A Eulogy from Elizabeth Hodgson (Gordon's Daughter) on Behalf of Gordon's Children

Shared by Elizabeth Hodgson on 5th February 2019

This is a compilation of memories and insights from all of us five children and our spouses.

We shared our father with many of you, but he was still also our dad.   To us when we were younger, Dad seemed heroic: a multi-talented public figure who could hold 80 boys spellbound with a story; who could carry on whistling dialogues with chickadees and was a beautiful tenor; who could toss a canoe up on his shoulders, pilot a boat through islands in the dark and build a fire in the pouring rain.   He was handsome, and strong, and kind, and funny, and articulate, and wise, and we treasured the occasions when we got him to ourselves.

As he grew older, and as we grew up, though, Dad was able to put aside that Superman cape and become human with us—making peace when we needed it, letting us see his fears and uncertainties, welcoming our advice, accepting our accidental slips, sympathizing with our failures and losses.  He wept when recalling a young man he knew who’d gotten addicted to glue; he wept hearing his granddaughter Miriam give her first professional cello solo.  And this growing openness, too, was a wonderful gift.

What was he like to live with?  

He was, first of all, joyful.  Well, maybe “goof-ball” is a better term: he sometimes pretended to store clerks that he could only speak German, provoking an elaborate point-and-nod charade (“Nein, nein, das ist nicht..”).  He would answer our home phone on occasion with “Schlitsky’s Meat Market!” or (more dauntingly to our friends, “Speak!”).  He became famous at camp  for his stories of Peter Rabbit and “The Horse”; he also once led us at the dinner-table in the chicken song in the presence of Samuel Escobar, his boss’s boss’s boss.  And he sure loved a good pun (“just for the halibut” got dusted off every time we had fish for dinner).   All of that goofiness came, more deeply, though, from a real delight in the world, its beauties, its blessings.  He and Mom had a daily practice of listing together things they were thankful for, and I think for both of them it was easy: he saw beauty in the woods around Shoal Lake, in music, in a wood fire, but also always—especially always—in other people.  And even more in God, in whose love he trusted and whose grace he felt in his very core.

He was in some ways childlike in his sense of his own value (when he was hungry, he would sometimes wander into the kitchen and say “that roast must be done now.”  If he made the salad, he would comment, “Wow, what a great salad.  I wonder who made it?”  And he was in some ways a man of his generation, letting Mom run an incredibly complex household while he worked long hours and traveled.  He learned a full range of cooking skills only in his fifties.

But not many men in their fifties tackle new culinary frontiers, and that says a lot about Dad: he was also in most ways a man long ahead of his time.  He married a strong, bold woman and we have all seen the ways in which their marriage was a real partnership.  He changed diapers, he folded laundry, he encouraged Mom in her professional accomplishments and political activism (never a more fearsome heckler than Dad when some politician was casually sexist in her presence).  He led his daughters to believe that they could get Classics degrees, thrive in calculus, earn a doctorate, solo-portage a canoe, be president of a national organization.  He admired his son’s creativity and trusted his questions.  He said to his granddaughter recently, “Hey, Kate—are you going to the protests at Standing Rock?”  He made friends with the First Nations communities near Pioneer camp and mentored young indigenous men and women.  When Martin Luther King was assassinated 50 years ago, he said to Cathy sadly, “that is what we do to prophets.”  He supported poverty research and women in ministry.

I don’t think Dad thought of those attitudes as somehow radical; he just believed that the world should be fair and kind because he was fair and kind.  He was fundamentally interested in others, believed in others.. He was a wonderful listener.  He saw the people around him, ALL the people around him, as children of God.  

That is I think why he loved the version of Psalm 23 we’ll be hearing shortly: https://youtu.be/BsQCLrXXuvQ not only because it honours the women in his life, especially Mom, as he would want us to, and not only because it is beautiful music, but also because it pictures a God who is the shepherd for everyone, whose love is unbounded and unboxed, and that was really who Dad was, too.  You all know what a generously caring man he was, and we in his family saw this daily.  One of his last words was a prayer for his granddaughter who had been in hospital.  He held our hands and ruffled our hair and hugged us; he smiled when we arrived and twinkled at us when we left. He loved us, and he loved us without categories or judgement.  That love was, in every sense, divine. And we know that love will never leave us.  We have all we need.

