RICHARD JOHN STANIFORTH
October 2, 1946 - January 12, 2022
It’s with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Richard, our beloved husband, Dad, and Grandad, at the age of 75.
For the past three years he battled with Multiple Myeloma and the effects of chemotherapy but he still managed to enjoy periods of remission where he spent time with his family and friends. Sadly, he very recently fell victim to a second, more aggressive type of cancer that proved too much. None of us could have anticipated the second cancer that took him from us so quickly and so soon. We are grateful, however, for the time we had together, including celebrations this past Christmas where he enjoyed speaking with his grandchildren about their interests and marveling at their enthusiasm - always the encouraging professor.
He is survived by his wife of 52 years (Diana), his sons and daughters-in-law (Terry & Chelsey, Ian, Graham & Nicole, and Christopher & Christy), his grandchildren (Sadie, Henry, Devon, Theo, and Clara), his siblings (Marilyn, Lesley, and Peter), his nieces and nephews (Debbie, Colin & Sharon, Nikki & Daryl, Wendy & Stuart, Barry & Jenny, Leann & Dane, Kirsty & Martin, James, Ruby, Mitchell & Mikayla, and Jayden), as well as many deeply cherished friends.
Richard was born in Sidmouth, Devon, England. He was the oldest of four children and had two wonderful parents. His father had a career in the British Army, which took him to different parts of the world while fighting in World War II. After the war, he worked both as a Agricultural Engineering Machinist and with the Royal Mail where he drove a mail van around the narrow country lanes in Devon. His time with the Royal Mail led to many stories that Richard shared with his grandchildren, and they enjoyed the similarities that their Great Grandad had to the children’s character, Postman Pat. Richard’s mother was a wonderful woman who instilled in her children an appreciation for nature through their many walks and adventures in the countryside. She also loved her garden (as did her mother before her) and it is no wonder that her love for the natural world was passed down to Richard. During WW2, Richard’s mother worked in a local hospital as a nurse and this is where she met Richard’s father. Richard was a faithful friend and kept in touch with many of his childhood friends. We would hear of times that he and his friends would take long walks through the beautiful Devonshire countryside, looking at the plants, birds, and insects that they would pass.
Another favourite activity would be to climb a tree in the woods and patiently wait for the chance to photograph a badger family as they came out of their den. We still have a photo from such a trip. There are certain to be many other stories from his youth that can be shared by his siblings and friends and we invite these to be posted in the comment section.
Richard first went to the University of North Wales, Bangor in 1965. There he deepened his interest in biology and botany. Amongst a wonderful group of friends from every corner of Britain, he met his wife-to-be, Diana. University life in the sixties was an unforgettable experience and the friendships made were made to last forever. Richard always wanted to see more of the world, an interest that likely had been seeded by his father’s interest to move to Canada. After graduating from Bangor with his B.Sc. (Honours) he had an opportunity to further his education abroad. Canada quickly became the place to fulfill his dream, as well as that of his father. In 1969 Richard began his PhD in Plant Biology at the University of Western Ontario under the guidance of Dr. Paul Cavers. The move challenged him to learn about ecosystems and climate factors that he was unfamiliar with from life in Britain - a challenge he enjoyed. It did not take too much persuasion to entice his old friend from Bangor to join him on this Canadian adventure. In 1970, the adventure continued for Richard and Diana and on July 18th they were married - celebrating the day with friends and family while on holiday in Britain.
His time in London, Ontario led to lifelong friendships and also provided an opportunity to take on more adventures in nature. Richard eagerly planned to explore new areas and each weekend saw him collecting plants and tenting in yet another beautiful location. Each adventure led to something new to learn, something he paid forward to his students and family. His exploring spirit lent itself well to his work and he almost always had plant presses on hand so that he could bring back samples for the herbarium and for all those who were interested in nature. In addition to the plant press, he would reliably be seen with a pair of binoculars, a GPS, and signs of the poison ivy he had tromped through. Birding was a major passion for Richard and brought him in touch with other birders all over the world. It inspired his vacation destinations and acted as a universal language while travelling to Mexico, Peru, Costa Rica, etc. Richard’s passion for birding was undeniable and was crystallized for his children whenever they answered the home phone to the urgent statement “Is Richard there? Tell him there’s an RBA!”. These calls almost warranted their own telephone line.
