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John Cary


John Cary

Originally published by The Globe and Mail, 29 January, 2022

JOHN RANDOLPH CARY RPF. Ret. August 28, 1942

John recently told Catherine that he had lived a wonderful life, largely due to the people he'd met along the way. Most certainly that was true, yet it is undeniable that John's zest for life, enjoyment of people, keen intelligence, salty tongue, and sense of humour contributed in large part. John was born in Cape Town, South Africa, to Joan and Randolph Cary. He is survived by his wife of 44 years, Catherine, and his brother David (Ali). He was predeceased by his half-brother Christopher (Kit) and half-sister Jennifer. He was a much-loved uncle to many nieces and nephews in England and Canada. Early education began as a boarder at the Western Province Preparatory School (aka Wet Pups), followed by boarding school in Natal at Michaelhouse from the age of 10. Its focus on academics and sport suited John to a tee; however his ability to participate in sports declined due to his severe kyphoscoliosis. At the age of 15, John was flown to New York City's Hospital for Special Surgery, where he had spinal surgery.

By the time John finished studies at Michaelhouse, the family had immigrated, first to London, England and then to Praia do Carvoeiro, Algarve, Portugal. Though John was accepted at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) to study English, History and Geography, he enjoyed claiming he'd graduated with a double major in Guinness and being a coxswain. During this time, he left a lasting impact on his many friends and became a respected and excellent coxswain who inspired the oarsmen under his direction. One crew member recalls 'crews worked for him, trusting his ability and judgement.' He confidently steered and encouraged his crews to victory, notably winning both the Irish Senior and Junior Championship VIIIs, and the 1967 Home International Regatta VIIIs representing Ireland. John then made his way to Canada to study Forestry at Lakehead University, on the northern shore of Lake Superior in Ontario. This was the beginning of a lifetime career that he truly loved.

At Lakehead, John again made treasured friends (John and Cath of the North) and met his lifelong companion, Catherine. He graduated with honours in Forestry and a place on the Dean's List and headed for his first job as a field forester in Dryden. Silviculture and forest management were his primary interests. In 1977, he transferred to the Ministry of Natural Resources in Thunder Bay, became a proud Canadian citizen, and married Catherine. Stories and anecdotes were never in short supply when John and Catherine gathered with family and friends to enjoy lively conversation, hearty laughter and gourmet cuisine. Beyond their epicurean passions, the Cary's shared the pleasure of music, book club, skiing, bridge, travel, and a great love of dogs.

In the fall of 1978, John and Catherine moved to Guyana, South America, to work for the Canadian International Development Agency. The stimulating work, wonderful people, fun lifestyle and travels made this an extraordinary adventure. John had a long career with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, where he was well-known and respected. After his work in northwestern Ontario and Guyana, he served in a planning and policy capacity at the Whitney Block in Queen's Park. From 1988 to 1994, he was an important influencer in the landmark class timber Environmental Assessment on Crown Lands in Ontario. John served under many Ontario governments and was involved in contentious issues such as the softwood lumber disputes and creating parks and conservation areas. After retiring from the MNR, John worked as a consultant on sustainable forestry, such as the first Independent Forest Audits in Ontario and afforestation in southern Ontario. John was a volunteer with the Trees Ontario Foundation and the Ontario Forestry Association (which merged into Forests Ontario). He was a longtime member and past president of the Ontario Professional Foresters Association and received numerous awards.

Throughout these years, travels continued with trips to South Africa, Eswatini, Mozambique, Southeast Asia, Antarctica, Iceland, England, and Ireland. They also enjoyed wonderful family summer vacations in Provence with David, Ali and Tom. John preferred to travel unencumbered without itineraries, and somehow it worked. Great adventures, great memories and delightfully entertaining stories resulted. John took early retirement in 1998, but engagement continued unabated for the next 15 years. Work with Maple Leaves Forever occupied some of his time; new volunteer work occupied much of the rest, beginning with the local tennis club. He was the project manager for the construction of a new clubhouse, for which he was gifted the John R. Cary Volunteer award.

As a volunteer with the Don Rowing Club for several years, he chaired their Board and continued to cox in regattas in Canada and the US. In 2005, he was thrilled when he coxed a Masters IV to gold at the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston. He also coxed dear friends at the Hanlan Rowing Club. In 2003, John was instrumental in helping to re-establish the Trinity Dublin alumni group in Toronto and organized the annual dinners for many years. John's volunteer work also included five years with the Mimico Residents Association. In recent years, John's health had steadily declined. As ever, John never complained, never made excuses, and always tried his best. Thank you to Vlad, RN; Mary Lou, RN; and PSWs for providing such wonderful care to John. Catherine is especially grateful to Martha, Jean-Marc, Fran, Don, and the ski girls and for the support of family, close friends and caring neighbours during this time. Over the past 18 months, John and Catherine received wonderful care from Drs. Jessica Roy and Jessica Zive, and the Dorothy Ley Hospice team. Donations to their organization ( would be greatly appreciated. A celebration of life will be scheduled at a later date.