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With great sadness his family announces that Gil's life journey, which began on January 24, 1943, came to an end on April 27, 2020.
With our hands intertwined and my head on his chest, my precious husband peacefully passed away at home; he is now free from all burdens that he had endured bravely, with strength, determination and a profound love for life. He was a true Scottish "Soldier".
Gil will be lovingly remembered by his wife Teresa; children Kevin, Cara (Mark), and Shari (Kevin); precious grandsons Liam and Reece; siblings Ken (Chris), Joanne (Brian), Bonnie (the late Frank), and Duncan; mother-in-law Jeannette; sister-in-law Maryann (Wayne); brother-in-law Kenneth; as well as many nieces, nephews, and close friends, many of which were like family to Gil. He was predeceased by his parents Doug and Molly.
Gil was born in Winnipeg. He grew up in St. James and then in St. Francis Xavier. He was the oldest of five and was certainly the leader to his siblings. I am told that to his siblings, he was the "gruff no crying or whining boss" but he still let them play and even woke them up for night swimming. Gil loved his family dearly and enjoyed the friendly heated debates in addition to reminiscing which always seemed to happen when they got together. The family get togethers were special to Gil as they allowed him to form a strong bond with his many nieces and nephews and be a part of their growing up into the wonderful and caring people they are. Gil was so happy to have had the opportunity to video chat with his brothers and sisters shortly before his passing. The memories and stories of Gil and his family are plenty and will never be forgotten.
After high school Gil and some of his long-time friends decided that going to University would be a good thing to do. Not knowing what career path they wanted to take, on the day of registration they decided that being an Engineer sounded like a good plan and got into line. I am told the he and his friends would have all night exam study sessions, but there are rumours as to the amount of time that was actually spent studying. After obtaining his Mechanical Engineering Degree, Gil worked for John Deere. There are many stories that have been shared about Gil and his long-time school friends, one of which is when they were playing handball. It was said that fearless Gil was looking for handballs stranded in the roof trusses thirty feet above the floor. This is not surprising as Gil was a person who often did crazy things such as this.
Gil then wanted another challenge and decided to go into law. He was the Executive Director and CEO of Legal Aid Manitoba from July 2008 until July 2019. Prior to that he served as the Deputy Executive Director, and as a supervising attorney at Legal Aid Manitoba throughout. During his career spanning over 40 years, he served in the front lines, experiencing first-hand the positive and the challenging aspects of our legal system.
During his time as Executive Director and CEO of Legal Aid Manitoba, he held a steady course through rough waters of fiscal constraint, increasingly complex procedures and cases, changing governments and changing public needs.
He provided steady leadership throughout years of growth and transformation, and never lost sight of the big picture: delivering low income individuals and groups with fundamental and essential legal advice and representation services that address the core constitutional principles of fairness and equity; contributing to fair, balanced and efficient justice system.
Gil was a modest, quiet, and unassuming man, dedicated to fairness and equality for all people in access to justice. He wrote, “fairness cannot be achieved in a justice system where those who can afford effective legal representation have more effective access to a litigation-based court system in which basic rights and remedies are determined.”
Gil's contributions to Access to Justice were recognized by the Profession in 2018 when he was awarded the Manitoba Bar Association's Access to Justice Award.
There is an expression of "home is where your heart is" and this was ever so true for Gil. In approximately 1985 shortly after the family cottage at Bereton Lake was sold, Gil, Karen and his much-loved son Kevin, purchased property on Lake Manitoba and then built a cottage with the help of family. They were one of the first families to build in the area. Anyone who knows Gil, knows the cottage has always been the place that gave him the most joy and happiness.
Gil's treasured memories at this special place grew when we married, and it was at this time that Gil developed a strong and loving relationship with Cara and Shari. Despite having to patch holes in walls, fix the neighbours garage and trying to explain to MPI that a rabbit jumped in front of the car there are no words to describe the love he had for them.
Gil loved all animals and always had pets in his life both in his childhood years and throughout his adult life. The first pets he owned were two Siamese Cats. One was a 3 lb female and the other was a 10 lb male. They both lived for over 20 years and produced a litter at which time Gil thought that he might become a Veterinarian. Gil's first dog, Corky, was a Golden Retriever, followed by Tara, a Springer Spaniel. He had hoped that both would be good hunting dogs but neither met up to Gil's expectations. I was told of a story when Corky went after the mailman and as such animal services were called. Once Gil was notified of a pending visit from them to discuss the situation and face possible violations, Gil did his lawyer best and went across the street and borrowed one of Corky's daughters. He put tennis balls in both dogs’ mouths and had them in the yard. When the animal services arrived with the mailman in tow, Gil brought both dogs forward with balls in their mouths and tails wagging. He asked the mailman to identify the dog that attacked him. The mailman could not. While Gil considered this one of his big wins as a lawyer, his mail delivery did suffer for a while. Gil's next pet was a tabby cat named Tigger and his third dog was Coco who is a Labrador mix. Gil enjoyed taking Coco for walks, taking her swimming and having her run behind him on the quad. Coco misses Gil very much. A friend told me that he once asked Gil about his love for animals and Gil told him that any animal or person that doesn't have the ability to control its life, deserves caring and compassion. Such a simple question, such a complex answer, that was Gil.
