Gavin Ernest

August 21, 1916 – April 7, 2015

A vigorous and adventure-filled life came to a close on April 7, 2015, when Gavin Ernest Halkett passed peacefully at Wexford Creek Seniors’ Home in south Nanaimo. Gavin was born on August 21, 1916 in Victoria, attended Oaklands, and grew up to love small boats, building a thirteen-foot sailing dinghy while at Victoria High School. When he was 17, his family moved to Vancouver where he attended Vancouver Technical School to study Industrial Arts, and then entered Normal School. Upon graduation in 1937, he was accepted for a teaching position in Lantzville as principal of a two-room school. After two years, he joined the Navy and was sent to Esquimalt to teach Grade Eight Math to stokers, but soon transferred to Edmonton to enter a course in Diesel Engineering at the University of Alberta. There he met Dorothy Leonore Barber who was working for the Federal Government at U of A. After his studies, he spent three years on the minesweepers ‘Thunder’ and ‘Courtenay’ as an instructor and engineer, serving on both coasts, and in the English Channel. He was on the ‘Thunder’ in the vanguard of the flotilla of boats on D-Day. After one year of a courting -correspondence with ‘Leo,’ his ship returned to Halifax for a refit, and they were married in September 1944. After the war they lived in Edmonton while Gavin finished his BA and B.Ed. (M.Ed. came later, from U. Of Wash. in1970).

In 1948, they moved to Nanaimo where he taught school, first at Thomas Hodgson, then at John Shaw, and finally, at John Barsby in 1950. He was principal of three Nanaimo Schools in the 1960s and finished his principalship at Mount Benson, retiring in 1978. During his time as an educator, he saw the need for a large guidance team in the school system, including school psychologists, counsellors, remedial teachers, and specialists in various fields, to meet regularly and consider problem cases. This system is still in use. In 1963, Gavin took part in his African adventure, when he was part of a team that travelled to Liberia, Africa, to teach teachers. His time with the Sea Cadets was one of his happiest, when he taught the rules of the sea to young men who were hoping to join the Navy. Gavin taught night school in the ‘60s, as well as teaching school during the day. He was a member of the Nanaimo Yacht Club for over 50 years, and his love of boating led to his becoming one of the founders of the Nanaimo Power Squadron in 1957, and Commander in 1976-77. One of the advanced courses of the NPS is Celestial Navigation, which Gavin successfully completed in his eighties, the oldest member to do so. He has long been a member of the Nanaimo Historical Society, being President in 1997, and was a charter member of Veterans Against Nuclear Arms (VANA).

Gavin and Leo loved travel, sailing in the Aegean Sea, returning to Western Europe via the Orient Express; twice to Russia with VANA after “glasnost”; Australia; Cook Islands; England, and most of North America.

We remember Gavin’s sense of humour, his wisdom, his love of life. We’ll miss him.

Gavin leaves his wife, Leonore; four children, Carolyn, Philip, John, and Gordon; six grandchildren; two great grandsons; and a number of nieces and nephews. Gavin’s family is deeply grateful for the excellent care Gavin received from Wexford for the two years he was there, and especially for the care received in his last days.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Gavin’s name to your preferred charity would be appreciated.

Celebration of Life will be held from 1:00 to 4:00 PM on Saturday, May 16th, 2015 at Sands Funeral Chapel, 1 Newcastle Avenue, Nanaimo.

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