My father, Reginald Keith Robicheau, died last night. He was 79 years old. I cannot make it to his funeral. I will use this space to pay a tribute to his life. I loved him dearly and he was a wonderful Dad to me but I said my good-byes to him while he was alive. When you live so far from home, this is part of the deal. It’s hard but I’d rather focus on savouring all he gave me.
There are two great lessons he taught me. They are things that he always said to me and my brother Keith and sisters, Susan and Laurie.
“Keep your chin up” – was what he said when he wanted to encourage us. And, “Where’s your common sense?” – came out when he wanted us to question our own behaviour.
My father lived his entire life in St. Andrews, New Brunswick. His father was a fisherman who had his own wholesale retail fish market. His mother came from across the Passamaquoddy Bay in Robinston, Maine and from good people who had good habits of domestic management, etiquette and neighbourliness. She was educated, proper and genteel.
As ideal as that might sound, my father’s childhood was riddled with the uncertainty of living with a father with severe alcoholism. He was an only child and there was much humiliation and much work in his destiny. His childhood was cut short as he often had to be the man of the house. In his high school years he rose at four or five in the morning to drive to meet the fishing boats before going to school. He was trying to help his father’s business stay afloat. His teachers did not wake him if he fell asleep in school.
My grandfather joined AA when my oldest sister was born. He did not want to cause the same harm to another generation. Except for a few memorable slip-ups he did not drink in the 40 plus years I knew him. His business did well, he and my grandmother were able to build a small home which she lovingly cared for and my father finally had some peace. He volunteered with his father in the local Lion’s Club for many years.
Dad worked for Fisheries and Oceans Canada from the time he was 18 until he retired at age 52. He never got to go to university so he had to stay a technician. Every six weeks he went to sea for two weeks. A few years ago we visited Halifax harbour and saw the small ocean-going research vessels that he worked. He told us stories of staying up all night picking at ice with an axe so the ship would not capsize in perilous winter trips to Newfoundland’s Grand Banks.
Once he retired, I don’t think my father every set foot on a boat on the ocean again. His favourite place in the world was a long skinny lake called Digdeguash where he had built an 800 square foot camp, in 1970, for us to enjoy for the best years of our youth and our children’s youth.
People in the west and in Ontario have summer homes and cottages. In the Maritimes we have camps. This was my father’s slice of heaven. He called it his sanctuary. We all learned to waterski here and so did our children. Over the years, tubing became popular and kayaking and fireworks and every grandchild learned to run an outboard motor with Grandpa.
He also took the time to teach them to fish.
He loved to forage for blueberries and patiently pick them over so my Mom would make him a blueberry pie.
Dad kept a huge garden at the camp. Freshly shelled peas were his favourite food. I’m so grateful to be the daughter of a gardener. And even more grateful that he helped me build my square foot gardens in Calgary and that he was around to give me advice when I needed it. He was an organic gardener. He loved to drag seaweed off the beaches and dig it into his soil. And he was a devoted composter. He gave away bushels of tomatoes each fall. He just loved to grow things and sometimes got a bit carried away.
Lobster was right up there – along with anything grown in his garden – as his other favourite food. He was a master at cooking and preparing the lobsters so that everyone could break into them as easily as possible.
In the last few years, he really grew to love when we would go for special dinners at The Rossmount Inn. He always ordered the exact same thing – chef Chris Aernie’s haddock. However chef Chris prepared it, Dad knew it would be mouth-wateringly good.
Dad loved St. Andrews and serving his community. He was a town councillor for many years, a cub scout leader, a Lion and a devoted volunteer at his church – almost single-handedly running their lobster dinners and rebuilding the church basement.
Retirement at age 52 gave Dad a whole new lease on life. He was talented with carpentry, plumbing, electrical work and motors. Our home was a shell when Mom and Dad bought it and Dad worked on it continuously for the 55 years he lived there. This summer when he knew he wouldn’t live much longer he had a new roof put on, the entire exterior painted and a new front walk installed so my Mom would have it ship shape after he was gone.
Dad loved to sit in the sun room on the back of the house. We’ve always had a cat and our cats always loved joining Dad in his chair.
Of all the things my Dad loved about life he loved his family the most.
He especially loved his wife of 59 years, my Mom, Gerri.
Dad was quiet. He loved nothing better than to be around us and to have us home but he liked to be in the background. If he could be near us, but doing something, that was just right for him. He was best one-on-one and knew a lot about what was going on in the world.
He read Time magazine, Macleans, National Geographic, The Saint John Telegraph Journal and The St. Stephen Courier faithfully. He was liberal-minded and accepting of others. He wasn’t always the greatest husband as he had his own struggles with alcohol but he was a wonderful father.
