Ninety-two years ago today, my father was born in Exeter, Devon, England. He came to Canada, in the summer of 1947 after an honorable discharge from his army regiment, the Coldstream Guards that May. Thinking of him today, I dug out a testimonial letter, from his Captain at the Training Battalion in Woking, Surrey, in which he describes my father as “a man of unquestionable honesty, considerable intelligence and unfailing sense of humour….” And this is true.
My father demonstrated those qualities and more for all the lifetime I knew him. I looked up to him with awe and affection. He was, as was often said in former times, a well-read, self-made man. But he was also a modest man, and often understated, he had many dimensions to his person that made him able to relate to everyone he met regardless of age, creed or social background.
Although he would not have been identified back then by today’s vernacular as a “social entrepreneur” in 1964, he started Toronto’s first interfaith group. Inspired by Vatican II Ecumenical Council, as a layperson he took the lead to invite religious leaders of all faiths well beyond the Christian, to get together for better understanding, education and friendship. He had friends from priests to rabbis, ministers to imams. This was purely a community building initiative.
In addition to his affinity for the monastic life, my father also led as distinguished career in policing, security and safety – and in that self-made man category again, in the later years of his working life he became an honorary member of the Canadian Chiefs of Police.
My father passed away in December of 2008, and I take a pause to remember his eclectic range of accomplishments, of which I have only recalled a few here today. So many other stories of my father over his eighty-three years, that only my brother and I and our family will fondly remember so well. As outgoing and large as life as he was, he often went about helping people quietly, and hopefully many of them will have remembered him kindly along the way in their journey.
Colin Venning. He was and still is a role model, a father of the ageless kind.