In words excerpted from e.e. cummings’s poem for his father:

joy was his song and joy so pure
a heart of star by him could steer….
(and every child was sure that spring
danced when she heard my father sing)….

because my Father lived his soul
love is the whole and more than all

A Eulogy From Duncan Irvine - One of Gordon's Canoeing Comrades

Shared by Elizabeth Hodgson on 3rd February 2019

Some of you may not know me. My name is Duncan Irvine. I met Gordon over fifty years ago as a camper at Manitoba Pioneer Camp when Gordon was the Director there. Eventually I worked for Gordon at camp, helping to lead canoe trips, and subsequently I became a friend. After Gordon and I left camp, we continued to take canoe trips together and in 1998, as Gordon turned 70, we began a series of annual canoe trips that went on until he was 82. Along with my brother Don, an assortment of other friends, and, at one time or another most of Gordon’s children, we set out to paddle the lakes and rivers of Northern Saskatchewan and Northwestern Ontario. 

I’m going to return to these canoe trips in a minute but I want to say a few things about Gordon first. As most of you know, Gordon approached the world with an unbounded sense of joy. He found joy everywhere: in his family; in his relationships with other people, particularly those who were in doubt, or whose spirits were wounded; in telling the tragic story of Peter Rabbit over and over and over again; in singing loudly, everything from religious music to the collected works of Gilbert and Sullivan; and in the search for meaning and understanding that comes with daily travel through life. This joy flowed from his faith in a transcendent loving creator who wanted to share that love with the world. While that love was expressed most obviously in the figure of Jesus, it was also expressed in creation itself. Gord loved the wilderness, and he felt that sharing this love with others was a good way of demonstrating God’s presence. 

This led him to the student ministry and to camping at Manitoba Pioneer Camp where I first encountered him. During Gordon’s tenure as Director, Camp was a special place. Children and young adults learned about God and creation by experiencing them both through the canoe trip. Gordon knew that out canoeing it is possible to hear the divine voice in the silence. Gordon changed the lives of both campers and staff at Pioneer through his patient, thoughtful and caring leadership. 

It was the same love for creation that that led, ultimately, to the canoe trips I spoke about earlier. Gordon showed his companions many things on those trips. First, he showed us the value of humility. Throughout his life Gordon always ended up in positions of leadership because he was a natural leader. Out canoeing, however, he relished the role of the follower, encouraging others to be responsible for the direction of the trip and accepting their decisions without complaint. Gordon was happy to sit in the front of the canoe and leave the job of navigating the canoe to others. Later, in camp, if someone wanted to fish, Gordon was the one who wanted to paddle them around the lake. He took great pleasure in doing the more menial tasks around camp, such as the dishes, and telling us how much he enjoyed it, although one year, after we allowed him to do the dishes by himself for several days, he invited the rest of us to share in his pleasure. 

Gordon’s humility was also reflected in the clothes he chose to wear – homogeneous outfits of either grey or brown purchased off the bargain table at Mark’s Work Warehouse. Sometimes, in this garb, he was indistinguishable from the forest. One year, to liven things up, we gave him a red shirt, also purchased from the bargain table at Mark’s, which had faded into two shades of red and was two sizes too large. He was delighted, and he wore this shirt on every canoe trip after that.

On these trips, Gordon also showed us the deep love he felt for his family. The first day of every canoe trip invariably consisted of a long drive to the starting point. In the car, Gordon would tell us in detail what Donna and the rest of the family were up to, and he would do so in each case with a profound sense of wonder. And this was not the kind of “wonder” in which the speaker is saying he is surprised that things actually turned out well. It was the kind of wonder that implies he could not see how he could have done any of these remarkable things himself. In Gordon’s eyes, each member of his family had unique and amazing gifts, something he took pleasure in expressing to us. 

