Dave Oke

I regret to inform you of the passing of our classmate 3812 Dave Oke who died of a massive heart attack on Wednesday night of this week (01 February).  Dave is well known to the Class of 57’s Royal Roads cohort having entered that college in 1953 and spending the next two years there.  Rather than going on to RMC, however, Dave went directly into the Navy after leaving Royal Roads, so that most of us who entered into CMR or RMC did not get much chance to know him except at the two or three class reunions that he attended in Kingston over the years.
 
There will be a visitation at the Hendren Funeral Homes, Norwood Chapel, Norwood, Ontario (Norwood is 25 km east of Peterborough) this coming Monday, 06 February from 1400-1600 h and 1900-2100 h.  The funeral will be held the following day, Tuesday, 07 February at the Norwood United Church at 1100 h.
 
Memorial donations may be made in Dave’s name to the Canadian Diabetes Association or the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation.  Full information can be found at www.hendenfuneralhomes.com
 
Would one of the Rodents from our class please provide me with an obituary for VERITAS that speaks to his time at Royal Roads, education and career (teaching), lasting ties to classmates, etc.
 
Al
 
P.S.  We have now lost three valued members of our class over the last four months.  Please stop!

Peter Kirkham: 04 Feb 12

I knew Dave long before he went ot Roads. His father was an English teacher in the Red Deer Composite High School. The father had an outstanding reputation as a teacher. I guess the quality of the genes was passed on.
 
I hadn't seen Dave for years, but we recognized each other immediately when he came back to our reunions. We used to share stories about  when we were young, long before either of us went to military college.
 
I will miss him.



        

 

Tribute by Ron Budd

"Who is that young man striding so purposely down the corridor?"
 
I stopped.  I was that man, young in late August 1966 and reporting to work as a second year, wet behind the ears teacher to be Assistant Head of Mathematics.
 
The owner of the booming voice behind me in the corridor was David Oke, Head of Mathematics at Wexford C. I. [Collegiate Institute} in Scarborough.
 
I turned and shook the meaty strong hand of the person who I came to believe is the most unforgettable character I have ever met or am likely to meet.  Ask yourself if you might feel the same.
 
I was of course soon also to meet the 'rock' of the family, Doreen, whom Dave always referred to as his "bride".  A person with her own wonderful background of a different Alberta culture including residential school experience and a later famous father Ralph Steinhauer, an Indian chief who became Canada's first Aboriginal Lieutenant Governor.  I mention this since David always thought this marvellous story should be written and maybe it's a challenge to throw to the younger generation.
 
Joan and I came to know and love the wonderful Oke family.  The three children, Marion, Lesley and Susan, the latter of who accompanied Joan, me and the kids to France in 1977.  Family was of great importance to Dave with his grandchildren a particular delight.  To me though on the phone they were always referred to not by name but for example by "my second grandson or my third granddaughter.  I was left to figure out who that was.
 
Dave's obituary in the Globe and Mail said "David was a long time teacher and an avid farmer at his home near Westwood...”.
 
Well both of those things were true of course.  Let me comment briefly on both.
 
Dave started by being a uniquely well educated teacher and a formidably intelligent person.  His education was capped by a military education in mathematics and physics at Royal Roads and RMC.  I recall him saying that on graduation he thought that he might pursue some theories relating to Einstein's theory of relativity post graduation.  As also a grad of mathematics and physics I only knew how little I really knew of these subjects when I finished my degrees.
 
Instead Dave became a unique mathematics teacher at Forest Hill C. I. and later in Scarborough where I met him.  Many of his students kept in touch over the years and decades as evidence of his affect on them.  He was on the students' side and always had their interests at heart.
 
I love the phrase "David was an avid farmer" in the obituary.
 
I suspect several farmers here may have a wry smile as they look back and recall this "avid farmer".  What an understatement! 
 
As examples, Joan and I recall driving out to visit the Okes’ at their first farm near Bentsford Bridge to find Dave's brother Derry chasing cows back into a field which Dave had left ungated, just one of the myriad adventures of Dave as a farmer.  A few years later with our two kids in tow, at this same farm, Dave leapt bareback onto a white horse, grabbing the reins and proclaiming in a loud voice; "This land is all mine!"  A proprietary cry of the proud landowner, no sooner exclaimed than the next moment he slid off the horse landing on his ample derriere on the ground.  Unfortunately he had forgotten that earlier that morning he had the field spread with cow manure.  A comedown for sure but he bounced up and proceeded to the clean up the area.  Cowboy Dave in action.
 
