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.