Obituary: Peter Shepherd '74

We are saddened to inform you of the passing of Peter Shepherd, Class of ‘74 who passed away on April 21, 2021.
Peter attended Selwyn House from 1971 to 1974. During his years at Selwyn House, Peter's creative writing skills flourished–three of his pieces were published in the 1973 yearbook–and he the award for earned Distinction in Creative Writing in his final year. Peter also participated in the 1973 Inter House Debating Tournament representing Speirs House and received the Rt Hon. Arthur Meighen Memorial Award in Grade 11. 

Peter leaves behind his wife, Alex, his brother Rob, (Maggie), sister, Anne (Bob), their children and his cousin Pat, as well as a greater extended network of family and friends. Please see heartfelt notes from classmates and an inspiring 1974 Yearbook quote and obituary below.
We are sending this note to those for whom we have an email address on file. Please share this with anyone who may have lost contact with the school.
Our sympathies to all of you and to Peter's friends and family. 
Sharon Cozens
Director of Advancement
Mary Ann Cloher​ty
Director of Annual Giving and Old Boy Relations

Emails From Classmates
Saxe Brickenden's farewell to Peter in hospital: 
I thanked him for growing up with me. Being my lab partner in Mr. Anderson’s physics class. Inspiring so many creative projects. Playing clarinet in our band with me on drums, Jody on trumpet in Jody's amazing basement studio and with Nick Maris as sound engineer. Travelling across Ontario in my first car after graduation, a tiny Triumph GT6, and sharing a tent with me for that entire summer of 1974, sleeping in an abandoned cement mill in Lakefield, making friends along the way and making it to the Lakehead. Countless visits to each others’ cottages. Being in my wedding party in ‘83. Being at each other’s birthdays until this crazy year. He was healthy and active. A wee bit over a week later, he was gone. Another reminder that life is a limited time offer, so act now, fellow SHS grads. Miss you guys. And I’m missing Peter.
Jeff Gollob: I was shocked and saddened to see the news about Peter’s sudden and most untimely passing. He was a gentle soul; smart and talented, a good classmate and friend. I am glad I was able to see him a few times over the years, including at our 25th, where I also had the opportunity to have a nice chat with him.
Jody Amblard: Such a smart, delightful and talented guy. He had won a literary prize in Grade 10, and was so much fun to be around. A good friend.

October 31, 1957 – April 21, 2021
With his wife and sister at his bedside, and connected to family and friends by cell phone, Peter was at the centre of a circle of care and love, connected to a network of family and friends, as he passed on to the next stage of life's journey. The cause of Peter's death, at age 63, was an acute non-covid viral infection. We are very grateful to the doctors, nurses and other health care providers at Toronto General Hospital, Cardiac Intensive Care and Medical Surgical Intensive Care, for their especially compassionate and superbly professional care for Peter during his health crisis.

Peter was born in Peterborough, Ontario, while his father, Robert, was working as a general practitioner in Lakefield. The Shepherd family - Robert, wife Dorothy, Rob, Anne and Peter - moved to Montreal for Peter's teenage years. Peter went to Selwyn House for high school. The family lived first in Beaconsfield and then on Atwater Street in Montreal. For eight months during 1975 – 1976, Peter lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with his father's sister Dr. Gwendolyn Shepherd, and visited family in Montevideo, Uruguay. Gwen was a pediatrician and founder of Fundacion VITRA, dedicated to providing relief for children during Argentina's Polio epidemic. She helped to convinced the government to launch a universal Polio vaccine campaign. Another formative experience for Peter was from September 1977 to April 1978, when he worked as a roustabout on an oil rig in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland (near Aberdeen), before returning to Canada. From May to November 1978, Peter lived with his father in the Eastern Townships on the Forest Farm, an alternative therapeutic community founded by Robert Shepherd, after he had qualified as a psychiatrist. Robert later developed the property into the Ruiter Valley Land Trust, the first of its kind in Quebec. During his time at Forest Farm, Peter helped to build a log house, giving him a taste of the pleasures and rewards of building homes.

An anchor for Peter and his family was the cottage at Stony Lake, north of Lakefield, close to Burleigh Falls. There were beautiful views looking across the lake from the cottage nestled in the pink-grey granite of the Canadian Shield. Many happy hours were spent swimming around Crocodile Rock and canoeing through the inlets and bays, paddling by scenic St Peter's Church on the Rock and through a wonderful wetland. Peter greatly enjoyed spending time there with his sister, Anne, in the summer, and he could always find something needing to be fixed.

Peter pursued undergraduate studies in English at Trent University, during 1975-1977, and finished up his undergraduate degree through additional courses at the University of Toronto after relocating to Toronto. Soon after settling in Toronto, Peter met a group of friends who became his most loyal and faithful friends for the rest of his life: James Cherian, Blair Clark, Jay Dulabh, William Eckhart, Gordon Kogawa, and David Reeve. In the words of Blair Clark: It was a time of student rooming houses, shared fridges and shared phone lines, new faces coming and going with each semester or summer job season. Peter's friends well remember Peter's advocacy for tenants, while working as custodian of several adjacent houses. They were impressed and amused at Peter's diligence and creativity in his endeavours to supplement his income.

