It is with deep sadness we announce that our much beloved father, Owen Peter Grimbly, died on January 16, 2021 at Toronto Bridgepoint Health Centre. He was 90 years of age. He told us that he had lived a happy and fulfilling life. His biggest fear of dying was how to divide his time in heaven with his two loves: our dear mother Patricia Corinne Grimbly (Doyle) and Dad’s “sweetheart” partner of the last 25 years – Mildred (Mickey) Alexander.
The last year was difficult for Dad. In January 2020, almost exactly one year ago, he was just settling into his new home at Beach Atrium Retirement. This is the community where he grew up and raised his family of 8 children and was familiar with friends and family in the neighborhood. We would like to take the opportunity to thank Joni Baldwin, Kathy Clutterbuck and all of the staff at the Beach Atrium who were very proactive and successful in protecting Dad and the other residents and trying to manage their physical and mental needs in the most challenging of circumstances. When Covid19 restrictions began and we were unable to visit him for months – his mental and physical well being deteriorated rapidly. During this time, he received many phone calls and letters from friends and family and he deeply appreciated and was heartened by this. Dad was very faithful about visiting people in need or in poor health so its especially sad to know that he was unable to get visits at a time he needed them most - and as most of you know, he is a very social being. When some restrictions were lifted in the summer and we were able to visit for a while, he had an amazing upturn and was even playing cards, cracking jokes – and making some wagers – which he loved. In the fall, he was moved to Bridgepoint where he was only permitted two essential caregivers: Susan and Peter made it a priority to visit dad every day and provided loving care. Kathryn managed all the discussions with the medical contacts. A special thank you to you three!
As most of you know Dad was a consummate storyteller – he loved to share an anecdote – at his own pace – with perhaps a little embellishment and a punchline. A few years ago, Kathryn and her husband Ken Tilley decided to document some interviews with dad where he told his life story in his own words. This included some stories that we have heard many, many times and some new ones.
Dad was born in Toronto in August 1930 to Russian parents Maria Tsun and Fydor Zhelkha. His biological parents struggled with their new life in Canada and were not able to care for dad. Dad was in a foster home for the first 4 years of life until his mother, Dorothy Grimbly (Heatherington) chose him to be her son. Both Dorothy and Dad loved to tell the story of that day when he was walking on Park Street in Scarborough and she saw dad walking with his foster care worker and she fell in love with him and took him home and he became part of the Grimbly family – with his father (Harry) and sister( Joan). He had a special love for his uncle Jack who treated him very kindly when he was growing up. Dad grew up in the Beaches (or the Beach if you prefer). He had tons of stories about the hi-jinks he got up to in his school life at Courcelette and RH King, and all the jobs he always had and how he liked to spend his money shooting pool and playing craps.
Dad tells the story of meeting our mother at a party where they both had brought other dates but when they saw each other across the dance floor – they fell in love. They began their marriage in a new co-op building near the Toronto Hunt Club where they started a family. Susan, Kathryn and Michael were born and when they outgrew it, they moved to Windsor avenue. Dad’s father (Harry), notorious for being a hard task master and tight handed with money, helped dad to buy the first home. At Windsor, then came Paul, David, Peter and Mary.
In the meantime, Dad was embarking on his career in the fashion business. He started working at Simpsons (an iconic Toronto department store) and then worked on Spadina Avenue, in what is now known on as the Fashion District. He worked for JH Warsh and Co. for many years then eventually decided he wanted to have his own business, which he did for many years – even having his own fashion line. Dad loved to dress mom and we kids up in the very latest fashions - usually matching outfits, which sometimes we liked and others not so much. He also was a natty dresser – he liked to be well groomed – a handsome man with a great head of hair and he liked to get a manicure. He travelled a lot for his work – mostly to Montreal – another fashion industry hub – and in Western Canada where he had an office in Vancouver. Many of us were lucky to take part in the annual pilgrimage to bring the van across the country (he called it the Orange Blossom Special because he adored Johnny Cash- Kenny Rogers too). Dad enjoyed travelling a lot and in addition to Canada, he had a time share in Mexico he would go to every year – he loved to drive to Florida and in recent years his sister Joan took him on a trip to Russia where he learned about his family history and background. He loved absorbing everything about Russia– he had several books on Russia which were very important to him. In the 60s , he was reunited with his biological family through a coincidence – there was a story in the Toronto Star about a Russian family – with 4 boys and 4 girls ( just like us) and they had all found each other except for Peter Owen – which of course was our dad ! He contacted the paper and threw a get together and got know some of his family with whom he kept in touch with over the years.