Gordon also showed us the value of hard work. He liked to paddle hard and to carry his personal pack over every portage. This pack, for some reason, always seemed to be heavier that most of the other bags. We accused him of loading it up with rocks to make it heavier, although he denied doing this. Despite his passion for hard work he would occasionally lament his feelings of fatigue at the end of the day. On one such day, his 80thbirthday, I pointed out to him that it was not surprising he was a little tired as he had done a full day’s paddling, portaged his rock laden pack three times over portages of a mile, three quarters of a mile, and a half a mile in length, and then finished up the day by portaging the canoe 100 yards. After some thought he conceded that maybe he had a right to be tired. 

Finally, he showed us how to laugh, albeit in a terrified way, when you are in a rapid and the water is pouring over the gunwales into your lap. He showed us that the forest is full of birds that can be actually be identified. And he demonstrated that age is not a barrier to doing the things you love even though it may involve prolonged physical activity, although it helps if you recruit a number of younger men and women to assist with some of the heavy lifting.

Of course, it was on the last canoe trip in 2010, when suddenly he lost the use of his legs in the middle of the night, that he showed us all how to behave in the face of adversity. My brother Don and I hauled him out of the bush and took him by car to the hospital in La Ronge Saskatchewan. Later that night he was flown to Saskatoon where doctors found a tumour on his spine which they operated on the next day. After Donna arrived, we were told that despite the surgery he would probably never walk again and that he might even have only a few months to live. 

A year later, however, at his birthday party in June, he was defying the doctors by walking across the condominium party room with the help of a walker. After that he continued to press forward with his rehabilitation, with the result that we were able to enjoy his wit, counsel and friendship for a further eight and a half years. Gordon’s optimism and courage during this time demonstrated that it is possible to treat adversity as the opportunity for a new beginning rather than as an ending. It is this lesson we must apply today as we face a new beginning without him.

I want to finish by speaking about love, for in the end, that is Gordon’s legacy. Nowhere was this better expressed than in his relationship with Donna, his wife and partner for 63 and a half years. But it is also expressed in his love for his family and his friends, and his care for the countless numbers of campers, staff, canoe trip companions, and congregation members whose lives he affected and whose lives he continues to touch. We are lucky that the love he gave us will live on in our hearts and minds, and in this way, Gordon will always be with us.

Felix saying goodbye to his great grandfather

Shared by Catherine Stewart on 2nd February 2019

 Cathy recounts this, which was recounted to her by Gordon's grand-daughter Sarah.

When Felix (age almost 7)  heard that his Great Grandpa was getting close to death, he asked:  "Can we go to his funeral?"  Sarah gently replied that flying from Switzerland to Vancouver would not be possible. 

Not to be deterred, Felix considered another option:  "Well,  could they fly his body over to us here so we could say goodbye to him, and then fly it back to Vancouver to be buried?"

"No, that isn't really possible either."

"Well,we could send flowers, because flowers die.  That's why people send flowers when people die." 

Legacy - A Eulogy Delivered by Gordon's Grandson, Jim Hodgson

Shared by Elizabeth Hodgson on 27th January 2019

When my sister and I were younger, Gordon and Donna - my grandparents - would pick us up from school every Friday. And there always seemed to be something important going on when we got home. There was a friend to play with, a rabbit to feed, a doughnut to eat. 

And Grandpa let us do these things. He let us be ourselves. He took us as we were - kids. So I know him mostly through his interest in me, in his asking of questions about my life and my work. I don’t have a lot of stories that I could tell about our adventures together.

What I have more of are the things that were given to me. The stories that my mom would tell at the dinner table, or the ones I would hear at camp (Pete Dearborn and Graham Macfarlane were great sources of these). 

I have a compass that he used to use in morning devotionals at camp, and that he gave to me when I graduated with a degree in Geography.

I also have letters.

When Grandpa was in the hospital in Saskatchewan, in 2010, and he thought he might die without being able to say goodbye, he wrote letters to all of his grandchildren. 