Peter's early years in Toronto were spent working in construction, doing carpentry and home retrofitting for energy conservation. With fellow carpenter/activists Brian Milani (author of Designing the Green Economy: The Postindustrial Alternative to Corporate Globalization), Gilles Arseneault (who subsequently pursued a passion for art) and others, Peter championed green building through Green City Construction. Peter was a keen attendee and participant of events for the Coalition for a Green Economy, founded by architect Greg Allen (Sustainable Edge), Michael Berger, and Wayne Roberts (author and former manager of the Toronto Food Policy Council, TFPC). From very early on, Peter was an exceptionally committed activist, first in the peace movement, taking part in civil protest, and then focusing on climate justice, energy conservation, and renewable energy. Peter greatly valued the work of Science for Peace, and his involvement with that organization bridged his peace activism and his environmental activism. Peter was an active and vital member of JustEarth (member of Climate Action Network), working alongside Lyn Adamson, Yvonne Buckingham, Rose Dyson, Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg, Joyce Hall, Susan James, Lynn McDonald and Ronny Yaron. JustEarth is committed to preventing dangerous levels of human interference with the global climate system, protecting environmental sustainability and public health, while upholding principles of just transition, equity and social justice. Fellow JustEarthers appreciated Peter's extensive knowledge and detailed attention to much needed systems changes. In their own words: I am so glad I knew Peter; his spirit of devotion to the common good stood out, as did his warmth and enthusiasm (Joyce Hall). There are no words to express our deep loss of Peter and his never-ending commitment to the issues and concerns we have been working with him over the years. We all benefitted from his valuable passion, knowledge and research in so many ways (Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg). He will be missed for his passionate and well-informed contributions to meetings and visits with politicians (Rose Dyson). Peter knew so much, cared so deeply and was always so respectful of others (Lyn Adamson). Peter held the vision of the world we want and need to leave for those who are young and who will be the agents of change for the future (Lyn Adamson).

Peter Shepherd had a special position at Passive Buildings Canada, connecting that group to the larger world, representing it to the Climate Action Network. Peter would bring to PBC's attention other groups and organizations doing great things for the environment, and encourage PBC to lend its name to initiatives in the hopes of moving the needle ever closer towards sustainability. During the past several years, Peter has been a committed Board member at large for the Environmental Studies Association of Canada (ESAC), a scholarly association that has been meeting regularly in the context of the annual Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities. Peter was organizer and chair of two panels for ESAC that were close to his heart, held on May 31st and June 1, 2017 (at Ryerson University). The first panel was on Building Solutions for Climate Change Close to Home: Green Building and Retrofitting for Energy Conservation in Canada, with participants Danny Harvey (professor), Russell Richman (professor), Sheena Sharp (architect) and Terrell Wong (architect). The second panel was on The Promise of Behavioural Change Science to Inform Climate Communication, with panellists Emmay May (Environmentum), Vincent Schutt (Environmentum) and Jeffrey Wardell (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, CAMH).

The next year, Peter was a co-organizer and participant in a special interdisciplinary roundtable discussion hosted by ESAC (in conjunction with the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities), calling for constructive dialogue and innovative visions for addressing and reducing the carbon footprint of scholarly conferences. Fellow panellists for the May 28, 2018 event (at the University of Regina) included professors Ryan Katz-Rosene (ESAC President), Simon Donner, and Geoffrey Martin Rockwell. Peter championed the Flying Less Initiative with great passion and enthusiasm. On June 5, 2019 (at the University of British Columbia), Peter was a panellist as well as co-organizer of a special open event for Congress, on Green Academe: How Can Our Carbon Footprint-Related Actions in Academia Create Meaningful Change? Other panellists who joined Peter included: Erica Frank (professor) and Seth Wynes (doctoral student). In the spring of 2020, the pandemic precipitated the change to a fully virtual conference for Congress, and Peter experienced the virtues and rewards of ESAC's first fully online conference.

Peter met his life partner, Alex, in February 1995, a most joyous occasion for them both leading to a wonderful partnership of over 25 years. Peter and Alex were married in October of 2006 at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse. They shared a deep and enduring curiosity about the wonders of nature, and had a mutual passion for hiking with the Bruce Trail Association as well as going on more local walks with the Toronto Field Naturalists. They both loved their holidays, often twinned with academic conferences, spending many happy hours in museums and art galleries, and trying to fit in as many tourist sites as they could in a day. Peter and Alex were faithful supporters of theatre, including his sister Anne's plays, as well as yearly theatre vacations in Stratford. Peter was a dedicated lifelong learner, taking a certificate in home inspection from Seneca College, and earning his Red Seal carpentry certification. More recently, Peter became a graduate of the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) Passive Builder Certification program. Peter also took and greatly enjoyed numerous courses through Ryerson University's continuing education in environmental management, sustainability, renewable energy policy, project management, media studies, and communications.

Peter was predeceased by his father, Robert, his mother Dorothy, cousin Robin, cousin Diane, and aunt Liz. Peter is survived by his loving wife, Alex, and on the Shepherd side of the family: his brother Rob (Margie) and nephews Rob Jr. (Monica, Hailey, and Mason), Scott (Ursa) and Thomas (Christie), his sister Anne (Bob) and nephews John, Michael and James (Jasmine), and cousin Pat (Tish, Shannon and Trevor). On the Wellington side of the family, Peter is survived by: Scott (Connor and Meaghan), Adwynna, Anne (Brett, Chase, and Aidan), Tina (TJ, Lincoln and Wyatt), and Gabrielle. In lieu of flowers, we encourage donations to environmental organizations, especially ones focusing on climate justice, to animal welfare organizations, to the Toronto General and Western Hospital Foundation, and to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Peter was a loyal daily listener of the CBC throughout his life, and a supporter of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting for years. A life celebration will be planned at a future date, when the circumstances allow for gathering together to honour Peter's life and legacy.
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Published in the Toronto Star on April 24, 2021.