Patrick Walsh

Obituary of Patrick Francis Walsh

How do we distill into just a few words the sum of a man’s life, who, by all accounts, was “larger than life” in every way: stature, voice, verbosity, intelligence, generosity, curiosity, kindness, positivity, and most of all, an ability to love without condition?

Here is our attempt:

Dr. Patrick Francis Walsh, loving husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, educator, writer, artist, mentor, and friend, was born on May 26, 1937, to Francis (Duke) Walsh and Carmen (Cicchetti) Walsh in North Adams, Massachusetts, where he graduated from St Joseph’s High School (1954). He obtained his BA degree in English (1958) from St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. He later returned to Antigonish to teach at his alma mater for 37 years, while also earning an MA degree from Boston College (1967), followed by a PhD in Anglo Irish Literature from the National University of Ireland (1973). He has written numerous plays, short stories, poems, a novel and a TV drama, earning him several national and international awards. Active in local civic and church affairs, he served as town councillor and on school, planning, housing, and nursing home boards.

But these details about Pat’s life and education do not adequately reveal who he was and the impact he had on everyone around him.

His love for and devotion to his wife Jacqueline was the driving force of his life. He admits to having fallen in love the moment he laid eyes on beautiful Jacqueline at a grade nine school dance, professing to a friend, “That’s the woman I’m going to marry!” This encounter ignited Pat’s years’ long quest to win her love. He eventually did, of course. Their 64-year marriage was blessed with five children: Mary (Neil) White of Calgary, Francis (Lucie Gagnon) of Quebec City, Monica (Jamie Oatt) of Toronto, Greg (Tracey Snider) of Antigonish, and Rebecca of Calgary, and eleven cherished grandchildren: Peter, Brian (Mary), Gabriel, Alexandra, Anthony, Victoria (Francis), Kathleen, Cadence, Colin (Monica), Connor, Duncan (Rebecca and Derek MacDonald). Although separated by distance, Pat also remained steadfastly dedicated to his beautiful sister (Mary Ann Rorke, deceased) and athletic brother (Francis Walsh, deceased), his brother-in-law Danny Rorke, his sister-in-law Nancy Walsh, and their wonderful children.

Dedication to teaching and learning was another driving force of Pat’s life. He arrived at St. FX at the young age of 17 as a chemistry major, but upon meeting his cherished mentor, professor Rev. R.J. MacSween, he discovered a latent passion for literature. For over 40 years, Pat taught and inspired generations of students at St. FX and later at St. Mary’s University in Calgary to share this same passion, earning him teacher of the year awards and numerous accolades, including Professor Emeritus and Honorary Fellow at St. Mary’s University. Teaching at St. FX was particularly fulfilling. He was able to develop his career to its full potential alongside returning St. FX classmates, who became his lifelong friends, and who shared his commitment to teaching and learning. His life at St. FX also included a devotion to collegiate sports, in particular, basketball, which earned him a lifetime, front-row centre-court seat where he could express his vociferous opinions about the refs’ calls, and offer his moral support to Coach Steve Konchalski and his winning teams.

Amidst all of these pursuits, Pat maintained an overwhelming sense of devotion to his community. Beyond serving on various boards and planning committees, he was also commissioned with the daunting task of writing a comprehensive History of Antigonish, a 300+ page book, commemorating the centenary of the town’s incorporation in 1889. This lavishly illustrated publication has since been a cherished gift for visiting dignitaries, thus helping to spread, around the world, the stories of both Antigonish and St. FX.

After retiring from St. FX, Pat and his beloved Jackie moved to Calgary, starting the next chapter of their lives together. Whether meeting with his “Senate” friends at Coco Brooks, where they ‘solved the world’s problems’ (but did little harm, for no one ever listened to them), or regaling his children and grandchildren at the dinner table with fondly remembered adventures from his past, Pat continued his story-telling prowess. He always knew how to captivate his audiences with his methodical pace, enthusiasm for rich details, and enthralling voice, with a vocal range that could at times instill a sense of dread and at other times sooth with a lullaby’s sweetness.

His memory and impact will certainly live on. In fact, in his final years, he turned his focus to his life story, eventually publishing a broad-reaching memoir (Truth, Fiction, Lies: Confessions of an Italian-Irish-Catholic-American Immigrant to Canada) and an audio version of the same.

Pat’s spirituality and devotion to his Catholic faith held a pivotal place in all his life’s endeavours; it was the lens through which he saw the world. In his never-ending quest to realize a universal love, he was able to embrace people of all lifestyles and denominations as his brothers and sisters.

A funeral mass will be held at 11 a.m. on Monday, June 17, at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, 5340 4th Street SW, Calgary, with a celebration of life to follow in the Parish Hall.

Click here for Memorial Video


Funeral Mass

11:00 am
Monday, June 17, 2024
St. Anthony's Catholic Church
5340 4 th Street SW
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
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