Graeme Decarie, 1933-2022
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I have added a comment from Bob Carswell at the end of this post. As well, Lynn Berry has added a comment.
The obituary at the above-noted link reads:
Graeme Graeme Decarie 1933 2022
Posted on December 1, 2022 by luc
Obituary of Graeme Decarie
Malcolm Graeme Decarie
August 27, 1933-November 27, 2022
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Malcolm Graeme Decarie, 89, of Montreal, Quebec, on November 27, 2022, in Kingston, Ontario.
Born in Montreal to Malcolm Stanley and Jessie Decarie on August 27, 1933, Graeme studied Canadian history at Sir George Williams, Acadia, and Queen’s. After teaching briefly at UPEI, he returned to Montreal and enjoyed a long career as an enormously popular professor and chair of the history department at Concordia. He was a prolific speaker in the Montreal community, regular commentator for the CBC and CJAD, and consultant and narrator for the NFB. He also wrote for Reader’s Digest, The Montreal Gazette, and more. Graeme was active in the NDP, Alliance Quebec, the 78th Fraser Highlanders Regiment, and Sherlock Holmes society The Bimetallic Question. He enjoyed sailing, family history, and travelling.
Graeme dearly loved his children Catherine, Christina, Alexander, Nicholas, and Margaret, and was a proud grandfather to Evi, Mei Mei, Oona, and Leo. He was also devoted to his sister, Winnifred Stewart, and his nephews and niece, Ian, Andy, Doug, Owen, and Donna. The family is grateful to the staff at the Rosewood Retirement Residence for their compassion and care during the last year of Graeme’s life.
A Service of Remembrance will be held in Montreal on Saturday, April 22, 2023, 2 pm, at Mount Royal United Church, 1800 Graham Blvd and via Zoom. Memorial donations to the YMCA can be made by visiting ymcaquebec.org
Our most sincere sympathies to the family and friends of Graeme Decarie 1933 2022.
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Bob Carswell writes (Dec. 3, 2022):
Graeme Decarie 1933 2022
I met Graeme Decarie when he was seventeen years old, and I was a 6-year-old. He was a councillor at the Northmount YMCA in St. Laurent, behind Norgate Shopping Center, Canada’s first shopping center put in place in 1949. It was 1950 and my mother had enrolled my older brother and me in the summer day program. I remember the playground where we met the buses, I remember the Go Around which gave me a scarred finger I have to this day. It was on one of the trip days to a beach in St. Rose, I think it was. While others swam, I was taken to a doctor for a couple of metal clamps to close the wound. We went to various beaches, but I remember St. Rose especially because that was where I received a certificate for swimming 10 feet underwater. Graeme Decarie was always there.
We went everywhere on buses back then, many of the places giving us an education that would last a lifetime like the Canada Dry Bottling Company. Saturdays were for movies at the Northmount YMCA sitting in large numbers on the main hall floor. Tarzan was a favourite of mine. Throughout the next five years or so, Graeme Decarie was always there. He always remembered me and my brother and especially my mother who would bring us to the park on the No. 17 Streetcar for our day’s outing, generally with a bag lunch. Then she would turn up to take us home later in the day. Once we learned the route we were on our own.
I remember so many more things with my photographic memory, especially him. I remembered Graeme Decarie visiting Cartierville school to find out what the kids wanted to do as activities. I played Buck-Buck there and loved the exercise but like most LD [learning disabled] children response programming was delayed, and I answered the next question he had moved on to that afternoon with the simple repeated words BUCK, BUCK, BUCK, BUCK, BUCK, BUCK. Seventy years later he was still mentioning it to tease me.
I was a good runner back then, and Graeme would take me to the local park in St. Laurent to test my skills and time my running. On competition day, I represented the Northmount YMCA and won 7 ribbons in 7 races thanks to his support. I ran a total of about 3 miles that day at full speed.
I went to The Highschool of Montreal for three years and found out what failing was all about. Three years later I was at the new Malcolm Campbell High School (1960-1987). After a broken neck one year, and a kidney removal and lung collapse the following year, I made it finally to Grade 10 on December 5th. 1962. Failed that year too.
Graeme Decarie was my history teacher in Grade Ten. History was one of the few courses I passed that year, as my move to advanced math classes did not otherwise work out. I could not do what my brother could do. I left Montreal in 1966 for the west to Calgary and Saskatoon for three years in promotions with Birks. Eventually, I would leave Birks and return to Montreal to do a degree at Sir George Williams University (now renamed Concordia). From what I understood Graeme was off teaching English in the Netherlands and China somewhere. I did not see him again until I visited my married brother in Kingston, Ontario where they were both doing a PhD. It must have been ten years later at least. Guess who arrived for dinner. In 1972 I resettled in Toronto as there were few jobs left in Montreal for people like me looking for new opportunities. For the next 30 years, I kept up with Graeme through Concordia magazine while he made a name for himself in Montreal. I had left the city for a second time, and it was not until I was about 48 years old that I read something that told me I had been learning disabled all my life. It was confirmed by tests.
Although I never graduated from MCHS, I came up with the idea of a 40th Anniversary celebration in Montreal in the Year 2000, and 1,200 people attended. I met Graeme Decarie there coming out of the restaurant used for registration. It was almost like I knew it would happen. A 55th Anniversary gathering at the Old Mill in Toronto in 2015 for those who did not make the Y2K reunion in Montreal saw an additional 150 in attendance. By then, I was in a wheelchair. At some point, Graeme retired and moved with his new family to New Brunswick. That marriage did not last but produced three children to add to the older daughters from his first marriage. So next, he was writing a blog from Moncton, New Brunswick.
