Obituary for Peter Fitzpatrick
FITZPATRICK, Dr. Peter James M.B., B.S., F.R.C.R., F.R.C.P.(C)
Peter passed away on August 17, 2017 with his loving wife, Vivienne (nee Brunton), of 54 years at his side, in his 88th year. Proud father of Melanie (Ian), Claire (Alejandro), and Simon (Sarah), and loving Grandpa to Heather, Ross, Christina, Leah, Olivia, Ben, and Kate. He was born in London, England on May 13, 1930 within earshot of Bow Bells, making him a true “Cockney”. He was raised in war torn London and proudly survived the Blitz during World War II, events that were very influential in shaping his appreciation and outlook on life. After military service in the Royal Signals, he trained as a doctor at King’s College, University of London, and qualified at Westminster Medical School in London in 1954. Following his graduation from medical school, he became house surgeon in three hospitals. Peter combined his love for adventure with medicine by serving as a ship’s surgeon on the SS Arcadia and sailing from London to Australia and elsewhere. Following his global travels, he elected to specialize in radiotherapy - at that time the only non-surgical treatment of cancer. This was followed by appointments at the Royal Marsden and Middlesex Hospitals in London and a year in Memorial Hospital in New York City, where he obtained his FRCR. While at Middlesex Hospital, Peter was recruited to join the medical staff at the newly opened Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, an opportunity that greatly changed the course of his life. Prior to moving to Toronto, Peter had planned on immigrating to Australia. However, after starting a family with Vivienne and falling in love with the life in Canada, he remained at the Princess Margaret Hospital for 26 years. During this time he was appointed a professor of radiology (oncology) at the University of Toronto and an associate in the Faculty of Dentistry. Together with Dr. Rider and colleagues at the Ontario Cancer Institute, Peter assisted with developing half-body irradiation, a technique that today is used worldwide in the treatment of cancer. He enjoyed his weekly visits as radiation oncologist to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto from 1972-1980. In 1964, he started a monthly clinic in Sudbury, the first organized cancer clinic in northern Ontario. A lover of animals, Peter devoted his Saturday mornings to treat cats and dogs with radiotherapy at Princess Margaret, and his interest in veterinary medicine led to a cross-appointment as an adjunct professor at the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph, where he pioneered the treatment of animals with cancer. In 1989 and ready for a new challenge, Peter was recruited to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to act as physician-in-chief at the Nova Scotia Cancer Clinic and appointed a professor and chairman of Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Medicine in Radiation Oncology. In this role, Peter was responsible for the delivery of cancer treatment and care for Atlantic Canada. His medical practice was embraced both as an art and science. One patient wrote about him: “The oath of Hippocrates seems to be in most capable Hands and Spirit.” Peter retired in 1995, and enjoyed an active life in Muskoka, Alliston, and Florida. Outside of medicine his interests included reading, rugby, squash, tennis, and golf in later life. Peter was an avid small boat sailor at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club and in Muskoka, where he proudly served a term as commodore of the South Muskoka Sailing Club. He was a keen gardener and an enthusiast of cooking based on Cockney and wartime London recipes. He loved writing and teaching, publishing more than 200 medical papers and in retirement contributing regularly to the Mount Vernon Crier in Florida. Some of Peter’s happiest moments were spent with family at the cottage in Muskoka, where he loved entertaining and watching his children and grandchildren grow and thrive together. Peter lived life to its fullest. He was a wonderful and loving husband, father, grandfather, best friend and mentor. Although Peter remained fiercely British, he was also an extremely proud Canadian and embraced the opportunities that life in Canada afforded him. Peter will be sadly missed but his memories and lively spirit will live on through his family and friends.
The family wishes to thank the wonderful staff at Simcoe Manor in Beeton, Ontario for the care and compassion provided during the last several months of Peter’s life, CCAC for his previous care, and all of the physicians involved in recent years. In Peter’s memory, donations may be made to Simcoe Manor in Beeton, or to the Canadian Cancer Society. At his request, there will be no service. Arrangements have been made at Drury Funeral Centre in Alliston, Ontario.