He expected the best from us always. He expected us to go to university and to realize the dreams he never had the chance to pursue. He was so proud that all four of his children got that chance and that we all are successful in our chosen fields and in our family lives. He never really got over me moving to Alberta but he was a good sport about taking the train out to see me every few years. He hated flying but he even did that once – just to spend more time with his youngest grandchild and to help me with chores around my home.
The last week, Dad grew weak. We all knew it was coming. He’d been given a terminal diagnosis last March.
Yesterday, he got up, sorted the mail, paid the bills and balanced his cheque book. He sat in his favourite chair. When he realized he was having trouble breathing and couldn’t get out of the chair, my Mom and sister took him to the hospital. He was made comfortable and passed away surrounded by family – including my sister’s dog – within a few hours.
What a blessing to have had such a father. I love you Dad and will cherish everything you taught me and every moment we had together – always. Wherever you are going, keep your chin up. Wherever I am, I promise to use my common sense and to savour it all.
What a lovely tribute to your father. It sounds like he was a wonderful man. I am so sorry for your loss. The death of a parent is on of the most profound rites of passage on our human journey. My heart goes out to you.
Hugs and God bless,
Susan Van Wynen
Thank you Susan.
I really appreciate your words and your kindness to me always.
Love and hugs,
Dearest Sister Karen,
You are a gifted writer and have paid a beautiful living tribute to our most wonderful Dad.
With All My Love,
Senior Sister Sue
Love you Senior Sister.
Oops my eyes failed me – meant to say loving tribute.
Love you! K
Karen, your words are heartfelt and beautiful. Reg was a lovely man. Please accept my sincere condolences on the passing of your wonderful father. Hugs xox Erin
Thank you dear Erin.
It means a lot.
What a beautiful tribute Karen. I am so sorry for your headache now.
With love, Sheryl (Adams)
Thank you Sheryl.
your dad sounds like a wonderful guy; how lucky you are to have such sweet memories and beautiful pictures to remember him with.
sending my sincere condolences to you and all those who loved your dad
ps – i feel like i have benefited from his wisdom too!
i do recall someone telling me to ‘keep my chin up’ not all that long ago, and i have reflected on that simple phrase many times since!
Keep your chin up can mean a lot of things but Dad raised us to find our inner strength and believe in ourselves.
Keep calm and carry on or keep your chin up.
Same thing maybe?
What a loving tribute to a wonderful man. Thanks for sharing his wisdom with us. It inspires me to be a better father to my son. Sending love and comfort your way.
Thank you Roger.
Encouragement and Kind firmness at times.
With love, your son will do the rest.
This was so beautiful and, having spent time with your wonderful dad, both in St. Andrews as well as at your family camp, I can truly appreciate everything you have written. I can still hear his voice!
You were blessed to have such a good dad and I am so very sorry for your loss…
Sending you love,
He was never happier than being surrounded by a bunch of people having fun at the camp. The summer you brought the family from Wisconsin was amazing for us all. Love you darling, K
What a wonderful tribute to honour your father in this passage. He was loved by many in our town and although a very quiet and private person he was always giving of himself. Our sincere condolences to your entire family.. The Van Tassels.
Thank you Carol. We love our Van Tassels! Hugs, K
To Karen and family,
Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this sad time.
From your tribute your Father sounds like an amazing man.
How lucky you were to have him in your life.
Dianne and Gillian Holowisky
Sent from my iPad
You know the pain of a great loss and you know how to turn that around and make it meaningful. Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place. Kindly, Karen
Karen – I’m so sorry for your loss. No matter how old we are or how prepared we are, it’s still so hard to lose a parent.
Thank you Pam. I appreciate you and Brenda and how good you’ve been to me for so many years. Hugs, K
Karen, such beautiful memories of your father. Keep them close forever. Hugs to you my friend.
Thank you Bernice. I appreciate your hugs very much. K.
Wonderful Karen! As ‘townies’ ,a piece of all of us dies when someone like your father leaves us. xo
Thank you Vinton. I love that perspective and it’s truth. I am so glad you shared that with me. Big hugs to you my friend. K
Blessing to you and your family my dear friend Karen. Losing a dad is not easy but writing this beautiful tribute is a wonderful way for all to embrace your dad and all his goodness while on the beautiful place we call home.
May your Thanksgiving be filled with wonderful memories of his presence in your life.
Your dear friend,
So grateful to have you in my life Barbara.
Thank you for your kindness and grace always.
So sorry to hear that Reg passed on. This tribute is absolutely beautiful – a quiet, deep man indeed – he was very proud of all of you.