I remember there was one line in mine that really stood out to me. He said that I showed “a goodness, sometimes hidden”. And of course, I took great offence to this. Hidden? How dare you.

Of course, he was right. I had then, and continue to have, a lot of growing to do. And that line (“Sometimes hidden”) wasn’t the dig that I thought it was. It was an encouragement, a gentle nudge in the right direction. 

And what better direction could I take than to follow his example? His deep love for people, his curiosity, and his joyful warmth are a shining beacon. He was, and will continue to be, a compass guiding us toward the light.


Gordon Stewart

Shared by Maem Slater-Enns on 26th January 2019

It is difficult to summarize my memories of Gordon in just a few sentences. My strongest memory is his commanding and quiet presence. Gordon ‘modelled the way” in leadership principles, faith, and vision for MPC.  As a young adult, I was unaware the impact these lessons would have in shaping me as a person. On reflection, I now understand the profound lessons I learned at camp. It will take a lifetime to realize their full effect and I am forever grateful for this. Peace to you as you morn the loss of Gordon. He will be missed!

With Love

Maem Slater-Enns

Shared by Tracy MacClement on 23rd January 2019

Gordon's love for others, including this newborn baby of mine, was evident.  He had a zest for life and a twinkle in his eye which was contagious, whether he was simply going about daily living or formally preaching from Capilano's informal pulpit. My heart is leaning toward Donna and all their fabulous children and those that came through them. Gordon's winsome legacy is secure and his presence will be missed.

In Gordon's canoe and in his office

Shared by Reinier Van De Poll on 23rd January 2019

I shared many hours in both Gordon's canoe and in his church office. Those were hours spent so well. I gleaned so much from this man. Only a few years earlier I had lost my own father to cancer, so in many ways Gordon filled a father-figure role for me. But his gift really was being a friend. Despite our age difference I sensed that he enjoyed my company. We shared laughs, stories, our life's journeys. He was always quite transparent and natural with sharing about his life, and asking, gently, about mine. 

In the Fall of 1988 I joined Gordon and a few others on a week long canoe trip on the Bowron Lakes, in BC. We endured torrential rain storms. We ate Spam. We shared in the beauty of our Creator's creation. Gordon was in his element -that was most clear. I certainly was in the front of the canoe -where Gordon could keep an eye on my paddling and this ensured Gordon could keep us straight with his legendary J stroke paddling. 

I now suspect that this timely canoe trip was my baptism into being a new associate pastor at Capilano Christian Community in North Van, BC. "Let's see what this young man has got..." -was most likely Gordon's thoughts. However, it was more than that. That's what separated Gordon from many other men of his generation. He was to develop and encourage my gifts and my leadership. While others would only have expected me to survive on my own. 

Many hours were spent in his church office while I was learning how to effectively pastor youth and a congregation. We truly shared our thoughts and plans like partners -despite my lack of experience. Gordon always led me further to new roles. He remarkably recognized when I was ready and made moving forward so natural. I knew he had my back. This was an absolute with Gordon. With any questioning from others Gordon would firmly support my position and heart. 

In the Fall of '88 I first met my wife, Sherri. For the next year and a half Gordon helped me see how natural and spiritual a new romance could be. He asked questions. Affirmed what he saw. Challenged me. I thank him very much for that to this day. I very often share this with others

I truly am a more richer and complete person for having spent so many hours with Gordon in his canoe and in his office. Amen. 

​Gordon Wilkie Stewart 1928-2019 - Published Obituary

Shared by Elizabeth Hodgson on 22nd January 2019

Our beloved Gordon joined his Lord on January 15, at the North Shore Hospice in North Vancouver.  He leaves Donna, his wife of 63 years, and children Ruth Des Cotes (late Rob), Cathy Stewart, John Stewart (Elaine), Elizabeth Hodgson (Antony) and Alicia Logie, along with fourteen beloved grandchildren, five great grandchildren, sister Patsy McCarthy, and in laws Geoff Beatty, Sheila and Don Wilson. 