Of all his talents and accomplishments, Richard’s main gift was his ability to tune into the interests of people around him and to help them cultivate those interests. He was recognized by the University of Winnipeg for this gift when he was awarded the Clifford J. Robson Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence, when the herbarium was renamed the “Richard J. Staniforth Herbarium” at the U of W, through appreciation of his publications that extended into retirement, and in being recognized by the university as Professor Emeritus.
To understand Richard though is to understand that his gift extended beyond academic circles and even biology in general. With his family he made the most use of his gift as he supported his children’s and grandchildren’s interests. He was present in every sense of the word, encouraging us to grab hold of opportunities while making it clear that we were the magic ingredient and not our accomplishments. He joined us when we excitedly explored basketball, fishing, camping, wrestling, cycling, soccer, music, and scouts. He joined us when we changed our minds or were full of doubts. No matter what pressures were on him there was no doubt that his family was his priority.
“Meeting Richard at university was the best thing that could ever have happened to me. Not only was he the best-looking young man that I could have ever hoped to have met, but he was a perfect gentleman and someone that I knew I could always trust. It quickly became obvious that our interests and dreams were the same. Our families and friends could see that closeness too. I knew that I could count on his strength to get us through any challenges that faced us..and it did. We have been together ever since that first day we met. We have been blessed with a wonderful family that we both love so much. I always lovingly called Richard ‘My Rock’ and I know in my heart that he will always be beside me and his family forever.” (Diana, wife)
“I have always told anyone that would listen that I won the lottery of life by being adopted by mum and dad. From all our family camping, road trips and visits overseas we were taught the importance of respect, love and most of all family. Our camping trips always turned into teaching lessons and I'm embarrassed to admit, I didn't see the value in it at the time. Now, looking back, I appreciate the countless memories and knowledge he shared with us. I will always cherish our fishing trips where dad and I could talk for hours about any number of topics, and then sit in silence just soaking it all in.” (Terry, eldest son).
“My Dad was probably one of the nicest people in the western civilization. I enjoyed our camping trips together and meeting up for coffee or lunch together and talking about how things were going. I loved my dad and will miss him very much.” (Ian, second eldest son)
“I have many fond memories of waiting anxiously for dad to return home from work. Watching out the window waiting eagerly for a glimpse of him on his regular walk down the back lane so I could run to meet him with a hug. Adventures with the family were something dad always made a priority, from summer long camping trips at Hecla, cross-Canada trips, Northern adventures driving to Thompson followed by a train ride to Churchill. Baker Lake research trips with the added experience of cross-tundra ATV trips to remote camping destinations. Dad’s unwavering love, soft and non-confrontational demeanour will always be cherished and felt in our hearts. I am proud to be his son. I am blessed to have had our time together. The adventures will continue and you will always be with me. Always have been and always will be my hero. I love you dad.” (Graham, second youngest son).
“I am deeply proud of my dad and love him beyond measure. He showed me that our greatest treasure is each other, that there is room for gentleness and thoughtfulness in this world, and that we’re part of something enormous and beautiful. I miss him and my ongoing reflex to text him goes to show how natural it was to talk to him. There were so many moments that we spent together sharing experiences of life, including many cherished lunch hours in his office at the U of W where I studied alongside him and we took breaks for tea. I am grateful for every moment I’ve had with him and it will take me the rest of my life to fully understand the gifts he gave to our family just by being him. He was my loving dad right to the end, with even his last words to me being of love and reassurance - words that honoured the man he was. I love you dad.” (Chris, youngest son).
Richard’s family kindly requests that his friends and relatives take a few minutes to honour his memory by sharing memories and stories in the comment section. A celebration of life will be held at a later date when health restrictions permit.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the “Richard Staniforth - MAPB Undergraduate Prize in Botany” - which is a prize established in honour of Richard’s lengthy commitment to education in the field of botany. This can be done by clicking this text.
Memories, Stories and Condolences
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