My father, Anthony Johansen, died on 28 February 2011. It doesn’t seem that long ago, in fact it feels a very short time since I boarded the Air Canada 767 from London to Ottawa to help celebrate his life at a special ceremony on Sunday 6 March 2011.
Normally, I would write some words of my own to remember him, but this year I will do something different by reprinting from the Ottawa Citizen his obituary which he wrote himself some time before his death. Of course he wrote his own obituary: he was Anthony Johansen, my dad, the greatest storyteller I ever knew. And in his life, he gave far more than he took.
Sail on sailor.
Master Mariner Anthony Johansen was born in Bristol, England to Alfred Johansen of Gjovik, Norway and Nellie Louisa Ladd of Somerset, England on May 21st, 1929. A scholarship student at the Bristol Cathedral School during the Blitz, he had a close brush with death in 1940 when the school was bombed while the students were in class. After this upsetting experience he always considered every single day of his life to be a bonus one. Anthony had the sea in his blood and managed in 1944 to join the British Merchant Navy, serving on a Liberty ship plying the U-boat infested North Atlantic to bring food to hungry Britains.
During the ensuing 22 post war years, he spent 18 at sea, rising to the position of Captain. The missing four years were spent working in the Drawing and Stress offices of the then Bristol Aero Engines Ltd,. where he added a National Certificate (Mech. E) to his differing list of accomplishments. In the course of this seagoing career he became a Master Mariner, Foreign-Going, in the days when position-finding, whether by plane or spherical trigonometry, was both an art and a challenge on the world’s oceans and narrow waters. He regarded the highlights of his seagoing career as the two instances when he spotted ships in distress on the North Atlantic resulting of the saving of ten lives.
In 1967 he left his chosen career to accept an opportunity to go to McGill University in Montreal and in 1971 graduated with a degree in Commerce. Armed with a university degree, Master Mariner Certificate and Mechanical Engineer’s qualifications, he took up a position with the National Harbours Board where he remained until its dissolution in 1979. From then until his retirement in 1989 he worked in the Department of Transport with the exception of an exciting spell in the Prime Minister’s Office when Mr. Trudeau was in office. He was a member of a special task force there, and regarded this appointment as one of the pinnacles of his work in the service of Canada.
During the many happy years following his retirement he frequently sailed and sometimes raced in Lake Ontario, the Canadian and U.S. east coasts and the Caribbean. He sang in several choral groups, learned to play a passable jazz piano and did volunteer work in the community, including radio broadcasting with Voiceprint Canada, jazz festival coordinating, driving patients to medical appointments and theatre workshop gophering. He was a doer, intolerant of whining, incompetence, pretentiousness and any form of organized religion. He also possessed a keen but oft-times convoluted sense of humour.
He was an expert in survival in almost any type of situation with which he was faced in life. Wherever he travelled in the world, it seemed there was always someone out there whom he knew and with whom he could enjoy life while there. His deep and shallow water nautical knowledge and skills were difficult to fault, and no matter what size ship or craft he handled or commanded, power or sail, his enthusiasm in so doing gave enormous confidence to those who sailed with him. Anthony Johansen left us on February 28, 2011. He is survived by his nine very best, much loved and loving friends, being his wife Joy (Joyce Phillips-Johansen) , his three sons and their families: Richard (wife Catherine, sons Arie and Stefan) of Bristol, England; Noel (wife Jen Lynne, son Ford Anthony) of Vancouver B.C. and Vaughan (of Vancouver).
Before crossing the bar he made two requests. Firstly, to the friends and acquaintances who congenially shared some portion of his own life along the way he wished fair winds and a following sea. Secondly, that anyone who knew him and who remembers him with a smile, make a donation, no matter how large or small, in his memory, to the Ottawa Hospital, the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, or to a charity of your choice which ministers to children or the homeless and hungry people in our society. A Celebration of Anthony’s life will be held in the Chapel of the Central Chapel of Hulse, Playfair & McGarry, 315 McLeod Street, (at O’Connor) Ottawa on Sunday, March 6 at 2 p.m., reception to follow. His was a long life, well lived.