Hugs, thoughts and prayers to you all. xoxo
Keith & Brenda (Pierce)
Thank you sweet friend. That means a lot. Give my love to Brenda. K
Such a frank and beautiful tribute to your father. I am sorry for your loss. Take care of yourself, Karen.
I will see you very soon and we will live well.
That’s what counts the most.
Dear Karen ,we all know that some day our parents will leave us . It is never easy no matter how old we are .
Thinking of you ,Claudette
Sent from my iPad
Thank you darling friend. I love you and am glad you have such a beautiful relationship with your family. I’m blessed to call you my friend. K
What a wonderful tribute to your dad….beautifully written. So sad for your loss Karen…..chin up like Reg would say. 💖💖💖
You are a sweetheart.
This was beautiful to read. I didn’t know your father well but Geri was my teacher in hairdressing school and I love bumping into her and hearing about Reg, her children and grand children. I am so sorry for you and your families loss. You are all on my mind.
Thank you Krysten. K
Beautiful words and photos Karen.
So very sorry for the loss of your dad.
Thanks Vikki. I really appreciate it. K
Karen, it has been a while since we talked. But have often been in my thoughts. Love and admire the strength of character of your gene pool in giving us the insight of such a man called your Father. Our Prayer of comfort we send you and your family.
Thanks Max. I love you and miss you. Hugs to you and Rita. K
Saddened to hear about the passing of your Dad. A beautiful moving tribute you’ve written. Thank you for sharing the story.
Thank you dear Claire.
I am really sorry to hear about your Dad. Mine & Preeti’s thoughts and prayers to you and your family. Stay strong!
Thank you dear friend.
I know you know this feeling.
Give my love to Preeti.
And thanks for all you do for me.
Oh Karen thank you so much for this! It brought back so many amazing wonderful memories. I was so sad to hear of the passing of your Dad. He was such an amazing man.
Thanks again for your amazing words,
Love and hugs,
Thank you Jocelyn. Give my love to your sisters and Mom and Dad, K
Dearest K: I am so sorry for your loss. I couldn’t stop reading your beautiful words. You painted a vivid picture of your Dad….a real human being who lived a full life. How lucky he was to be so loved. Like Barb, I have memories of the camp too…and your Dad’s welcome hospitality. You come from such strong Maritime stock Karen. I’m so glad to have met your Dad. Please give my love to Gerri. I love you My Friend, Cindy xo
Thank you my darling Cin, I love you and miss you, K
Thank you Karen. I am so sorry for your loss. This tribute is beautiful and so true to the man I loved. He taught me many early lessons in life. How to catch the “biggest” trout in the lake( though my grandma Marg would argue that one!),ride my bike and roast the perfect marshmallow! My most cherished childhood memories of are him, your family and the camp. I will be eternally grateful for this kind man who opened his heart and home to a young girl so many years ago and became like a second father to her. He was truly an amazing and will be missed. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Sending you all love and warm hugs. Rita
I was thinking about you and Monique especially. He loved his little Bourque/Carson daughters so much. And we loved you as our little sisters.
Sending you all the love in the universe Rita Alexina.
What a beautiful story Karen! He really was a great man, the best godfather I could have asked for. Thank u for sharing this touching tribute. He was lucky to have such wonderful children! Thinking of you. Love you, Monique
Thank you sweet Monique. He loved you dearly. Hugs, K
Karen Thank you for sharing, I learned so much about the quiet man I knew growing up around your family. I will miss him and so will our church and our Town. God Bless all your family… my thoughts and prayers are with you at this time and always. Kate Akagi
Thank you dear Kate. I wish I could be there but am greatly comforted that such good lifelong friends like you will be there. Kindly, Karen
My deepest sympathies go out to you and your family Karen. May God give you the peace that you seek. Our most heartfelt condolences. The loss of a parent is never ever easy 🙁
May God rest his soul and may he be cherished in your memories forever.
Prem & Rinku Syal
Thank you dear Prem and Rinku,
I was blessed to have such a Dad. I know you understand this loss. I hope your dear Father is well.
Blessing and love to you all.
So sorry to hear from the family of your Loss Karen. They directed me to this and your graceful view with your memories and life brought me to tears.
We love you. We appreciate you and yours…
Thank you Michael.
I appreciate you my friend.
Thank you my dear other brother. Love you, K
A man of few words–a daughter with the gift of the written word. Both with huge hearts and grounded strength. Your dad is living easy now and left this world knowing that the legacy of his amazing children are a testament to the loving father he is. love love love you.
Thank my love. K
Thank you for sharing more of your story through your father’s tribute. I regret I am only reading this now as I express my condolences weeks later. I am so sorry for your loss Karen. An incredible tribute. Tanya xo
Thank you Tanya. You are always kind and that’s all that matters in life. Hugs, K