Robert Earl Symington April 28, 1931-February 17, 2021
Robert (Bob) Earl Symington passed away Wednesday February 17th 2021 at Peterborough Regional Health Centre from complications of COVID-19. He was predeceased by his wife Margaret, daughter Sharon, son John and daughter-in-law Dorothy. He is survived by his four remaining children - Wayne, Bryan (Sandra), Janine (Terry) and Keith (Huong) - by his seven loving grandchildren - Stephanie, Meaghan, Danielle, Sean, Kevin, Catriona and Samantha – and by his great-grandson Cian.
Born the 11th of 14 children in a working-class Irish-immigrant family in Toronto and growing up during the Great Depression, Robert learned at an early age the virtues of perseverance in the face of difficulties. But while he could keep his head down and just get things done he had a rebel streak too…one that had teenager Bob jumping a freight train to Western Canada – ultimately working in Banff National Park, cutting trails.
Soon thereafter he enlisted into the army with the 48th Highlanders of Canada, stationed in Germany. As fate would have it, Corporal Symington was subsequently selected (“for keeping my nose clean”, he later explained) to represent his unit at the 1953 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London, England…a fateful event during which he met – and soon married – Margaret Higginbotham.
Returning to Canada that same year, he settled down and set out to raise a family in Scarborough (including supporting, with wife Margaret, over 20 foster children). He joined the Toronto Fire Department eventually rising to Senior Captain and assuming a leadership role at two busy fire stations: Front Street and Main Street. He retired in 1989 after a 33-year distinguished career.
Those who knew Robert can attest to not only his determination in providing for his family (typically working two jobs, including a side landscaping business), but also his commitment to being a firefighter. His dedication, in helping to save lives and his willingness to take great risk in doing so, and the friends he acquired along the way, is what in a large part defined him. He was well respected among his peers.
Robert also had a soft side as evidenced by his huge collection of stuffed Teddy Bears that have now dominated his bedroom closet and one of which was constantly by his bedside pillow. He was well known for his sly sense of humour and silly trick of hand games he would play on his young kids. He also enjoyed the many Symington family parties and especially took great pride in hosting the (somewhat) annual BBQ in his backyard on Kitchener Road.
An avid reader of books of many genres, Robert is also remembered for his great literacy and keen knowledge of history – especially Canadian history – which he conferred onto his children and others around him. Later in life he also became a very vocal armchair critic of world and Canadian politics!
Although at times quick to bemoan their many trials and calamities, he was a beloving fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Blue Jays, as well as a patriotic follower of Canada’s Olympic athletes. His children also fondly remember his days as a head coach in the West Hill Baseball League, where he always put the spirit of fair play, experience and enjoyment ahead of winning. He especially derived satisfaction in seeing kids, including new Canadians, learning hockey or baseball for the first time.
More recently Robert enjoyed keeping up to speed with his ever-growing legion of grandchildren, lovingly watching them grow and flourish from all around the country and the world. One of his hobbies was to collect loose change roll it up and much to their delight bestow on his Grandkids during their visits. He happily welcomed his first great-grandchild in 2020 and his last bag of rolled coins hidden away in his closet will be lovingly contributed to Cian’s Education Fund.
He will be sadly missed and forever in our hearts.
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