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Index of first names

John Home-Douglas 

 

 

 

 

 

John Home-DouglasFather, ex-frogman, businessman, builder. Born Aug. 25, 1926, in Rothéneuf, France, died April 21, 2012, in Vista del Lago, Mexico, of prostate and bone cancer, aged 85.

John spent the first seven years of his life in Brittany, France. A rich uncle paid for him to go to boarding school in England after his father ran off with the family maid. He never saw his father again.

John attended Mount St. Mary’s College, a Jesuit-run school near Sheffield where English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins once taught.

At 17, he joined the Royal Navy and served as a frogman in the last year of the Second World War. He swam under ships and in harbours looking for mines and explosives.

He later recalled conditions in cities such as Bremerhaven, Germany, where the water was so polluted and filled with detritus from the war that he couldn’t see his hand in front of his mask and had to feel his way around.

After the war, he continued his diving activities in the Middle East, serving alongside Lionel (Buster) Crabb, who later caused an international incident after disappearing in mysterious circumstances under a Soviet ship in the 1950s.

In 1948, John emigrated to Canada, to Vancouver, with his fiancée Peggy Birkett, to escape the rationing and dreariness of postwar London. Neither of them knew a soul in Canada. They arrived with a couple of suitcases each.

John was unemployed for eight months, while Peggy got a job at the Vancouver General Hospital.

Eventually, John found employment pumping gas. He then was hired to set up window decorations for Imperial Tobacco. For the next 23 years, he moved up through the ranks at Imperial, eventually serving as vice-president and president of one of its subsidiaries, Editel Productions.

He had two sons, Rod and Pierre, and a daughter, Susan.

In the 1970s, John and Peggy divorced and he married Colette Potter.

After John retired in 1982, they divided their time bet ween Mexico and Vermont, where John built a 2,300-square-foot house by himself, including foundations, wiring, plumbing, roofing, kitchen cabinets.

When Puerto Vallarta grew too big for their liking, they moved inland to Ajijic, where John loved the climate and the expat Canadians and Americans he met. He did, however, admit to missing his scuba diving in the Pacific, including the solo night dives he occasionally made.

After selling the Vermont home in 1990, John and Colette lived full-time in Mexico. John joined the Chapala Country Club and spent countless hours playing the 18-hole golf course.

People who knew John were invariably impressed by his dynamism and zest for life. He loved entertaining friends with good wine and food. He was a garrulous, high-spirited individual, whose mantra could well have been carpe diem.

His Skype account contained the simple, heartfelt words, “Life is shorter than you think. Make the most of it.”

 

 

 

John Home-Douglas, long-time resident of Ajijic and Vista del Lago, passed away on April 21 2012 at his home after battling prostate and bone cancer. He was 85.


Born in the seaside village of Rothéneuf in north-west France, Home-Douglas spent the first seven years of his life in the Brittany region. A rich uncle paid for him to go to boarding school in England after his father ran off with the family maid. (He never saw his father again.)


Home-Douglas attended Mount St. Mary’s College near Sheffield, a Jesuit-run school where English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins once taught. At the age of 17, he joined the Royal Navy and served as a frogman in the last year of World War II. He swam under ships and in harbors looking for mines and explosives. He later recalled conditions in cities such as Bremerhaven where the water was so polluted and filled with various detritus from the war that he couldn’t see his hand in front of his mask and had to feel his way around. After the war, he continued his activities in the Middle East, where he served with the renowned Buster Crabbe, who caused an international incident after he disappeared in mysterious circumstances under a Soviet ship in the 1950s.


After resigning from the Navy in 1947, Home-Douglas moved to London, where he met Peggy Birkett, an ex-member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) who was working at the American Embassy. They decided to get married and emigrate to Vancouver, British Columbia in 1948, fleeing the rationing and dreariness of post-war London. Neither of them knew a soul in Canada and they arrived with a couple of suitcases each. John was unemployed for eight months, while Peggy got a job at the Vancouver General Hospital. Eventually Home-Douglas found employment pumping gas. He then snagged a job setting up window decorations for Imperial Tobacco. For the next 23 years, he moved up through the ranks at Imperial, eventually serving as vice president and president of one of its subsidiaries, Editel Productions. He ended his career as president of Carlson Marketing Canada.


In the 1970s, John and Peggy divorced and he married Colette Potter. She had bought a home in Puerto Vallarta in 1973 and they started spending more and more time there. After Home-Douglas retired in 1982 they divided their year between Mexico and Vermont, where John built a 2,300-square-foot house by himself, including foundations, wiring, plumbing, roofing, kitchen cabinets. His son Pierre recalls, “I never, ever saw him even look at a do-it-yourself book. He had an unflagging belief that he could do just about anything.”


In 1989, after Puerto Vallarta had grown a little too big for their liking, John and Colette moved to Ajijic, where he loved the climate and the expatriate Canadians and Americans whom he met. He did, however, admit to missing his scuba diving in the Pacific, including the solo night dives he often made despite the protests of his wife. In the early 1990s, the couple joined the Chapala Country Club and for the next two decades they spent countless hours playing their beloved golf course. Home-Douglas served as vice-president of the club and was instrumental in having an elevated tee built on the 12th hole, affording a panoramic view of the course and Lake Chapala. After selling the Vermont home in 1990, John and Colette lived full-time in Mexico. In 1999 they moved from Ajijic to Vista del Lago.


People who knew Home-Douglas were invariably impressed by his sheer dynamism and zest for life. He loved entertaining friends with good wine and food. He was a garrulous, high-spirited individual, whose mantra could well have been carpe diem. His Skype account contained the simple, heartfelt words, “Life is shorter than you think. Make the most of it.”


He leaves behind his wife, Colette, and sons Rod and Pierre and daughter, Susan, as well as three grandchildren. A memorial service is being planned for August 25, on his birthday.


 

 

Any contributions will be gratefully accepted

 

Research note: Is his son Pierre the author of books on woodworking?



 

 

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Last modified: Wednesday, 18 July 2018