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- obituary
Wednesday, 10 October 2007
A life well lived
Topic: - obituary

For Blaine Everett McKenzie, a ship builder, life was a voyage of discovery.

Blaine married his high school sweetheart, Carol Spencley, in 1962. By then Blaine had graduated as a marine engineer from Ryerson and the Canadian Institute of Science and Technology, and Carol had finished her training as a nurse. Blaine and Carol were married for 45 years.

As a young couple, Blaine and Carol soon had a houseful of kids – Lisa-Dawn, Susan and James – all of whom Blaine doted on and was tremendously proud. There was always room in his heart for more – he held the title of “President of the Fan Club” for each and every of his seven grandchildren – McKenzie, Alexandra, Carleigh, Neil, Holly, Susannah and Benjamin.

Blaine was born and raised in Collingwood, Ontario. Born November 16, 1940, he was a war baby, eldest son of Beryl and Neil McKenzie, beloved nephew of many aunts and uncles.

He spent formative years on his grandfather James McKenzie’s farm in Osprey Township. He worked on the farm every summer until age 10. He would describe with great fondness time spent on the tractor with his uncle Bud (Beverly McKenzie). Blaine was very influenced by his grandmother Myrtle McKenzie, whom he credited with telling him the grand old stories from the Bible.

In his youth he played rep hockey, as well as high school football.  More than a few friends at Blaine’s funeral in October 2006 remembered him as “an excellent defenseman.”

Sea cadets played a significant role in Blaine’s youth – as a sub lieutenant he mentored younger members, and played cornet in the band.

His love of ships was lifelong. As an adult, he worked in the engineering department at the Collingwood Shipyard for 30 years.

After the shipyard closed in 1986, Blaine ran his own engineering firm in Collingwood. Local buildings he designed include:  the Leisure Time Club, Collingwood Credit Union, MacKenzie Plaza, the Heritage Community Church (formerly BME Church), the IGA Plaza and the Collingwood ambulance centre.

He also put a new boat in the water – Orillia tour boat, the “Island Princess,” where Blaine & Carol held their 25th anniversary party. The Island Princess bears the stamp of another of Blaine’s key influences, Mark Twain. He designed the boat after a Twain era Mississippi paddlewheeler.

The closing of the shipyard was a seminal moment in Blaine’s life – it essentially launched his political career. Blaine served three terms as a town councillor. He remained active in municipal affairs, working especially hard at accessibility. Terry Geddes, town mayor at the time of Blaine’s funeral, noted that Blaine was seen hard at it in the municipal offices the week before he went into Collingwood General & Marine Hospital prior to his death. Another source later told Carol that “if it weren’t for Blaine McKenzie, the Georgian Trail (on the old CN line) wouldn’t be there.” As a gesture of respect for Blaine’s work on behalf of the town, a police honour guard was posted in the church and the flag over the town hall flew at half-mast.

Blaine’s achievements become even more impressive when it’s recalled that he was a 32-year kidney transplant survivor. Blaine’s kidneys failed when he was 30, and with Carol’s help, he underwent home dialysis for three and a half years. The couple’s renal team at Toronto General Hospital told them they were only the 29th family in Canada even to attempt home hemodialysis. Blaine actively supported the Kidney Foundation of Canada all his life.

Blaine’s interests and passions were many: anything outdoors, gardens and birds, Dixieland jazz, the Beatles, Elvis – all music for that matter, theatre, golf, fishing, animals, especially dogs. He was a longtime member of First Presbyterian Church, particularly enjoying the men’s breakfast group in recent years. He was also an avid patron of the local library.

The Masonic Lodge formed another touchstone in Blaine’s life. The spring before his death he was extremely proud to receive the rare designation of Very Excellent Companion of the Grand Lodge.

Blaine remained a man of simple joys and pleasures. In his later years he could often be seen driving around in his truck checking out his favourite haunts. And, says Carol, he “always asked me to go to Sunset Point to watch the beautiful sunset.”