Engaging in conversation with Gil was interesting, enlightening and fun regardless of the topic... he was so well versed. In addition to Gil's knowledge of the world that he shared with many, he can be described as an active man and naturally athletic. He would pick up a sport, practice and work constantly to improve so he could "compete". Then he would move onto the next sport or activity and do it again. An example of his determination, effort and athleticism is when he spent 2 solid days on Bereton Lake learning to windsurf. He would fall off and climb back up on the board, moving 5' then 10 ' etc... until after the end of the second day he was off and going. After that, he started a long-term enjoyment of surfing and building boards. Like all things Gil attempts, he became very knowledgeable very quickly and became the source for windsurfing information on Lake Manitoba, including to the younger kids to which Gil was 40 years their senior, but that didn't matter to him or them. Gil and his lake buddies would be on the lake year-round. There are even pictures of Gil and Kevin D. walking down the beach in a blizzard after surfing to prove it.
Gil was a person who had to have a project. He decided to do a bit of "landscaping” at the lake and voila! A beach volleyball court emerged in his front yard. Gil played his first beach volleyball game at the age of 55. Like most things Gil did, he picked it up quickly and mostly enjoyed playing against people 20 plus years his junior. Especially because if he won and the prize was a case of beer. This led to the annual August long weekend volleyball tournaments and endless stories and memories including the one when a very bad storm approached, and everyone took cover inside the cottage. There were people wall to wall but that did not stop the party.
Many gatherings and potlucks were had at the cottage where everyone was welcome, even the odd stranger from the beach. It was not unusual for there to be some 24 adults and children at the potlucks. Every dish was superb, and no one ever went home hungry.
Throughout Gil's life, he enjoyed travelling, reading, playing scrabble, hunting, golf, hockey, volleyball, windsurfing and in his mid-'s 60, he took up kiteboarding and spent many hours on the water with his cherished lake friends. A young family joined the cabin crew and shared Gil's love for sport and potlucks. In addition to having one of the youngest and oldest kiteboarders on the beach, potlucks now had some 27 people and they were often followed by watching a Jets game or watching the sun set, having drinks by the fire and/or dance parties. Gil loved people, new friends, old friends, no slight was too big to forgive. If you were Gil's friend, you were his friend for life.
Gil was a man that could not sit still. He was always doing something. He would snow blow the driveway at home and then drive to the cabin and snow blow the driveway and parts of the public road there... sometimes even before unloading the car. He was also often seen snow blowing paths to pave a way to go quading. The Summer months brought the garden to the forefront and dragging out the hose for watering was usually the first thing on his mind. Once that was done and he finished the project he had on the go for that day to which there were many, his days were filled with family and friends enjoying one of the many activities he loved to do.
In 2011 all of us on Lake Manitoba were flooded out of our cottages and homes. No one was spared. When we were allowed back to our properties everyone was busy repairing and raising their cottage. Gil was no different except he raised his cottage some 13 feet and was told that he was the second highest building raise in Manitoba history. During reconstruction, anyone entering the cottage would have to act like circus performers on the high wire and balance their way up the 2x10's to the castle in the sky.
Although the many years at the cabin were great nothing brought him as much joy as the arrival of his grandsons, Liam and Reece. He was extremely proud to become a Grandpa and their early arrival into this world came with several anxious moments. Gil was there every step of the way and often said that when he held Liam and Reece for the first time, it pierced his heart. Gil was a part of many of the boys milestones, some of which were learning to sleep through the night, learning to walk, saying their first words and climbing on anything they could. Nothing gave him greater joy when the boys would come running to him with their arms out waiting to be held and cuddled by their Grandpa. He would proudly tell stories and show pictures of them to anyone who would listen. Although he will not physically be here to see them grow up, I know that Gil will always be a part of their lives.
Gil has touched us all in so many ways and I know he will be missed by all. I would like to thank all that have helped me put together the story of Gil's life. A special thanks goes out to the Cabin Crew; Kevin, Cheryl, Lloyd, Jackie, Dale, Kim, Bob, Jo-Ann, Mark, Heather and all of their children and extended families for some of the happiest memories I will have of all of us together with Gil over the years. My heart is in a million pieces and I know that I am not alone in my grief.
Gil was a much-loved son, brother, father, grandpa, uncle, friend, mentor and and cherished husband. He represents everything that is good in this world and lived a full life of wonder and continued adventure. I was so fortunate to have him in my life and the true gift he left me with that I will keep with me always, is knowing without a single doubt that he loved me unconditionally. Rest in peace my love.
Friends and family are encouraged to share their own memories, stories, and/or condolences for the family by using the comment section on this page.
In lieu of flowers, if friends and family so desire, donations can be made to a charity of one’s choosing.
Cremation has taken place and a celebration of life will take place at a later date.
GILBERT (GIL) DOUGLAS CLIFFORD
January 24, 1943 - April 27, 2020
Memories, Stories and Condolences
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