December 2, 1933 – February 8, 2020
“Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that yet untravelled world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.”
(“Ulysses,” Alfred Lord Tennyson)
John Roy Nixon was born on December 2nd, 1933, in Vallican, British Columbia, to Milly Smith and Francis (Jack) Nixon. He died on February 8th, 2020 in Nelson B.C., following a fierce 20-year battle with Parkinsons Disease. John leaves his four daughters Shelley (Ken), Becki, Gaye (Andrew) and Catherine (Charlie), and his son, Curt, as well as his four beloved grandchildren: Liam, Reiley, Ruby, and Rebecca. Also mourning our Dad’s passing are his brother-in-law Fred (Ariella) and his sister-in-law, Joan and families. Six years ago, almost to the day of his own death, Dad lost the love of his life, our mother, Grace Dawn (nee Hostetter).
Dad spent his early years at Perry Siding in the Slocan Valley, and then moved with his parents to Trail, where his father worked as a policeman for Cominco (now Tech). The family later bought a property in Castlegar, where Dad graduated from Stanley Humphries Secondary School. It was at the school board office one day that his heart skipped a beat when he said hello to a young lady named Grace. As a way to pay for university, Dad joined the RCAF. As a captain of a CF-100 fighter jet, Dad spent several years during his twenties posted at various air force bases around Canada, including Cold Lake, Alberta, Trenton, Ontario, and Comox, B.C. A favourite story for all of us kids was how, Dad, when posted to Trenton, would seize any chance to make it back home to see his beautiful Grace. No doubt after briefly contemplating taking the jet fighter, he would jackknife his 6′ 3″ frame into his tiny Morris Minor and drive nonstop west. We know that he ended up in a Saskatchewan snowbank more than once.
He graduated from UBC with a degree in mechanical engineering, and took a job with West Kootenay Power and Light (now FortisBC). He was part of the design team for the Kootenay East and West powerline projects. Dad then returned to UBC for teacher training. After a brief stint teaching in Fernie, he returned to Castlegar, and taught at the J.L. Crowe High School in Trail for the next 25 years until retirement. A beloved maths teacher, Dad continued to receive Christmas cards for many years from ex-students who appreciated his strict, judicious, compassionate approach.
After Grace, John’s great love was the wilderness. He led us fearlessly on countless bushwacking adventures in every season, to peaks in all the local ranges, including the Kokanees, Valkyries and the Valhallas. A keen fisherman, hiker and skier, Dad was most at peace in the mountains, with his dog by his side.
True to his Irish roots, Dad also loved working the soil throughout his life. He and Grace raised a spectacular vegetable and flower garden, and many fruit trees. For many years, he kept bee hives in the backyard and in several mountain locations. Dad was a world-traveller in his mind, and we grew up surrounded by books and music. He taught himself Spanish and followed current events. He loved and studied both poetry and history.
Our Dad was a fiercely independent man with a heart as gentle as his sense of humour was razor sharp. We will miss him always.
We would like to express our deepest gratitude to the many people who helped us and our Dad at home through his last few years: neighbours Ms. Ann Jefferys, Dee Lennox, the Thompsons, among others; Dr. Larocque and the Castlegar Medical Clinic staff; Anita Thompson and the fine crew at Home Support; Tammi Elder and the good folks at Spectrum; and of course, Castlegar Emergency Services. We are also deeply grateful to the kind and dedicated staff at the Castlegar, Trail and Nelson hospitals for your excellent care of our Dad during the days and weeks he was with you. Sarah at Thompson Funeral Home, thank you for your kindness.
A celebration of John’s life, and his life together with Grace, will be held in August on a mountain side above Arrow Lake in the West Kootenays, beneath the soaring ponderosa pines that they both loved so much.