One person remarked of Blaine several years ago that he was an “interesting soul.” That’s perhaps one of the best, most concise descriptions of him. Blaine pushed off from these shores on October 23, 2006.  He is profoundly missed.

- Written by Blaine’s daughter, Lisa-Dawn, Oct. 8/07.

Posted by sutter or mckenzie at 9:55 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 10 October 2007 10:03 PM EDT
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Sunday, 24 June 2007

We bid one more farewell to dad on June 16, the Saturday of  Father's Day weekend.


I won't say goodbye, or final farewell, because it doesn't seem like that to me. I still talk to him all the time.


We wanted to do something special, and told mom we would play some music out at the C-wood cemetery.


The girls were practising Amazing Grace on their violins, and Neil had a trombone piece in mind.


In the meantime Holly and I had been having a lot of fun with flute duets. We had AG but not in the key Sus had memorized and no music for. So I picked out the matching melody on my flute, and them picked out an alto line for the 2nd flute. Found the staff paper on the internet. That was Friday niight before the occasion.


Rev. Tim was there to lead a prayer and say a few words. Mom was glad he was able to come. Kari Wilson was there from Fawcett's, so that felt a bit like family too. Suz picked up a rose for everybody that mom envisioned us all putting on  the grave.


Dad's stone is beautiful. It has the symbols of the blue and red lodges, as well a s a lighthouse for his ultimate passion, ships.


James at one point dropped something in the grave. Sus told me later it was a wrench he had snicked from dad many years ago. 


Our tribute in two flutes and a violin turned out very well.  Sus played some extra fiddle tunes for pop. Neil's trombone solo caught me by surprise. It was the piecehe played for his music class exam, and i've heard it many times. But out there in that big open field, there was some repetition in it that sounded like reveille. Dad, the sea cadet cornet player, would have appreciated that too.


Posted by sutter or mckenzie at 8:29 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 24 June 2007 8:30 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 15 November 2006


This blog was written to inform family and friends who kept Dad in their prayers through his hospital stay prior to his death about how dad was doing. It was also kept to create a date-stamped log of what was happening with his care.


I will keep it online for a while because some of the entries are quasi-essays that touch on dad's achievements, his interests, hobbies and other favourite things, and contain hints of his remarkable personality.


Mom has asked us to write a detailed obituary for dad, and that will be forthcoming.


For now, here's another item of note about dad on the internet:

- an internet search also turned up these photos of dad receiving rarely awarded Very Excellent Companion designation from the Masonic Lodge. The ceremony took place in May 06. In these shots, which i hadn't seen before, dad is clearly very happy and proud. To see them click on the following link, then scroll about half-way down the page to the title/caption for the Collingwood lodge -- Very Exc. Companion pix .


Dad's birthday is tomorrow. He would have turned 66. 




Posted by sutter or mckenzie at 8:35 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 7 April 2007 8:35 AM EDT
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Saturday, 28 October 2006
Pop & Neil visit Bronto Skylift






Posted by sutter or mckenzie at 8:54 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 29 October 2006 9:37 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 24 October 2006
Pop and Carleigh

Posted by sutter or mckenzie at 10:51 PM EDT
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Funeral details

Visitation for my dad is Wednesday at Fawcett Funeral Home on Pine Street in Collingwood from 7 - 9 pm. Funeral service is Thursday at First Presbyterian Church on Maple Street in Cwood at 1 pm. Reception to follow at the Masonic Temple on Main (Hurontario) Street. The kids will be playing.

 Thanks so much for the many kind notes sent by all.

Posted by sutter or mckenzie at 10:48 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 24 October 2006 10:58 PM EDT
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Monday, 23 October 2006

 Click here for some shots from mom and dad's wedding album


Posted by sutter or mckenzie at 10:41 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 28 October 2006 8:20 PM EDT
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Monday morning

Dad died at 3 am today. My sister Susan, her daughter Alex and my brother James were in the room with him when he stopped breathing.  So Dad died peacefully  and in the company of family.


