On Sunday, April 23, 2023 our father, Peter Southwell, at the age of 95+ died at Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital from complications of his Parkinson’s disease. It was that disease, along with a spinal compression fracture in 2016 that slowly inhibited his movement through his later years until, as he went for his daily walk on March 1st, it resulted in him falling and suffering, a head and neck injury that required 24 hours of hospitalization to adequately assess. As he moved from community hospital to University Hospital and back, it was not possible for him to receive his Parkinson’s medication as he had always taken it faithfully and exactly on time, he never recovered enough function to get back home.
He was a child of the Great Depression. He lived by a strict creed of never wasting anything. He also knew if you didn’t work, you might not have food to eat. As a child he saw his parents humbled when his father, an artist, and architect was disabled by Parkinson’s disease as a young man and his aristocratic mother rented out rooms in their formally private home to be able to provide a home and food for her two young children (Diane, deceased in the 1980’s) and Peter. From a young age, he always had at least one job in addition to attending school. He put himself through university and obtained his engineering degree by working in the BC logging camps during the summer. In the early 1970’s while working as a real estate manager for a major chemical company, he wanted to advance to the executive level. To that end he went to university while maintaining his full time job and received a 2nd degree, a Masters in Business Administration.
He didn’t like to spend money, he was willing to do it if he really believed that it was something he needed. He would put endless hours of research into anything he had an interest in our anything that needed repairing. He loved shopping for the things that he needed; exhaustively researching the item to understand what was the best item, tool, etc. at the best price he could obtain. For every significant purchase he usually would up knowing more about the product than the sales person. Then, he would often educate himself as to how to install that product and often subsequently install/fix the item. This is all before the Internet made researching as easy as it is today. He was very detail oriented.
He loved learning about new places and people. One of the highlights of his life was a many week business trip through Southeast Asia. Our father brought back many souvenirs from that trip and loved to tell anyone who would listen regarding the circumstances of how and where he found it, and how it was created, and the source of the materials of which it was constructed. He was a professional, mechanical engineer, and really appreciated everything that was well designed and well-made. Those momentos of his trip remained in his study until the day he died.
Peter was blunt about what he liked and didn’t like and what he agreed with and what he didn’t agree with, and fortunately had our mother (Esme, deceased), as a moderating influence throughout his professional life. Therefore, both his children, Craig and Holly, were somewhat surprised by the number of fond remembrances, by many of his greater than 50 odd nieces and nephews. They remembered him for his kindness and his wide interests. He was always very interested in hearing about his granddaughter, Maya.
While always living his life on a schedule he was very disciplined, this became stronger in the later part of his life adhering to a rigid schedule that gave him the structure to keep mobile and to stay in his house for many years. If it was 3:30 in the afternoon, then it was time for a walk either downstairs in this basement doing many many laps, or if the weather was reasonable outside, making it to a specific goal as someone’s pink driveway, or a particular traffic sign each day.
Peter was very competitive in sports, as anyone in Hickory Hills who remembers, he won the shuffleboard championship multiple years in a row in the early 2000’s.
He was the perfect patient taking his medication, exactly as prescribed, making life easy for his doctors. He was a good neighbour to others who lived in Hickory Hills, and was lucky enough to have good neighbours in turn. We are particularly thankful for those who helped him out in his older years bringing cards and cookies (he had a big sweet tooth) which he would always point out to visitors. And our particular thanks to Christine and Howard Riches and Judy and David Jacobi; his neighbours on either side who helped keep him in his home until less than two months before his death.
Before our mother went into a nursing home, the two of them would have their afternoon cocktail every day. Sometimes he would toast “here’s to the best of us who remain, damn few.” He never gave up, rarely asked for help and lived that toast until the day before his death when he realized he couldn’t swallow anymore, and was quite short of breath, and admitted to his children that he was “having real difficulty”….he passed away peacefully the next day. In lieu of flowers or other remembrances, please donate to Parkinson Canada for research into this debilitating disease.