Gordon was born in Toronto, the second of four children to Betty (Anderson) and Archibald Stewart.  After surviving a bout of childhood polio, he went on to become an athlete, enjoying running, wrestling, and water polo. He graduated from Jarvis Collegiate, then Victoria College  (U of T, Political Science).  When U of T wrestling coach Kirk Whipper invited Gordon to spend his summers at Bark Lake training young people to work in camps, it changed the course of his life. His career interest shifted from diplomatic service to teaching and he met Donna!  He began his professional life as a teacher and wrestling coach in Orillia, Ontario, but after a brief interlude with Evangelical Publishers, became a staff member with Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship, first in the Niagara Peninsula, but mostly in Winnipeg, where his responsibilities (1963-1981) included working with university students in the “Lakehead”, Winnipeg, Brandon as well as directing Manitoba Pioneer Camp. In 1981 he was called to pastor Capilano Christian Community in North Vancouver. In 1990 he retired for the first time, but subsequently did a series of interim postings in Grace Church, Winkler, Fort Garry Mennonite Brethren, Killarney Park MB, Kitsilano, and Olivet Baptist churches in Vancouver. 

Gordon volunteered on the boards of the United Way, Keep Well, SPARC and Lionsview Seniors Society.  He was honoured several times for his community service. 

In 2010 on a canoe trip in northern Saskatchewan, metastasized prostate cancer paralyzed him and started a roller coaster of complications that ended with Parkinson’s disease.  Throughout the last 8 years, he continued to cherish his relationships and express gratitude to the many nurses and caregivers who supported him.   On one of his last days he dictated a letter of gratitude for “the caring staff of the North Shore Hospice.” 

Gifts in Gordon’s honour may be sent to Inter-Varsity’s Manitoba Pioneer Camp.

From Don and Ann Cooper

Shared by Catherine Stewart on 17th January 2019

Ann and I are saddened by the death of Gordon. We enjoyed many visits with him and Donna over the years as we visited Ann’s mother in Vancouver. Sometimes we all enjoyed a meal at their home high on the mountain in North Van and sometimes at the Steele residence in West Van.

On many occasions we were joined by Ann’s brother Peter and his same sex partner. I was always impressed that Gordon who came from a fairly conservative religious tradition was open minded about Peter and his partner Ed. To him it was clear that Peter and Ed cared deeply for each other and that they were solid citizens in a broader community. When the law was changed to permit same sex marriage Donna and Gordon expressed their good wishes toward the pair and several years later they attended the funeral service for Ed which was held at the Anglican Cathedral in Vancouver.

When Ann’s mother was confined to a nursing home in her later years, Donna and Gordon visited her regularly and took her out to lunch on several occasions.She was most appreciative of their kindness as were we.

Gordon Stewart

Shared by Christopher Aide on 16th January 2019

My brother Stephen’s middle name is Gordon because my parents - Bill and Haide - Dad and Mom - thought so highly of the man. It’s something I’d say to myself sometimes when I’d see my brother’s name written out in full: Stephen Gordon Aide - “the Gordon’s for Gordon Stewart“. He was a presence in our family. 

He was my introduction to things that are truly Canadian. Learning how to canoe. Morning dip in a cool lake. Shooting a rapid. Realizing that flipping a canoe up onto your shoulders to solo portage was more technique than strength - and the raw joy I felt the first time I did it. Having more responsibility for the lives of others as a 16 year old counsellor leading a cabin of boys on a trip caught in big waves than I’ve ever had as an adult - and coming through it properly. 

As I told an old Manitoba Pioneer Camp friend of mine today when I heard the news, I think Gordon was the first man I knew who was a combination of being kind, caring and very competent as a physical man. Starting from when I was seven right through to being 20, Gordon was an essential part of my summers. He impressed me. He helmed the P3 - he belted out “The Horse” and he was serenely comfortable gliding by in a canoe. 

Thank you, Gordon. Thank you for what you gave me and thousands of others. 

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