In Memory of




Obituary for Alan Frank Medcalf

Obituary of Alan Frank Medcalf

This is my farewell. As you read this, I will have already died in quiet peace and dignity with MAiD, my final act of agency. Living with ALS for six years beat the odds, yet the burden of longevity grew relentlessly to outweigh any remaining quality of life.

I was “made in England” and started my life in the town of St. Anne’s-on-the-Sea. My parents brought me to Canada in 1957 in the belief that the future would be brighter here. How right they were! My education included an awesome high school experience at Galt Collegiate Institute, graduating with honours and math & chemistry awards. I graduated from the University of Waterloo in 1976 with an Honours Co-op B. Math in a double major of statistics and computer science, followed somewhat later by executive certificates from the MIT Sloan School of Management in IT infrastructure management, and the Harvard Business School in organizational change management.

I was grateful to have been able to share my life journey and 50 Valentine’s Days with my soulmate and partner Celia. We were each other’s sounding board, collaborator, and companion through many shared experiences and adventures. Our daughters Laura (Shayne) and Robin (Andrew) were a source of joy and happy challenge from the time I caught them and cut their cords, through their launching into the world and their own families and careers. Their smarts, caring, and resilience are helping to build better communities around them. Our four grandchildren possess a joyful appetite to learn and engage with others and will undoubtedly help build a better world. My sister Lisa (Malcolm) and many step/in-law sibs, nieces, and nephews formed a large web of family activities and good times.

I was fortunate to work and learn alongside some great colleagues at IBM, Mutual Life / Clarica / Sun Life, and seized an opportunity for early retirement. That was my opportunity for a second career path following my cycling passion. I gained professional certification as a bicycle mechanic at the United Bicycle Institute in Colorado. I then co-founded the Winterborne Bicycle Institute which is still Canada’s only college-affiliated bicycle mechanics trade school, and owned/operated Brockville Cycles for several years.

I was also fortunate to join with many, many other volunteers over several decades in dozens of groups, committees, and boards in the quest to build better communities. These volunteer efforts spanned academic, professional, charity, sports/recreation and health organizations. Some of my most rewarding roles included serving as president of the Region of Waterloo Swim Club, chairing the IT Program Advisory Committee at Conestoga College, leading the Council of IT Executives at the Conference Board of Canada, chairing the cycling advisory committees in both the Region of Waterloo and the City of Brockville, serving on the board of the Brockville & Area YMCA, and serving on the Community Services Advisory Council of ALS Canada.

My life was enhanced immeasurably through skill development and participation in many physical activities. I enjoyed training and competing or participating recreationally in running, sailing, cycling, kayaking, swimming, triathlons, unicycling, snowboarding, XC skiing, and more. My activities were interrupted for several years by early-onset osteoarthritis, then resumed after undergoing hip replacements. My artificial hips powered me to cycle 7,500 km across Canada in 2000 with Tour du Canada, and more than 100,000 km of countryside cruising and cycle touring over the next 15 years. The joy of movement was always delightful.

During my last few years living with ALS, I was grateful for the support from my family, the ALS community, countless healthcare professionals, friends, and neighbours. I was lucky to live in a time and place that allows people the choice to die with dignity.

My plan was to throw a going away party, yet the prolonged period of pandemic precautions made that impossible. There will be a private family gathering, yet no visitation or service. If you have an urge to send flowers, please give them to somebody you love. If you’d like to make a donation, please send it to one of your favourite non-religious, non-political agencies in your community.

One of the unexpected yet rewarding aspects of sharing my planned death was receiving messages from hundreds of closer friends, neighbours, and colleagues. Reaching out to me and sharing memories had a profound impact in comfort and closure for my family and me and gave others the opportunity to say goodbye.

To those I leave behind to continue your life journeys, I wish you all the best. Love more deeply, laugh more often, explore with an open mind, and help build better communities, for life is not a longevity contest but rather a quest for quality and meaning. Enjoy the journey, for the journey itself is the destination.