From there it was a move to Ottawa, but it was boring for him, so he finally settled in Kingston where he died recently. My good friend Jaan emailed me and told me he had just died. Graeme lived to be 89, I just turned 78. We had communicated a great deal over the years since he moved to Ottawa, and I was told a lot of great stories along the way. My good friend of more than 72 years, on and off, has died. So ends an era. R.I.P.
Good to read your recollections Bob!
I got to know Graeme especially well during the last decade of his life. When I was a student at MCHS I was on the Student Council. Graeme was an advisor to the Council or whatever the term was for a teacher who worked with such a student body. I remember he was diplomatic and even-handed in offering advice when decisions were being debated.
He made a tremendously valuable contribution to every activity he was involved with. My own life has been much enriched through having gotten to know Graeme. He had such a gift for language and a depth of understanding. I am a better person for having known him. It’s a pleasure to revisit the comments he has shared about sundry topics of interest at this website.
I remember, Bob, that he always spoke very highly of you.
A minor point: The MCHS 2015 Sixties Reunion in Toronto had a little over 60 people in attendance. It was a great event. I’m really pleased so many people worked together to make it happen.
I grew up about 4 blocks from Norway Shopping Centre. Bob Carswell’s recollections of thos days in the 1950s brings back a flood of memories. I was born in 1956 but Norway was a fixture in that area of St. Laurent. I think Graeme may have known my Dad as they both went to High Scool of Montreal. Thanks for the memories of my childhood growing up on Depatie Street. My condolences to Graeme’s family.
Good to read your comment. I’m assuming you are referring to Norgate not Norway. I remember many things about the shopping centre – including a hobby shop where I once bought a balsawood ‘Chris Craft’ model boat. I would ride up on my bike to the shopping centre from Cartierville where I lived. I also remember watching movies at the nearby YMCA and playing floor hockey. I remember the floor hockey because on one occasion I fell and injured my elbow. It wasn’t a serious injury but it took many, many years before the elbow was fully recovered.
When I posted Bob’s comment (above) I originally wrote the date as Nov. 3, 2022 instead of Dec. 3, 2022. Bob pointed out that I might change that to Dec. 3, 2022 which I did.
I explained to Bob that it was in Grade 4 at Cartierville School that I realized that I sometimes get things mixed up. Fortunately, corrections can be made.
In correspondence regarding this topic, Bob has recently written:
Be thankful you had a normal Grade Four. Remember the old Anglican Church across the street (also like the first four rooms of Cartierville School), both were built in 1922, a hundred years ago as a result of the baby boom after WWI. Well, that is where I spent Grade Four, a result of the baby boom after WWII. I remember the old pot-bellied stove in the northeast corner that heated the place; I can still see it to this day. There were so many of us there after the war, that the place was divided in half by chalkboards, and there were two Grade Fours, each with a different teacher. Those chalkboards were removed on the Friday after school and the church was used as a hall for Saturday events and Sunday church services. In the evenings during the week, it was also used for cubs and scouts and that is where Scott [Munro] remembers me from when I was Scout Troop Leader. I went to Quebec City in 1960 and received my Queen Scout certificate from the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec.
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The church Bob refers to is the Church of Good Shepherd across the road from Cartierville School.
Click here for previous posts about the Church of Good Shepherd >
In response to Bob’s comment (above), on Dec. 5, 2022 I have written:
I’ve been thinking about one of my own memories of Grade 4. We used to have gym mats when we were in phys ed (Gym) classes. In those days I remember standing on a gym mat, talking with friends, and doing a standing somersault. I would stand up, flip myself forward in the air and land back on my feet. I never tried doing that as I got older. I once read that Pierre Trudeau, who spent a lot of time practising such things when he was younger, could do a forward somersault as an adult. I read one story about him walking down a hallway with some dignitary. Suddenly, he did a forward somersault and then kept on walking as if nothing had happened. He was not very tall. That would help me to explain, I think, his capacity to go flying through the air in this way and make a perfect landing.
It’s interesting to think back about the forward somersaults. I was quite short in Grade 4 as we all were at that age; being short, flexible, and agile made such a somersault an easy thing to perform. I can’t remember how I learned to do this. Maybe I learned from my friends who were also adept at such feats.
It’s interesting about body size. Toddlers have the ability to suddenly stick their feet out so their legs go straight and they fall at once on their behinds. I’ve seen toddlers perform this feat regularly as when having conversations with fellow toddlers. For a child who’s a bit older or for an adult such an entertaining way of getting seated is usually no longer an option.
I got my start in teaching by working in an Early Childhood Education setting in Toronto starting in 1975. From that I moved into the public education system (I retired from the Peel District School Board in 2006). As I think about toddlers at play, I think about what a great thing it is when children of any age – beginning with early infancy – have the opportunity to play with and spend time together with peers of the same age.
As elementary and high school students in Montreal in the 1950s and 1960s, those of us born in the mid-1940s and late-1940s and thereabouts had the opportunity to hang out with vast numbers of age=peers. This is a feature of life no matter what era a person was born in, of course; in the fifties the postwar baby boom was underway meaning the number of age-peers was particularly large.
Teachers we spent time with – who in some cases were not all that much older than we were, by the time we were high school students – were also part of the mix. It’s good to look back on those years, as Graeme and other teachers along with students have had the opportunity to do. I’m pleased that some of our stories have been shared at this website over the past several years.
May 2015 photo of Church of Good Shepherd, across the street from Cartierville School. Scott Munro photo.
The photo is from a June 6, 2015 post entitled: May 2015 photos of Cartierville School, Church of Good Shepherd, and MCHS.