It is with great sadness and heavy hearts the family of Dr. John Derek Wyant (“Derek”) announce his peaceful passing on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020 with his family by his side.
Derek was an extraordinary man - devoted husband, father, grandfather (and most excited to be a great-grandfather to a beautiful baby girl due in March 2021), brother, son, friend, surgeon, teacher, leader, mentor and administrator. He was known as “Doc Wyant” to many of his patients, “Jekyll” and “Tex” to his friends and precious “Popeye” to his beautiful grandchildren. He had an amazing sense of humour, creating numerous nicknames for family members, friends and colleagues – many still use them to this day.
Derek was born in London, Ontario on July 18, 1938. As a young child his family moved to Johannesburg, South Africa and then on to Surrey, England. In 1950 work brought his family back to Canada settling in Montreal, Quebec. His love of sports that would last a lifetime was hugely influenced by his grandfather Joseph Linnell, an accomplished soccer player. He was particularly fond of college football – Notre Dame “The Fighting Irish” was his team. Despite the fact he was lacking in height and size, he was an integral part of his high school football team. He was loyal to his Detroit teams to his very last breath – the Red Wings, Lions and Tigers.
Derek’s passion for medicine began at 13 years old when he became ill with Rheumatic Fever resulting in several weeks in the isolation ward at the Children’s Memorial Hospital, Montreal, Quebec. Derek graduated from West Hill High School, Montreal, in 1954 at the young age of 16 years and was recognized as one of the youngest students to ever enter McGill University. He graduated from McGill Medical School in 1962 completing his General Surgery Residency in 1968.
While in medical school Derek spent his summers working in various hospitals in Montreal and Portland Oregon. One summer he worked as a Deck Hand on cargo freighters from Montreal to South Africa and back. When in South Africa his medical career continued to blossom as he worked in the community hospitals. He loved every minute of it!
With few medical opportunities in Quebec, Derek moved the family to Port Arthur, Ontario in 1968 to join the Port Arthur Clinic (now Port Arthur Health Centre) as a General Surgeon, a position he was most proud of. He never imagined that would be the start of his 52 year career in medicine serving Thunder Bay and the Northwestern Ontario Region. He proudly held the position of Chief of Surgery at St. Joseph’s General Hospital from 1978 to 1993. As the Thunder Bay hospitals began to amalgamate, he spent 1993 to 1994 as Chief of Surgery of both St. Joseph’s General Hospital and Port Arthur General Hospital. In 1995 during the final amalgamation of the Port Arthur and Fort William hospitals, he was privileged to partner with his friend and colleague, Dr. Mark Thibert, as Co-Chief of Surgery, a position he held until 1999, when he retired from General Surgery.
Derek became one of the more popular and “much loved” doctors in the community. His sense of humour, whistling as he walked down the halls and his love of suspenders (his collection has now grown to a significant size) were well known traits. Few surgeons would ever be seen roaming the hospital halls with bright orange “Husqvarna” suspenders, baggy pants, pastel polo shirts and a Breukleman Potato Farm baseball cap. It did not bother him one bit. All of these traits combined with a bedside manner that would put the most nervous patients at ease made him one very memorable man. Derek was honoured by the Ontario Medical Association in 2009 when he received the Glenn Sawyer Service award in recognition of significant service to the Ontario Medical Association and the medical profession. Then in January 2019 Derek was recognized by the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre for 50 years of service.
Derek had one love in his life, Anne. They met as neighbours when he was 15 and she was 13 and eventually married in 1962. They were together for 67 years, married for 58 of those years and never apart until his passing.
In 1973, Derek began his life long journey into the world of horses – rekindling childhood memories living in South Africa and England. He shared this passion with his three children and grandchildren, spending his spare time running out to the barn to ride the horses, travelling to horse shows near and far, creating beautiful memories and lifelong friendships.
Derek bought his camp at East Arrow Lake in 1987 and spent the next 30 years rebuilding it into his playground. Known to many as “Popeye’s Playhouse”, his workshop houses every possible tool. Classical music greeted you as if it was a live concert, and you name it - he could build it! Many enjoyable years have been spent at the family camp which will be treasured by family and friends forever.
Derek is survived by his wife, Anne; three children, Peter (Lisa), Ted and Heather (Bob) Quinte; five treasured grandchildren, Christine Vida (Toronto), Kimberly Vida (Paul Peck), Andrew Vida, Megan Wyant and Matthew Wyant; sister, Lynne Wyant-Barnett (Edmonton) and brother, Jim Wyant (Montreal), brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Grant and Louise Bell, and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
Derek was predeceased by his parents, Gerald and Margaret Wyant, infant brother, Peter (at birth), his mother-in law and father-in-law, Melba and Harry Bell, and sister-in-law, Maureen Leiva-Wyant.
Cremation has taken place and a private service will take place early in the New Year when circumstances permit. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to St. Joseph’s Foundation of Thunder Bay, Thunder Bay Health Sciences Centre Foundation, or a local charity of your choice.