his Life

A life of love (written by Stephen)

Anyone and everyone who met Hugh was won over by his kindness, gentleness, and how he listened to you with the sweetest smile.
The third of 4 children, and the only son of Daniel and Ruth Taylor (nee Walker), Hugh was born in Chendu, China where his father, a United Church minister, was serving as a missionary. This was a favorite story of Hugh’s, used many a time as an icebreaker. Due to his father’s poor health the family returned to Ontario in 1931 with baby Hugh travelling most of the long journey in a padded fruit box. The death of his father from pneumonia in 1935 was a terrible blow for his mother, left to raise four young children in the Great Depression. 

Hugh grew up near High Park in Toronto and attended University of Toronto Schools. Summers were spent on his Aunt Margaret’s farm near Wiarton, an exciting experience for a city kid. His admiration of farmers, and physical work in general, was earned during these summers and he always regretted missing the harvest each fall. At school, although not particularly academic by nature, he became an outstanding athlete participating in floor hockey, gymnastics and wrestling. After graduation, Hugh spent 3 years in Fort William (now Thunder Bay) with the intention of becoming a public-school teacher, but ultimately decided it wasn’t his calling and returned to Toronto to study bookkeeping at Ryerson. 

On a summer day in 1960, on his way from work, he noticed a young lady with bandaged leg and crutches waiting at a bus stop. He stopped to offer her a ride and met the love of his life. Karin, born in Austria, was visiting her older sister in Toronto intending to carry on to the warmer climate of Hawaii. She never made it. So, began 60 years of love and adventure. 

Married in August of 1961, they quit their jobs and spent a 5-month honeymoon camping through France, Italy and finally Austria where Hugh met his in-laws for the first time. Upon their return to Canada, with very little money in their pockets, they had the good fortune to join the fledgling Alpine Ski Club of Collingwood, Ontario. Taking deep breaths and rubbing their few nickels together they bought a lot and started to build a small ski chalet. Hugh dove into this endeavour with gusto having spent many a weekend in his teenage years visiting and helping his sister and brother-in-law at their Lake Simcoe retreat. Surpassed only by his love for Karin and later his children, building “The Cottage” was Hugh’s passion and gift to our family. Working largely alone and by-guess-and by-golly, it was his pride and joy and both fitting and a blessing that it was there that he spent his last days. 

The camaraderie and friendships made at Alpine were deep and lasted a lifetime. Hugh, with Karin beside him, thrived. Young, deeply in love, building both a first home in the city and the cottage in Collingwood, all that were needed were kids! So, in short order Stephen was born in 1964, followed 19 months later by Lisa. 
The years flew by. The kids grew strong and healthy. The ritual of driving up country every Friday night, skiing, socializing and always building and “puttering” until Sunday evening was repeated for decades. A few homes were bought and sold in Toronto. An addition (or two) were added to the little chalet at Alpine. And driven by Karin’s itch the family traveled almost yearly, often to sunshine destinations. The Caribbean, Austria (to visit Omi and Opa), Florida, Costa Rica and for the last 20 years, winters in Cuba. One legendary Christmas trip was to Innsbruck, lugging 29 separate pieces of luggage so the family could ski the Tyrolean Alps. The 3-day stopover in London only added to the challenge! On another occasion, 

an original, full-sized windsurfer was flown to Barbados. By nature, but also perhaps necessity, he became a master packer. Once, Karin decided that a huge, antique wooden floor lamp (with matching shade) needed to be brought home from Innsbruck. Somehow, Hugh managed to get it on board … as carry-on! 

In middle age, Hugh developed an interest in yachting and ultimately, he and Karin enjoyed many yearly flotilla holidays, sailing the British Virgin Islands, Greece, Croatia and Turkey. Although he took some sailing courses early on, Hugh’s grasp of the finer points of sailing a 35 ft yacht relied mostly on intuition, a few unplanned gybes and a good stiff drink each night once safely anchored. One of his favourite stories was when the flotilla’s lead boat hosted a roast on the last evening of one memorably windy trip and Hugh and Karin’s prize was an inflated set of rubber wash gloves, because it always looked like they could use an “extra set of hands”. 

Hugh lived a full and fortunate life. Despite suffering profound hearing loss since childhood, he enjoyed meeting people whenever and wherever he went. Always courteous and unshakingly genuine, Hugh approached everyone with open mind and heart and together with Karin reveled in friendships far and wide. Many an evening at the cottage or elsewhere ended with friends gathered around the piano for a sing-along where “Hugh’s medley” was a crowd pleaser, delivered with gusto and only slightly out of tune. 
His athleticism and physical fitness were immense and carried him well into old age. Fueled by his legendary appetite (as a young man he was known to his niece and nephew as “Uncle Garbage Guts” for his ability to eat enormous meals) he routinely put in a full days physical work around the cottage well into his 80s. This level of fitness served him well. At the age of 86, after losing a leg above the knee due to an aneurysm, and against all odds, he learned to walk with a prosthetic and was able to travel two more winters to Cuba, as well as spend the last 4 summers at the cottage (which as a neighbour recently observed, required one to have the agility of a mountain goat). 

Hugh Taylor was as honest, honourable and decent a man as one could hope to meet and know. In our family it was joked that he was “the last of the innocents”. We were blessed to have him as a husband and father and will forever hold him in our hearts.