Vic passed away in Toronto surrounded by family on February 17th. He was 86. He is lovingly remembered by his wife Anne, sons Jeff, David, and Mark, daughters-in-law Kate and Cheryl, and grandchildren Alex, Nicole, Charlotte, Jessica, Rachel, Emily, and William.
Vic would be the first to tell you he lived a life of good fortune and good luck. Vic was born in 1935, in Leceister, England, the first and only child of Wiliam Vincent Pathe and Doris Elizabeth Pathe (Baker). Known as Liam throughout his childhood, some of his earliest recollections were of the air raid sirens and shelters of industrial England during the Second World War. He was orphaned at a young age, his father having died of tuberculosis in 1937 and his mother from complications of asthma in 1942. Vic was moved from the city to the rural midlands of England by his uncle and aunt, Fred and Alice Baker. Vic often told stories of growing up on the farm, ranging from acting as the English escort of Italian POWs to the pub on Sundays after the morning farm chores were done as a nine-year old, to taking his driving test in a truck big enough to move a dozen cattle.
Working as a farm labourer as a young man, an ad in a small local paper in April 1957 changed Vic’s life. “Canada Offers You a Share in her Prosperity” the ad proclaimed, in another often-told story. Within days of seeing the ad, he had been approved for immigration to Canada. In June 1957, at 18, with few cares and even less idea what he was going to do, Vic’s first plane trip was a one-way ticket to Toronto via New York. Vic first went to London, Ontario after the immigration officer suggested his own hometown as a place that Vic might like. Vic would often say that emigrating to Canada was one of the greatest strokes of good fortune in his life.
His early years in Canada were marked by a wide variety of jobs, from picking tobacco, to road construction, to factory work, to selling everything from potatoes to farm implements. Not long after his arrival in Canada, the foreman at a new job introduced him to his new colleagues as “Vic”, Liam being an uncommon and unusual name in 1957 London. “New country, new job, new name” sounded good to the young immigrant, and Liam was Vic for the rest of his life.
Vic’s experiences in his early working life fostered his interest in and concern for people, a trait that marked his entire life. It was likely this that lead to his interest in the labour movement when he first encountered it while working at a Steinberg’s grocery store in the early 1960s. This led to Vic’s first true career, working for over a decade in the labour movement, from organizing grocery stores in southwestern Ontario to leadership roles with the Amalgamated Meat Cutters union and its successors. It also led to what he would call the other stroke of good fortune of his life – meeting his wife Anne at a grievance meeting in 1965. Married for over 50 years, their loving and supportive relationship was one of Vic’s greatest and proudest accomplishments.
In 1974 came a call to public service, first to the Ontario Labour Relations Board, and then the Ontario Ministry of Labour running the province’s mediation service. Vic’s role there saw him involved in many of the provinces most significant labour disputes of the 1970s and 1980s, up to his retirement as Deputy Minister of Labour Management Services in 1993. He was proud of the fact he had served and advised governments of all three political stripes during his tenure.
Vic took great pride in his role as a neutral in labour management relations and for nearly 20 years following his retirement from the Ministry of Labour, Vic worked with companies and unions in circumstances where both sought to improve their relationship. Throughout every phase of his career, Vic built relationships and lasting friendships with people from all walks of life. Meeting and talking to people always energized him.
As rewarding as he found his career, family was always the most important. Vic was a great storyteller and loving grandfather who always marvelled at his good fortune. The family cottage on Buckhorn Lake was his favourite place in the world for nearly 50 years. Family trips to the UK, Florida, and later in life to Italy and France with Anne, his children, and his grandchildren were the source of many happy memories. But for Vic there was no greater happiness than friends, family, stories, and a glass of wine on “the point” as the sun set at the cottage.
Those interested might consider a donation to the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation in Vic’s memory.
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