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"VAI" 2003 Obituary


VAILE o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-02-03 published
Sigmund Jerome (Siggy) VAILE
By Mary Anne BRINCKMAN Monday, February 3, 2003, Page A20
Husband, father, stepfather, grandfather, ophthalmologist, skier, ballroom dancer. Born July 23, 1929, in Toronto. Died November 20, 2002, in Toronto of cancer, aged 73.
Because of Siggy VAILE, probably more than one million people will see better. As an ophthalmologist at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital -- among all his other duties -- he conducted more than 10,000 cataract operations, and taught more than 100 new doctors, each of whom will probably perform about the same number of operations. His patients loved him, because he treated each one as though he or she were the only person he had to see that day. I went to him when my aging eyes found it difficult to focus close up. He told me, before he sent me off to the drugstore to buy magnifying glasses, that perhaps the solution to my problem was simply to grow longer arms.
Upon Siggy's retirement in 2001, the staff in ophthalmology at Mount Sinai endowed The Mount Sinai Hospital Dr. Sigmund Jerome VAILE Endowment Fund, an annual prize for the resident showing the greatest promise as a cataract surgeon.
Siggy was a smallish, really neat, man with a taut muscular body, an unobtrusive manner and a quiet voice. He listened well, and people always felt more interesting when they talked to him. He was a gentle man who made good Friends with all sorts of people. They ranged from artists and dancers to farmers and academics. He respected them all and they all loved him for it.
He had two children, Bob and Susan, by his first wife, June. His second marriage to Robin lasted for 32 happy years. She had a son, Philip, whom he loved as though he had been his own, and three grandchildren whom he adored. Siggy and Robin were wonderful together. They looked after each other -- and they had fun. Their apartment in Toronto and their log cabin in Creemore were always full of music. I remember one evening when their eat-in kitchen was filled with the beat of a samba: Siggy put down his drink, lifted up his arms and Robin glided to him. Neither had said a word. They danced perfectly around the counter and past the stove and refrigerator. It was a joy to watch.
Their log cabin was surrounded by fields and woods and overlooked a pond. It was so perfect that they sometimes called it "Paradise Acres." There, children and Friends would gather, and Siggy planted more than a thousand trees, and grew herbs and flowers between the vegetables in the raised beds in his kitchen garden. One of his specialties was kale, which he grew, cooked and served, as though it were a rare delicacy. A strange choice, some of us thought, but it was irresistible when we were greeted by Robin, smiling proudly and saying, "Come in, Siggy's cooking his kale for dinner tonight."
They travelled together to places like Morocco and Mexico. He also loved being in Toronto where he read, listened to jazz and went to the ballet. One of his favourite sports was skiing. After a day on the slopes -- whether it had been freezing rain or powder snow -- Siggy would talk about the fun he had had.
Several months ago, when Robin and Siggy visited his doctor, they were told that his cancer was very advanced, but that they would try and fight it with aggressive chemotherapy. Siggy knew that his chances of recovery were slight. His doctor asked him if he had any questions. Siggy paused. He sought to lighten the moment and to give Robin some time to accept the news. His reply was full of grace and courage. "Yes," he replied. "When can I ski again?" That night, they went to a fund-raising event. A woman came up to them, "You look so close to each other. How long have you been married?" she asked. "Not long enough," Siggy answered.
Siggy was a friend of Mary Anne.

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