It was a shock to receive an early morning phone call from my brother telling me to “get to Victoria as fast as you can.” My father, Peter had been admitted to Emergency at the Royal Jubilee and no one expected him to last for long. Thank goodness for willing and speeding taxi drivers and Harbour Air, I was able to be there with my sister and mother before he died. It was unexpected, peaceful and quick.
Sitting in my office I am surrounded by books and objects I’ve acquired over the years, many of them from my dad’s bookcase. There are lettering manuals for shopfronts, urban design and architecture books collected when he worked for the City of Victoria’s Special Projects group in the 1960s. C.P.R. telegraph pole insulators, a lamp from an old ship’s deck compass and other objects were collected from junk shops and flea markets on family road trips. The drawing instruments, curves and scales are from his old drafting table and some of these he inherited from retiring colleagues over the years. And there are dozens of ancient pencils from manufacturers long gone. I still draw with many of these, remembering that my dad’s office and workbench was littered with old tools regularly used.
The thing I treasure most from him is learning from an early age to observe and really look at things, to always ask questions and to be patient.
One of the hardest pieces of writing I’ve had to tackle was his obituary. It was published today in the Victoria Times Colonist.
Peter Charles Atkin 1931 – 2018
Whether it was mountain climbing on the Olympic Peninsula or scaling the walls of the Hillside Mall for a climbing demonstration, Peter’s outlook on life was one of curiosity and exploration.
Growing up it could be a ‘borrowed’ log slipped from a boom in the Alberni canal to provide the means to drift on the outgoing tide to an overnight camping spot, with a passing tugboat providing the ride home. Later it was working on tugboats, flying about northern Alberta with oil exploration crews, and then deciding to pack everything up and head off with the family to Australia for a few years.
Family holidays were always adventures with meticulously planned hiking and camping expeditions into the back country, and road trips long and short to interesting and far flung locations. Logging roads held a particular attraction and after pouring over numerous Forest Service maps a variety of out of the way and unique places were discovered.
Peter brought patience and careful observation to what on the surface were unsolvable problems. How to get the family car off the ice patch on a high mountain road that had spun it around so that the nose was pointing at, and over, the edge into space, was to watch him think, ponder, look and then proceed with absolute calm that got the family back on the road.
He was at home on the water whether poking around Victoria’s inner harbour in his Easthope-powered skiff, on family and individual canoe trips, sailing through the Georgia Strait and the islands, fishing on the Juan de Fuca, or competing in Swiftsure and Cal 20 racing out of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club with sailing partner Ken.
He was a superb gardener and plantsman. Peter and Donna kept an extraordinary garden where any visit with friends and relatives began with a tour of new plantings and arrangements. In the workshop he was a collector of small interesting objects from firehose nozzles, to drawing instruments, an array of old pencils and ancient pen nibs that inspired his creativity and interest in crafting beautiful objects whether pottery, bird feeders, furniture, superb beer, wine, or boats.
Peter was an anchor for his three children. Growing up with all of the trials and tribulations of learning to navigate life, school, friends and relationships they knew no matter what or how badly they’d messed up, Peter was there to get them out of a jam, offer help and support. Equally, he was there to celebrate their successes and achievements. In all of life’s choices he was the one to ask the questions – the sensible practical and necessary ones – then whether it was choosing to take a round the world trip of self discovery, auto racing, or purchasing a derelict house for renovation, he was the first one there with practical advice and support. He always had their best interests at heart.
Do your best, be curious, ask questions, ask lots of questions, have fun and be happy which what you chose to do, that was Peter’s advice.
Peter Charles Atkin died unexpectedly though peacefully on October 12, 2018 with family members present.
Peter is survived by Donna, his wife of 63 years, his three children, John, Graham and Gwen, daughter in-laws Robin and Jocelyn, grandchildren, Malcolm and Jeremy and great grandchildren Layna-Rae and Mya.
A celebration of Peter’s life will be held at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, March 9, 2019 at 2:00pm.
Donations in Peter’s memory can be made to the Junior Development Fund c/o the Royal Victoria Yacht Club. The fund promotes participation for junior members of the club in national and international yachting events