On Monday, August 31, 2020, Henry John Selwood (known to all as John) passed away at Grace General Hospital at the age of 83.
He was predeceased by his parents Henry William Selwood and Elah Lucy Selwood (née Samuel).
He will be deeply missed by his wife Katherine, sister Jill Groves, daughters Carol Unruh and Lynn Selwood, grandchildren Riley, Emma and Miranda Unruh and Lucy Selwood, stepsons James McLennan (Alexandre) and Paul McLennan (Sara), niece Joanna Waldner (Rob), and nephews Bryn and Roger Groves.
John was born in London, England. His early childhood was spent in Herne Hill and Tulse Hill, South East London. During the Blitz in 1941, he was evacuated with his mother for several months to Exmouth, Devon, while his father stayed in London. The family was reunited in 1942. Their former residence having been bombed, they moved to North West London, in an area between Harrow and Wembley. John’s sister Jill was born there.
John attended Glebe Primary School in Harrow. He was in Cubs and Scouts and got kicked out of both: once for stealing apples from a neighbour’s tree, and the second time for writing an essay about his French teacher, comparing her to a frog. He attended Wembley County Grammar School, taking the bus and train each day, occasionally in the company of Julie Andrews who travelled part of the same route. John’s week included an early morning milk run, a daily paper route, and a Saturday morning job at the green grocer’s. His recreation was ice skating at Wembley Ice Arena and playing cricket on the school team. Despite various misdemeanours (and several canings), John passed his O Levels.
John’s love of music began at an early age. As a child, he was exposed to classical music on the radio daily. He studied clarinet in his teens, and at 16 he joined the army as a member of the Royal Artillery Band on Boys’ Service. He later switched to bassoon, continuing with the military band until he was 20. During those years he also played string bass at dance hall gigs.
John’s father Henry was a musician as well, playing in the Welsh Guards Band. In 1955 he decided to take a position with the Canadian Forces Military Band. Henry, Elah and Jill moved to Canada, first stationed in Chilliwack and shortly after in Winnipeg. John joined them in 1957. He attended Gordon Bell High School for one year to obtain a Grade 12 University Entrance standing (then equivalent to first-year university). He enrolled in the Faculty of Commerce at the University of Manitoba, working night shifts at Misericordia Hospital. After two years in Commerce he took a year off to work in the provincial highways department as a bridge inspector and in the lab testing soil samples.
In 1961 John married Anne MacVicar and returned to university to pursue a general arts degree. In his second year of Honours Geography, he and Anne moved to Montreal where John began his master’s degree at McGill.
John’s daughter Carol was born in Montreal in 1965. She was instilled with her love of travel at an early age, as in 1966 John moved the family to Perth, Australia, continuing to work on his thesis and receiving his Master of Geography in 1968. In Perth he began work on his PhD at the University of Western Australia.
In 1969 John took up a position as urban geographer at the University of Winnipeg and the family moved back, taking up residence in Armstrong Point. He served on the Winnipeg Bach Festival Board, and on the University of Winnipeg Music Committee headed by Harry Strub. He also sat on provincial land use committees and was a member of the Urban Institute founded by Lloyd Axworthy.
In 1970 John’s daughter Lynn was born. The ’70s were busy times—preparing lectures, trying to do research, returning to Perth to complete his doctorate, and raising a family. Cross-country skiing was his stress reliever, and he enjoyed strong support from members of the University of Winnipeg Geography Department, building lasting friendships with Jim Richtik, John Lehr, Bill Rannie, Tom Carter, Geoff Scott and Salah Hathout. He also took great pleasure coaching Lynn in her study of the cello through the Suzuki program, of which John became a board member.
John’s first sabbatical to Perth was in 1986. Through several subsequent sabbaticals, he formed close friendships with colleagues Roy Jones, George Curry, Gina Koczberski, Ian Alexander, Alan May and Matthew Tonts.
In the summer of 1987, John and his first wife parted ways. John soon met Katherine, beginning a relationship that would last the rest of his life. It was 2006 when John and Katherine actually tied the knot—a lovely occasion held in their Wolseley home. They had 33 wonderful years together, meeting up with friends at Cousins Deli, attending geography conferences, travelling throughout Europe and Australia, sharing their love of music and theatre, and enjoying the grandchildren.
John was an intelligent, kind, gentle man of few words with a dry wit. He was loyal to his friends. He loved the outdoors, a glass of wine (lately vodka), reading, playing Bridge, and most of all, classical music. His last request was to have the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Philharmonic Choir perform the Brahms Requiem at his funeral. Sorry John, there’s a pandemic on. A recording will have to suffice!
Cremation has taken place. Some years ago, John spoke of his wish for a wake, rather than a formal funeral, attended by his family and all his friends. Due to COVID‑19 restrictions and risks, this will unfortunately be limited to a family gathering to honour his memory. In the meantime, John's family kindly requests that all of his friends and relatives take a few minutes to honour his memory by watching the photo-biography above. They also encourage the sharing of photos, memories, and stories by making use of the comment section on this page.
Sincere thanks to the medical staff at CancerCare Manitoba (Health Sciences Centre) and Grace General Hospital for their kindness and expert care of John.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to CancerCare Manitoba.
ETHICAL DEATH CARE
Cremation & Life Celebrations
530 St, Mary Avenue - Winnipeg
HENRY JOHN SELWOOD
November 22, 1936 - August 31, 2020
Memories, Stories and Condolences
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