Thanks so much for your support, interest and prayers for my dad. 

Posted by sutter or mckenzie at 7:35 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 23 October 2006 8:33 AM EDT
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Satrdy nite/Sunday

Saturday night

Tonight dad is slightly more alert. When I asked him if he knew that Larry Irwin had visited, he said, “No, I must’ve been out.” When mom asked if he’d heard someone playing guitar, he said he “didn’t know any of the songs.” His response time on some of the answers was very fast, but not accurate (where had he been out to when Larry had visited!)He also has an oxygen nose plug. Nurse Kelly is very kind, but a little lacking in discretion. I was upset to hear from my sister that she had said in front of my nieces that she and dad had had a chat, and he knew his chances of making it weren’t good, but when she had asked him if he wanted to be resuscitated if his heart or lungs failed, he said yes, he did.

Yes, he did.

Now he might’ve been out when she asked him that question. But at least it makes things clear that we need to get the call and assess the situation, rather than just assume.

Suz said that made everyone cry before going in to see dad.

Kelly said the same thing to me and mom tonight, in front of dad. I guess if she feels she discussed it with him, the coast was clear.

Must’ve been out.

On the other hand, she is very kind to dad and attentive to his comfort.
He was talking about pain, so she tracked down on call Doc R. at his home. For some reason the staff has a note that dad is allergic to morphine ( probably from Mr. Must’ve been out), which mom doesn’t recall. As a result he was given a Demerol/gravol drip tonite.

I’m feeling lousy that I haven’t pinned Doc T. down for an answer on the 2 questions still floating out there awaiting answers from Doc. Schiff’s office – can dad be moved to Toronto for the oral biopsy, and is he a candidate for a liver transplant.  Reasonableness test says the answer to both is not likely. But if it were me in that bed, would I want a clear yes or no, or non-action based on reasonableness test. Better get on the phone to Doc. T on Monday.

Sunday morning.
Wake up too late to go to early service. Am getting cleaned up for later service when Suz. Calls. Nurse Kelly has called her to say dad has had a  bad nite and is a lot worse today. I go up to case things up before waking mom. He’s bad. I need her to be there for him and to assess things.

He is wheezing, breathing laboured, and moaning in a soft but open mouthed way. His eyes roll back in his head, and he can’t say or register any kind of acknowledgement that he knows who is there. (although when we leave for lunch, and I tell him Benny will be coming to visit, he seems to register that. Gosh, he loves that baby.)

He can’t swallow. His urine output is minimal.

Doc. R also calls her. He tells all of us in turn to call in the troops. They will try to keep him comfortable while everyone gets here until tomorrow.

It’s going to be hard for my kids to see dad this way. But Kelly feels that dad would like it if they come and play their instruments for him.

Mom wants to go for lunch. So we head over to tony’s. We don’t have her wheelchair, but clutching window sills, etc., she makes it. Jean Scholtz had come in just as we left. She is upset too.

While lunch comes, mom spouts all kinds of nonsense. I totally understand her need to say things out loud. Mainly I listen and try not to cry.

She mentions how handsome dad was when he was young. I looked up their wedding album last nite. I have I in my kit bag to scan in the pictures and return them asap. They were both beautiful. In the wedding picture she has on the front room fireplace, she is too serious. There are others in the album where she is  smiling and relaxed and happy.  She is really pretty.

In them, dad looks just how he is today. Happy go lucky, happy to be in the moment.

When I went on my scouting mission up to the hosp this morning, Kelly wanted to talk to me before I saw him, so I waited at the end of the hall. I could pick out dad’s voice, breathing heavily and moaning softly.

I will really miss dad’s voice. He has such a soft gentle fuzzy kind of voice. The kind of voice you look forward to hearing on the phone.

When Ben was born last year, and I stayed overnite in hospital, dad called up to my room. I was so happy to hear his voice. That’s the way pretty much everyone feels about dad.

Sunday aft.

