
He knew the first names of most of the 150 or so factory workers too. He was just that kind of guy. He respected everyone and they respected him. He cared about everyone.
He had another nickname. He was also known as “Mr. Rotary” to many. My father gave back to his community and the world through his deep commitment to Rotary. Dad had over 50 years of perfect attendance at weekly meetings of Rotary, attending meetings of clubs around the world.
He was president of his club, District Governor, a member of the Board of Directors and eventually rose to Vice President of Rotary International and you know Rotary is in almost every country of the world.
During his tenure as Vice President of the international association, he was instrumental in changing Rotary’s rules so that women could become members. “Women are changing the world,” he said. “They need to be a part of Rotary”. He was also deeply involved in Rotary’s “Stay in School” program and Rotary’s efforts to wipe out Polio throughout the world.
He helped establish the Calgary Rotary Foundation which has raised millions of dollars for charity. He really made a difference locally and internationally.
To many Rotarians in Calgary, it may be the small things he did that they will remember most. My Dad called every Rotarian in his club and in the 3 clubs he was an honorary member (that’s over 500 Rotarians) on their birthday every year to wish them well and to share some personal fellowship. This small gesture moved many people.
My father was a great source of wisdom. My three teenage sons regularly hear me quoting “Grampa-isms”. An oft said one repeated by me is “You’re down on things you’re not up on!” Now, isn’t that true?
Regarding employees, he said, “Don’t ask someone to do something you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself!”
He did not dwell on mistakes and instead would say “It’s like a bad haircut. Give it a couple of weeks and it will fix itself.”
He always encouraged us to stay in school by saying “Get an education. It’s the only thing the banks and the government can’t take away from you… but they’re working on it.” It worked. Of his four kids, we are two lawyers and two doctors.
Regarding money, he said “Spend it carefully. You can only spend money once!”
He tried to live every day by the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
He always chose to look for the good in others and assumed everyone was just doing their best. I think it was this positive attitude toward humanity that endeared him to so many.
I held my father is such high regard that during my university days when I introduced Dad to my girlfriend at the time, she was surprised he was that not a very tall man. I asked why she was surprised about his height and she said “The way you described him, I thought he would be a giant of a man!” In so many ways, my father was a “giant of a man” to me and he always will be.
I will not only miss his sage advice but also his great jokes. Dad loved jokes, especially his own jokes. Many a time, he would burst into such a belly- laugh that he could not even finish telling the joke!
Even if the joke wasn’t that funny, you couldn’t help but join in with a full-out belly laugh every time (even if you had heard the joke many times previously and we usually had)!
Speeches. I doubt there is anyone, politicians and preachers included, who has given more speeches than Dad, especially at Rotary meetings.
On more than one occasion, he was attending a Rotary meeting, minding his own business, when he was asked to replace to the guest speaker who could not attend at the last minute. Dad accepted the invitation, kept eating his lunch (we Galbraiths never miss a meal) and jotted a few notes on his napkin. He then spoke to the assembled group for 20 minutes without a hitch. He was informative and entertaining and frankly, just amazing.
Grampa loved all of his children, grandchildren and his great-grandchildren.
He was especially pleased to hear that he was going to have another grandchild in November. Just days before his death, I was able to share with him that my wife, Nicole, and I will be bringing a new life into the world in November.
It is so sad this new baby won’t know Grampa in person but no doubt s/he will hear many Grampa-isms.
Ironic, isn’t it? The same week we are announcing a new life is about to begin, Dad’s life ends.
Two nights before his last breath, I told Dad the truth.
I told him that he was approaching the end of his life and he would soon be seeing Brent, his son and my brother who died at 2 ½ years of age, his parents, Auntie Rena and so many of his great friends and family who had passed away.
I encouraged him to accept God’s peace and rejoice in knowing God’s love and forgiveness.
I told him he was a wonderful role model and an inspiration to me and my boys and so many others.
I told him that he was deeply loved by his family and so many friends from around the world.
I told him God loved him.
Dad at first seemed stressed hearing this message. Who wouldn’t be stressed? But then he began to relax into the hospital bed, realizing the truth of my message. The tension from his forehead began to release and he became more peaceful.
Dad tried to say something to me but his failing body wouldn’t let his words come out.
I just said “I know Dad. I know you love me and you love all your family. I know. And I love you too Dad. Just rest now Dad. Just rest.”
Dad then took hold of my thumb, gripping it as I had once done his thumb when I was his little boy. He gripped my thumb until he fell asleep. I spent the night at his bedside, watching over my father. I never saw him awake again.
Dad passed away peacefully less than two days later.
Thank you for everything Dad.
I love you.