I bet the 'real farmers' in the area regarded Dave with some amusement and as a 'city slicker' or 'gentleman farmer'.  However the idea of a 'city slicker' doesn't quite fit with Dave does it?
 
But I'm sure that opinions changed as he showed himself to be a serious farmer.  As an example, Dave the teacher often left David and Mary Thomson C.I. in Scarborough at 3:15 to drive to the farm now on the Cameron line to plough or combine 10 acres before light faded and drive back to school leaving by 6:00 am the next morning and then repeating the process.  That's avid all right.
 
He mired tractors in the muck, getting out too early on the land.  Stuff was always breaking down and he found himself often repairing old equipment in the field on his back trying to put in a new part to get the machine going.
 
Through it all Dave loved his farmer neighbours; the Camerons, Wilf Gravell and the others he got to know.  He respected them as salt of the earth practical people doing honest important work.  Dave, the math and physics grad, exulting in the importance of practical hard farming.  Not surprising though.  He was from rural Alberta after all.
 
The Dave I remember was also a great enthusiast about many things and he became expert in them.  
 
Among other things he introduced me to classical music.  Dave in his classical music period bought hundreds of now old 12 inch vinyl LP records and became expert on the music and the composers and had a marvelous recall of both.
 
Then there was the classic car phase of Dave's enthusiasm.  Who in the congregation was there on the dock in Toronto when the yellow Rolls Royce, bought sight unseen from England, was offloaded from the freighter?  More cars: Bentleys, the powder blue Cadillac, the 'sparrow strainer' Chrysler Imperial and others.  Some of them lately being worked on by a local mechanic in the garage behind the Okes' house.  A late attempt to revive this hobby?  Sadly too late now!
 
Then there was the long running battle with the stock market.   Dave would buy 'Amalgamated Moose Pasture Mines at six cents a share if he thought that selling at eight cents a share was possible.  When instead it became three cents a share and the bank phoned with a margin call that was trouble.  But Dave bounced back.  He was a plunger and an enthusiast with his own system.
 
He had an ongoing interest in literature and particularly in world history and politics.  I understand that while in Africa from 1970-1973 he read the 12 volumes of the Will and Ariel Durant "History of the World".  The four years in Africa also changed Dave’s politics.  In his view he saw the folly and even horror of collectivist theory gone wrong in Africa and other places around the world.
 
To all of these things Dave brought a great intellect, a fantastic memory, and enthusiasm with a capital E.  He was as close to being a polymath as any person I've met.
 
But the Dave I remember most was principally about friendships.  I like to characterize him as 'sticky' with his friends.  He stuck to them and as a result they stuck to him.
 
How could you not?  Even if you neglected him then would come a hand lettered short note perhaps with a clipping of a topic that you had discussed with him.  Or a phone call.  Oh yes, the legendary phone calls to points around the world.  Now of course the younger generation who have Facebook and Twitter and almost free long distance think nothing of a phone call.  But back then three or four decades ago long distance phoning particularly at the volumes done by Dave could cost some serious money.  I bet Doreen can recall gasping at the Bell phone bills that ate into the household money.
 
Always an early riser, Dave's phone calls were often happy wake ups and the letters welcome arrivals.  I wish I had kept the notes he so frequently sent me; it would be quite a collection.
 
In my last phone call from him just the day before Joan and I were leaving to go south he was enthusiastic about the imminent arrival of the first great grandchild.  Time and fate have cheated him of that pleasure.
 
From my wife Joan, the memory of bringing our grandchildren Jack and Emily to the Okes' where Dave would delight in their exploring in the corn and chuckle that Rick would teach an eight and five year old how to drive a tractor and Will would teach them about the cows.  Joan recalls, "When you were hugged by David Oke you were really hugged by a great, warm hearted person".
 
Dammit David Oke you weren't supposed to go yet.  In our thrice weekly phone calls we were well on the way to solving the world's problems.  We probably just needed a couple of more years.  Do you think I can do this myself?
 
Goodbye, great and good friend!