One of Dad’s ambitions was to own a home on Fallingbrook or Glen Manor and as they began to outgrow Windsor avenue – they were on a lookout for a new home. A real estate agent called them as they were on their way to a movie at the Fox Theatre and they closed the deal for 242 Glen Manor in 15 minutes so they wouldn’t be late for the show. In 1964, we moved into Glen Manor which dad loved. Jacqueline was born in 1967 and rounded up the family evenly with 4 boys and 4 girls and help from our great aunt Augustine Bourdon (Teenie). Dad loved family life and was an avid Super 8 cameraman. He had a gigantic hi-beam light stick with 4 penetrating light bulbs that he would use when filming and, although we didn’t always appreciate being blasted with light, we are very grateful to have those films now: Babies , Cats , Dogs , Christmas, Birthdays, Easter, Church picnics, sack races, First days of school, first communions, backyard skating rinks, hockey games, golf games, summers at the cottage boating swimming, fishing , road trips to the 1967 Expo and some embarrassing moments we would have preferred to forget. Anytime we watched them with Dad in the past few years – he would always cry. He loved those days.
In 1982, with us kids growing up and starting to leave the nest, it was time to downsize (and perhaps get a little closer to Scarborough Golf Club). As much as Glen Manor was “Dad’s” house. Guildwood was “Mom’s” house – she absolutely loved it. Peter, David and Jackie moved to Guildwood for about 5 years until our mother passed away, too early, in January 1989 ending a big chapter in our lives.
Dad was very lucky to have found two loves in his life. His sister Joan introduced him to Mickey with whom he has been with for the past 25 years. They enjoyed a happy life together, travelling, going to shows and the opera, reading, playing bridge, being social with many friends. We also got to know Mickey’s son (Rick Alexander) and daughter (Heather Alexander) whom Dad loved very much. Dad looked forward to throwing a Christmas party every year at the club and always wore a tux and sent us missives insisting we dress UP – he wanted it to be festive. In later years, Dad went on an annual fishing trip with “the Boys” and some outings with “the Girls”. The last time we girls took him out for a day at the races, there was a famous (retired) jockey dad knew from past days when we owned some racehorses. Sandy Hawley spotted Dad and came right over to our table and sat down to chat – Dad was SO pleased. It was a good day.
Dad also enjoyed spending time with our growing family with all his children and their partners, grandchildren and great grandchildren and here they are. He remembered every birthday and always sent cards. He also sent cards to those in the family who had Irish names on St Patrick’s Day.
Children/Partners: Susan (Ian), Kathryn (Ken), Michael (Morgan), Paul (Cathy),
David (the moms Kimberly and Cynthia), Peter (Julie), Mary (Michael), and Jacqueline (Peter)
Grandchildren: Alexander, Sebastian, Patricia, Philip, Kailyn, Stephanie, Peter, Patrick, Andrea, Simon, Lily, Andrew, Celia, Daniel, Joe, Elliot, Mike, Kyle and William.
Great Grandchildren: Sasha, Bella, Dallas, Owen, Daniel, Ollie, Bernie and Saoirse.
And of course Super Canary !
Goodbye, Dad! We love you and know you are now in the arms of your loving Pat and when Mickey joins you – there will be room for all.
Note : In Lieu of flowers and in light of the current situation where many people are experiencing food insecurity and we would request donations to the Food Banks of Canada or Regional Foodbanks near you . Thank You ! We will organise a memorial service once the Covid restrictions end .
Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Centres