The kids arrive on dad’s floor with their instruments around 3:45. The girls have their violins and Neil has his electronic keyboard and stand.

They play a variety of tunes for dad – some classical studies, fiddle tunes, Christmas songs, even O Canada. They save a couple of orchestra pieces that combine different voices for last – holy, holy and Beauty and the Beast. A few wobbles of course, but they sound wonderful.

Susannah taps me on the knee and says, I think Pop is singing. I can hear his voice going up and down with the tune.

And when I look over at his bed a while later, I am positive I can see his foot tapping under the blanket. I am not making this up.

The fact that they have been able to do this for him right now makes every cent paid out for music lessons worthwhile. I am happy for them that they have been able to give this to their grandfather. And that they have been able to see how powerful music can be.

I tell dad I am taking the band out for supper and will be back soon.

Sunday night

Pretty much as soon as we return from supper, dad’s evening nurse Lori calls over to say dad is even worse and family should be with him.

I wanted to see him anyway before I went home. So Stan takes the little guys home. The big guys want to stay with me and see Pop too.

The visit ends up with us chatting to Pop about all his favourite subjects – Pythagorean theorum, Star Trek episodes, environmental hazards of plastic vs glass bottles, Mutiny on the Bounty and more Star Trek.

They are truly the children of Blaine.

Arrive home at midnight. Haven't got the phone call yet.

The nurses were quite emotional this aft/evening about a dnr. Things have been complicated by the fact that when I left, James hadn’t arrived yet.

Sus and Alex are on the midnight watch, and will be with mom tomorrow.

We all wait with sadness for the news that tomorrow will bring.

Posted by sutter or mckenzie at 12:47 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 24 October 2006 11:06 PM EDT
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Saturday, 21 October 2006
Saturday afternoon

Arrive approx. 12:35. Suz, Len Mckenzie and Carleigh are out visiting dad. Alex couldn't get away from her job. 

When they return, we all go out for lunch at GB diner by hosp. During table conversation, there are many more times that mom is completely mis-articulating various situations. Unapologetic about  recent gaffs that can pose threat to her health and independence. This is a source of great concern.

 Mom heads for nap after lunch, i go up to see dad. Relieved that he's not isolated so i can take my guitar.

He's extremely not good. Suz is right -- he looks worse when you haven't seen him for a few days.

 Dozes most of the time. Mutters softly to himself. Is pulling at something on his tummy. He has a catheter now which is draining off something brown. Maybe that's what he's pulling at.

 Play for a bit. I think he is listening, but staring out the doorway of the room like the music is coming from someplace else. That's okay. Something to break up the monotony for him.

His friend and best man from his wedding, Larry Irwin, drops by. Dad isn't with it enough to talk to him. Larry is emotional, and that gets me going. He chats about family, offers to come by and pick mom up if she ever needs a ride. It's good to hear that -- people offering to make time to come and help her. It doesn't come as easily as i thought it might. You have to wait and see about these things. Sometimes people offer, but find it hard to follow thru.

There are cards on the wall from his Masonic lodge, and from the FP WMS. There are 3 pots of flowers in his room, from family. On Thurs mom went thru her address book and started calling dad's friends and telling them about dad. Suz reports after that call, the nurses said dad had lots of visitors.

I also hear that someone came by to sing for him. Specifically came to sing for dad. No one seemed to be able to tell me who it was. Dad confirms someone came to sing, but can't provide detail.

when I left, he was muttering to someone in his head about sandwishes... did they make the sandwiches. this from a person who's not eating anything.

it calms me down to think of those sandwiches. he's well locked into some twilight zone. but at least he's thinking about sandwiches. and not watching the clock tick.

when i log in later in the afternoon like this, there's more of a chance the kids are on msn. yep, holly's on here now. it's nice to connect with them in some kind of space that doesn't have all the high tension adult baggage attached to it.

i'm gonna chat with my kids on msn now.... 

Posted by sutter or mckenzie at 4:47 PM EDT
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