Obituary of Michael Walker
MICHAEL B. WALKER
JUNE 1, 1939 – NOVEMBER 19, 2017
After a brave and determined battle with Parkinson’s, Michael passed away in Toronto on Sunday, November 19, 2017 at the age of 78. He leaves behind his beloved family, his wife of 50 years Elizabeth “Betsy”, sons David (Dan) and Mark (Cynthia), three lively grandchildren, Chloe, Dylan, and Sasha, and his younger sister Lynne Johnson.
Throughout his life Michael was a man of diverse interests, creative imagination, and single-minded focus. Raised in Regina, his love of sports, including hockey, basketball, and golf, was matched only by his love of maple syrup. Excelling at school, he won the General Motors scholarship in 1957 to attend McGill University for engineering. There he enjoyed his first taste of cosmopolitan life in Montreal. In 1961, he was awarded a Rhodes scholarship and headed off excitedly to Merton College, Oxford to study Physics. With summer holidays in “hippy” Ibiza (his mother’s horrified description) he once again broadened his horizons.
Returning to Canada in 1966 after earning his PhD, he immediately met Betsy, who had a fortuitous summer job at U of T’s Graduate Student Centre. Married a year later at Trinity College, they welcomed their sons David, in 1972, and then Mark, in 1976. Michael coached the boys in hockey and soccer and taught Mark the entire Gr 13 calculus course to prepare him for school in France.
At the University of Toronto Michael embarked on his distinguished career in physics. His research in theoretical solid-state physics was deeply satisfying and recognized by NSERC with substantial grants. In 1977, he won the Herzberg Medal for outstanding research by a Canadian physicist under 40. While Chair of the Physics Dept. from 1987-92, one of his goals was to improve the position of women in physics. Throughout his career, teaching was also a source of great satisfaction, particularly with his many graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.
A sabbatical year in Grenoble, France in 1992, was a major turning point in Michael and Betsy’s life. Discovering a love of the mountains and hiking, Michael joined the French Alpine Club, bought every available topographical map of the Alps, learned to speak fluent French so he could tell his jokes “en francais”, and made regular trips to MEC in Toronto to supplement his collection of hiking gear. Along with close friends Allan and Christine Griffin, he and Betsy also experienced their first Michelin 3-star restaurant, and thereafter would visit a new one each year. Until Parkinson’s made it impossible, they spent every summer from 1994-2006 in France.
Shortly after mandatory retirement in 2004, Michael successfully changed the direction of his research, working on credit risk. Furthermore, he discovered another passion; bridge, making both new friends and adding hugely to the family library.
The family is extremely grateful to Norma Costas, whose kindness, encouragement, and friendly teasing made Michael’s struggle with Parkinson’s easier. They would also like to thank the many friends from Lee Daugharty’s bridge club, Betty Daignaut and her warm-hearted staff at The Teddington, and the Bridgepoint palliative care unit for their support.
A celebration of Michael’s life will be held on Sunday, December 10th from 5:00 – 9:00 p.m., please email Elizabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org for details. If desired, in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Parkinson Canada, Bridgepoint Hospital Palliative Care or the University of Toronto Physics Dept. Condolences, photographs and memories may be forwarded through www.humphreymilesnewbigging.com.
Nos plus sincères sympathies à la famille et aux amis de Michael
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