Graydon Robert Symonds

September 23, 1933 ~ November 12, 2023 (age 90) 90 Years Old

Graydon Symonds Obituary

SYMONDS, Graydon Robert

Passed away peacefully on Sunday, November 12, 2023.  He loved the outdoors, and in his younger years, avidly paddled the Ontario waterways in his modified red Chestnut Bob Special.   His daughter Leigh Symonds and her husband Richard Ling recall their last canoe trip with him and his wife Nancy Symonds in Killarney at Thanksgiving where Graydon confidently paddled on the actual stern of the canoe, his bum inches away from cold water, just so his long legs could be comfortable.   Gray also loved trains, spending many hours with Leigh as a child ‘chasing’ them between towns.  Gray could often be found lovingly planning train tracks that never were truly built.  His joy was in the designing and imagining of what could be.  Gray passed his love of trains onto his grandson Gabriel, whom he loved so very much.

Gray spent most of his working years as the technical supervisor of the Astronomy Department at Western where he developed a number of very close relationships.  Gray’s gifts lay in his ability to master all things mechanical.  He was part of the team that built and maintained the observatory at Elginfield as well as managed the computers and other equipment.   In earlier times, Gray also worked for the Bell Telephone company, following his father Bruce’s long career with the company.  Gray helped to maintain the telephone lines from Peterborough to Lakefield, a story he told his daughter on their trips up to Lakefield in recent years.   

Gray travelled around southern Ontario in his youth as his father’s job required frequent moves.  He met his wife, Nancy, in Goderich, and followed her family to London, Ontario.   After they married, Gray inherited his brother-in-law’s dog, Rocky, who became a constant companion and the source of many stories, or at least well-repeated ones in Leigh’s memory.  Gray and Nancy were married for many years and lived in London until Nancy lost her fight with cancer in 2007.   Their first house was in the ‘country’ on a five acre plot of land with an old well that needed to be dredged and a leaky drive-shed that housed the red canoe for more years than Nancy would have liked until she eventually circumvented Gray’s consummate planning to have the red canoe fixed and got it re-canvassed herself.  Later, they moved to a house in London’s north end where they began some very close and special friendships with long-time neighbours.

Gray and Nancy were long-time members of the Unitarian Fellowship in London and enjoyed the strong community there.   When Gray later moved to Peterborough to be closer to and eventually live with Leigh, Richard and Gabriel, he asked Leigh to take him to the Fellowship in Peterborough, for which Leigh is deeply grateful.  Gray also enjoyed the theatre and at one point did the lighting for a production at the Grand Theatre.   He loved going out to support the musical events Leigh was in as well as all the many sporting teams his nephews were involved in when they were children.   Gray also was involved in musical endeavours after he retired, picking up the trumpet for some years.  He was extremely proud that his nephew, Patrick, went on to become a professional musician, using Gray’s trumpet for awhile when he was very young.  

Gray loved animals, and spent much time with cats in his later years living with Leigh.  One cat, Oreo, would nap on Gray’s lap while Gray watched the birds at the backyard feeder and listened to classical music.   Gray spent the last of his years up in Peterborough with Leigh and her family, as his health declined.  Gray suffered from heart-and-stroke conditions for a significant part of his life.   He courageously and stubbornly refused to let these stop him, though they did slow him down.   Leigh is very grateful for the community at Centennial Place for their loving care of Gray when her household could no longer support his needs. He went to exercises at Centennial Place up until the day he passed, steadfastly continuing to beat the odds.   

Perhaps Gray’s most heartfelt attribute was his generosity.   While personal projects such as canoe repairs and model train tracks might need a round tuit or an energetic wife to complete, if you asked him for a favour he would always come through.   Leigh remembers books borrowed from the library at Western, drives to Toronto when she was at UofT, and, of course, his willingness to always help his family and friends in whatever way he could.   Gray, you lived a long, strong and generous life.  We will miss you so very much.

We will be holding two memorial services in the coming months to celebrate Gray’s life:  one in London and one in Peterborough.  Please contact Leigh either directly or through the Mill Valley Funeral Home for further information.  Donations would be welcome to the Heart-and-Stroke Foundation as well any cancer foundation, especially the James Joseph Hammond Fund that was founded in Gray’s nephew’s name to help promote new cancer research for RMS and other paediatric sarcomas. 

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