It is with heavy hearts but eternal gratitude for his long life we announce the passing of John Clifford (“Cliff”) Gallant, age 92. He leaves behind his loving wife, Rita, with whom he enjoyed almost 70 years of marriage, his five children Mike (Gaylene), Glenn (Penny), Karen (George), Lee and Sheri (Larry); eight grandchildren Amy (Ben), Kevin, Tyler (Raeanne), Travis (Katie), Anthony, Tim (Jenn), Derek and Daniel; as well as seven great-grandchildren Carter, Mercedez (deceased), Asiah, Riley, Ella, Claire and Benny.
In 1931 he was born “Up West” in Piusville, PEI where he lived and worked on a farm, growing up in a bygone era when the railroad still crossed the Island and stopped in town. Cliff and his sister Marion (deceased) were raised by their father and grandmother after their mother passed away early in their life. A deep devotion to the Catholic Church, a strong work ethic, and a wonderful sense of humour would be the three key traits that developed as a child. Finding great joy in the simple things in life, Cliff loved to go fishing in his spare time, kid around and perhaps have a little nip in the parking lot during church dances.
He met the love of his life, Rita Marie Gallant (no direct relation), in the same one-room school house (aka the “University of Piusville”) but it would take a few years before they dated, moved separately to Toronto, then got married in 1953. They first lived in an apartment near the CNE Dufferin Gates where they welcomed their first two sons, Mike and Glenn. As the family grew they bought their first house on Castlefield Avenue where Karen and Lee added to the mischief.
Cliff worked hard for years doing piece-work at American Standard alongside many life-long friends who also came up from PEI. With no sick benefits he recalled many times taking a stiff shot of rye to fend off a cold before heading in to work.
Finally, in 1967, the budding community of Aurora offered permanent roots when they purchased the bungalow they have called home ever since. Two years later their daughter, Sheri, would round out the clan.
Cliff got a job closer to home where he worked for over 30 years as one of the many unsung night-shift heroes maintaining the North York Board of Education offices until his retirement. Meanwhile Rita ran a cafeteria in a local factory during the day so that one parent was always home for the kids. Their weekends together included many parties where friends danced to country music or live guitar and fiddle music.
They always maximized their resources to ensure their children were grounded in their same work ethic. Summer vacations “back home” allowed the kids to connect to their “red dirt” roots and their extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Everyone learned early on that if you dug hard enough into a PEI friend’s family background they might just turn out to be a distant relative.
A long time Leafs and Jays fan, woe to anyone who under estimated his competitive edge. Skilled at cribbage and any card game, especially euchre and canasta, his smile, mixed with a little ribbing of himself, his partner or competitor, combined with a small head bob to the left or right and the shuffling of his cards all hid the Card Shark! The stakes could be match sticks or pennies or bragging rights, it didn’t matter; he was always up for a game. The odd pull of a casino slot machine or playing the lottery wasn’t out of character for, as he said, “you never know.”
Rita and Cliff enjoyed decades of retirement together with winters spent in Myrtle Beach playing golf and walks on the beach, to summers at their cottage on Mill River, PEI. Always, family was welcome to come down and join them. Grandkids learned to dig for clams in the sand with a toilet plunger and fish in the brook to stock the freezer. Many friends and relatives were the recipients of his skilled carpentry building Muskoka chairs, tables and his famous wishing wells and lighthouses.
The entire family is especially thankful to Rita’s sister Dianne and her husband Gerry who accompanied Cliff and Rita on their many overseas trips in the later years, including the Vatican, a riverboat cruise along the Rhine River, Portugal and a visit to the Great Wall of China.
Eventually age caught up and the trips had to stop. But that didn’t stop Cliff’s sense of humour and humanity. On his 90th birthday his family stacked the front yard with birthday wishes and fake fishes. Many neighbours passed by that warm day wishing Cliff a happy birthday. Cliff returned every one with a smile, a wave or a handshake.
Rita and Cliff were looking forward to celebrating their 70th anniversary this November. Never one to complain Cliff took the ups and down of his health in stride. All he wanted was to be with the love of his life, Rita, and to hold her hand as they smiled lovingly at each other.
Many years ago Rita and Cliff picked out a plot in the St. Anthony’s Church cemetery near O’leary so that when the time came they could return to their red clay beginnings and be together, amongst the family that passed before them. Cliff will be buried there this fall where his spirit can wade into the brook, cast a line in search of another trout, and enjoy a warm sunny day.
In lieu of flowers the family asks for donations to either St. Anthony’s (PEI) Cemetery Fund or the Cancer Society www.cancer.ca in his memory.