Eric Fawcett
August 23, 1927-September 2, 2000

One of the happiest rituals of our Toronto childhood was the
Saturday afternoon trip to the library.  Rain or shine,
three kids in tow, an hour spent combing the shelves would
find our father emerge with a fresh towering pile of tomes
and bubbling about that week's selections, typically an
eclectic mix that might combine Russian history and Mozart,
medieval architecture and Can Lit.  Dad rarely read these
books through; he dipped, he browsed, made notes to himself
for future study.  A simple love of learning drew him to
these texts, a love that shaped his life and touched all
those who knew him.

Born in Blackburn, England in 1927, Dad's passion for study
and hard work helped him escape the hand-to-mouth existence
of Depression-era Lancashire by winning a full scholarship
to study Physics at Cambridge University.  There he was
smitten by a greater passion =96 for our Mom, who joined him
as his bride when, Ph.D. in hand, he crossed the Atlantic to
take up a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Research
Council in Ottawa in 1954.  Two years later they returned to
England, where Dad worked at the Royal Radar Establishment
in Malvern and we three children were born.  In 1961 the
family moved to the United States, where Dad worked as a
research physicist at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New
Jersey.  In 1970, he accepted a Professorship in the
Department of Physics at the University of Toronto, where he
remained until his retirement in 1993.
Dad's curiosities took him far afield, and probably the
greatest perk his academic career afforded was the
opportunity to indulge his love of travel. We could always
tell when Dad was getting ready for a trip as he would sing
to himself, talk cheerfully to the cat and generally be in a
great mood.  His ports of call included the Soviet Union
long before glasnost (Russian friends still recall how this
esteemed Professor from the West, stark naked, forded a
stream in dacha country outside Moscow), China, Japan,
Australia, India and Brazil as well as Europe and all parts
of North America. Dad loved travel because it gave him a
chance to experience how others lived and thought.  The
morning after he arrived in a foreign country he would
always rise before dawn and go for a walk to soak up the new
sights, sounds and smells.  He would talk to his colleagues
about local and world politics and in doing so would try to
grasp other people's understandings of life.
Back in Canada, Dad's travels spawned a constant stream of
visitors through the living room of our home.  Since Dad's
culinary abilities were limited to bacon and eggs, our
mother's ability to feed a crowd on short notice and put
even the most awkward stranger at ease was tested and never
found wanting, year in and year out. Mom provided the
essential anchor for all Dad's activities.  He loved her
deeply and was always the first to admit that none of his
dreams could have been realized without her.
But Dad was more than a loving husband who liked to travel:
he was a physicist with a social conscience and he was an
activist.  As children we witnessed his increasingly angry
denunciations of US involvement in Vietnam and his growing
concern for civil rights.  In the 1960s and 1970s he began
signing petitions and writing letters to the editors. Then,
in 1981, with Ronald Reagan in the White House and talk of
Armageddon commonplace, Dad and a small group of like-minded
scientists created Science for Peace, an organization aimed
at addressing the threat of nuclear war.  In Dad's view, all
scientists shared a special obligation to work to ensure
that the fruits of their learning furthered peace; his
inability to comprehend that others might not think the same
way could often be a source of bruised feelings.  His own
commitment never wavered; his concern about Science for
Peace carried on into the final weeks of his life.

Retirement brought little noticeable change in Dad's
workload; it merely freed time to take up new passions and
to pursue the old ones with renewed vigor.  His lifelong
love of the piano burst to the fore, with the hours once
devoted to preparing lectures now spent diligently at the
family Yamaha. At 65, Dad took up yoga, rising many mornings
at 5:30 am to participate in 40 day Sadhana.  An internet
advocate from that medium's infancy, Dad ran several
list-serves which he used to broadcast alternative news
briefs about peace and social justice around the world.
But Dad learned the most in his final years from his
grandsons, Michael, Marc, Peter and Robert. They reminded
him of what it meant to be young, curious, hopeful and full
of life.  He taught them that there is always more to learn
and joy in the learning.  Once, as Dad's enthusiasm for the
imaginary game at hand spilled out into his trademark
cackle, he burst out, "Oh, I love you kids.  You keep me
young."  "But Grandpa", was 5 year-old Peter's unhesitating
retort, "You don't look young to me."  As Dad, the perpetual
student, would have been the first to point out: looks can
be deceiving.

Written by
Clare, Andrew and Ruth Fawcett

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1998.  Permission to reprint is granted provided acknowledgment is made to:
The Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace
Last update:  12 Dec 2000