Farewell to a Legend: Bob Kirby

Bob was an original SOD founder and started many of the leagues that are in place today. He also produced four family members  that progressed to the Ontario Ski Team, the youngest being his grandson, Jake Mealey.

ROBERT MOFFAT KIRBY, died on June 26, 2018, surrounded by his family, holding hands and telling jokes right up to the end. Bob, also known as “Rip” (after a comic strip detective from the 40s) and “Bobby” to his six grandchildren, was born on March 9, 1927. He is survived by his wife Joyce (nee Gillanders), children Jim, Sue (John Mealey) and Doug (Martha McCarthy), and grandchildren, Griffin, Madelyn, Thomas, Jake, Peter and Brooke.

Bob grew up in Etobicoke and was an avid and talented athlete. He played Varsity football for Queen’s. He was not necessarily built like a football player, but he was a speedy tailback with a massive competitive spirit and an exceptional ability to trash-talk. He remained good friends and in regular contact with his high school and university friends for all of his life. A charming and affable character, Bob was a successful corporate executive, working for many years in the watch business, where he served as President of Omega and, later, President of Longines.

One winter day in 1956, standing at the top of what is now known as Happy Valley at Blue Mountain, Bob met Joyce Gillanders. It was love at first sight. She was a fabulous athlete and a gorgeous person inside and out. Rip was smitten, and legend has it that he broke up with his many other girlfriends immediately. Bob and Joyce adored each other and lived a beautiful life of friendship, laughter and true companionship. Never a harsh word passed between them. Last month, Bob and Joyce celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Their marriage was a shining example of true devotion and companionship.

Bob’s golf career was legendary. Highlights include losing the Ontario Juniors to Moe Norman, volunteering at the Canadian Open when Arnold Palmer won his first professional match, and winning the Canadian Seniors. He was Captain of Weston, Club champ a few times, and collected too much hardware at Weston and Cranberry to list. He scored 6 holes-in-one, the last of which he made at age 90 to such fanfare that he was featured in the local paper. True to form, when he posed for the picture, Bobby held a left-handed club and wore bare feet. When asked why, he replied, “Because it was funny and I wanted to see how many people would even notice.” Even in a moment in which he might have enjoyed the limelight, Bobby chose modesty and humour.

Bob was a dedicated volunteer, particularly in alpine skiing and at The Peaks, where he volunteered for decades, on and off the hill, from the famous World Cup Bee-Hive Race in 1961 to buying the Club back from Blue to the “official homologation” of the hill by FIS, and much more. He was a long-time Alpine Ontario and CSA board member and served as Chair of the AOA. He co-founded the Peaks Auction in the 60s with a goal of raising $1,000 for the racing program; last year, members donated almost $100,000 at the Auction, and Bob was there bidding.

As a grandfather, Bobby was the best ever. He drove his grandchildren across the province to ski races, enthusiastically volunteering for even the most early, or difficult commutes. He and Joyce stood at the bottom of the hill, or side of the field, or in the audience, for virtually every race, game or performance. One of his most cherished memories was an all-family trip to Vail, Colorado with his children and grandchildren to celebrate his 80th birthday. He had certain mandatory rules in Vail – up the gondola early, calculate your daily vertical feet and compare with others (bragging encouraged), and always end the day with a high-speed cruiser down Simba on the way to après.

In his last months, Bob was as kind and cheerful as ever. Knowing he was nearing the end, he held private meetings with his children and grandchildren to tell them of his everlasting love, along with, of course, many jokes and funny anecdotes.

Bob Kirby touched all he met with his infectious love of life. His attitude of choosing to be positive, each and every day, is perhaps his greatest legacy.

The family will be hosting a Celebration of Life on Friday, July 6th at 4 pm at Georgian Peaks Main Lodge, Hwy 26 at Peaks Road, Thornbury, ON. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Campbell House Hospice at 240 Erie Street, Collingwood (705) 444-2555, or to the Georgian Peaks Foundation, attn: Marg Jones, (519) 599-6771.