55°51'54.54"N, 4°15'27.47"W - 49°53'3.8'' N, 97°8'49.3'' W
“Strength does not come from physical capacity.
It comes from an indomitable will.”
- Mahatma Ghandi
A life’s journey that began on this earth in Glasgow, Scotland, ceased in the early morning hours of March 12, 2020 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. With our hands intertwined, my head on his chest and surrounded by strains of music that he loved, my precious brother, John, passed away; finally at peace and free from all physical burdens he had endured bravely with strength, tenacity, determination, and a profound love for life. He was our family’s true Scottish ‘Soldier’.
If we are so fortunate to have someone in our lives who is our personal hero, how very blessed we are. My brother John was that person to me. He represents everything that is good in this world.
For me, ten tomes could never describe all of the superlatives befitting of John. Where do I begin to express the void left by his passing? In reality, I have thought of how I would put words to paper more times than I care to think about. John had battled so many life-threatening health issues and defied all odds to stay with us. He believed that life was a treasured gift and worth fighting for.
Being the first born to our amazing parents Agnes (née McLachlan) and John Todd, John was their pride and joy. Mum and Dad gave us a foundation of love and support strengthened by teachings of respect, kindness, and compassion for others. John exemplified all of these traits ten-fold. Like Dad, he was the consummate gentleman and grew up with a deep respect for women. His heart was one of gold; bigger than imaginable. If John could help out in a time of need, there was not a second thought. This extended not only to family and friends but to any child coming to the door with an organization or cause to support. You also knew that when John inquired how you were doing; he was sincere and genuine in his query…he really cared.
From Mum and Dad’s accounts, John was a curious, adventurous, and mischievous child; something John laughingly acknowledged! This inquisitiveness transitioned into a life-long quest for knowledge and interest in the world around him. Before his eyesight diminished, John was a voracious reader - interested in fiction and topical reads diverse in topics including nature, woodworking, and photography. Favourites included military history and biographies. As reading became more challenging, audio books gave him great pleasure, even though I would hear the repeat of many chapters over several times, signalling to me that he had nodded off…again! If ever I needed an answer to anything, I could most assuredly go to John. Teasing him, I often asked him if he ever tired of always knowing everything and he would just laugh. Engaging in conversation with John was interesting, enlightening and fun regardless of the topic…he was so well versed. I miss our conversations about ‘anything and everything’. At the same time, he was a man so comfortable in his own company that he required very little to make him happy…he was such a humble man who asked nothing of those in his world. Some of John’s happiest times were spent sitting in the back yard watching the birds at the feeders and laughing at the squirrels trying to get at the feeders.
Coupled with an incredible sharp wit, John had a brilliant mind and was a talented writer of short-stories, poems and ‘ditties’. He was a master of the English language and we would have loads of fun going over speeches or toasts he was preparing for friends’ special occasions, or the spontaneous ‘odes’ he would compose for me. I often said to him that I thought he should be a fiction writer…oh how I will treasure these writings left behind and no doubt ones yet to be discovered in his belongings.
By examples of word and action, Mum and Dad gave us pride in our Scottish heritage and ensured that John and I were confident that we could achieve and do whatever we wanted in life and be who we wanted to be if we worked hard and believed in ourselves. They also believed in education – by book and life lessons - and imparting knowledge. John took this very seriously when it came to me and he always encouraged me to try anything and took every opportunity to teach me everything from how to fish; look after a vehicle, including changing a tire; using tools – hand and power; building ‘things’ and so much more. There was nothing his ‘wee’ sister, shouldn’t or couldn’t learn about or do. His lessons continued right up until the last days of his life, and I will be eternally grateful for his unwavering encouragement and belief in me.
John exhibited a strong work ethic from a very early age when he began delivering for Moffat’s Drugstore after school and weekends to earn his own pocket money and help contribute to our household. Peddling a bicycle in winter across the frozen river to St. Vital for some deliveries surely was no easy feat. Growing up in a long family line of skilled tradesmen, John started his working career in machine shops, but his aspirations took him into the clerical and administrative world. John’s hard work and continued education eventually landed him in the Enforcement Branch of the Environmental Planning Department with The City of Winnipeg. John retired in 2001 after 28 years of dedicated service, taking with him many friendships and happy memories.
John was a believer in true friendship and as testament to this John was so fortunate to have continued many friendships that began in his childhood, teenage years, and young adulthood. Remembrances of fishing at the lake with Gary; road trips with Tony; travel with Peter; partying with the civic gang…these all brought a smile to John’s face.
As everyone grew up, lives and priorities changed, and John was honoured to become ‘Uncle John’ to so many of his friend’s children. John was the most wonderful Santa Claus, dressing up in costume often, and he especially relished in finding the ‘perfect’ Christmas presents for all of children. The noisier the better! John loved the children and delighted in watching them grow up…it gave him much happiness.
While all of the children in John’s life were special to him, he felt particularly honoured to be chosen as Godfather and namesake for his best friend, Peter’s, son. Peter and John held a very special relationship and bond that started on a playground not long after Canada became home to our family. I’m told the friendship started with Peter’s invitation to play. The playing never stopped and John cherished Peter’s friendship until the very end. Indeed, their friendship was one forged out of love, respect – more as brothers, and I am blessed to have that connection still. To add to the joy, Cheryl joined Peter in marriage and John quickly fell in love with her too. With the addition of Todd and Tiffany to Peter and Cheryl’s family, John was so very happy for his pal. When Todd and Tiffany were growing up, he rarely missed a special occasion or sporting event for either of the children and was always happy to listen to their tales of school and adventures. Taking the ‘kids’ out for fun was as much a joy for John as it was for them. He supported and encouraged them at every opportunity and maintained an interest in their activities through their adult lives. Many, many happy ‘family’ gatherings of the Todds and Rhodens took place at Peter and Cheryl’s welcoming home.
John loved holidays especially Hallowe’en for the decorations and Christmas, Easter, and Thanks