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"WER" 2003 Obituary


WERNHAM 

WERNHAM o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-05-15 published
Maker of men: 'The Chief' ran Kilkoo Camp for Boys
For 25 years, Ontario educator ran a wilderness camp for boys and then helped launch Toronto's Greenwood College
By Allison LAWLOR Thursday, May 15, 2003 - Page R9
John LATIMER's idea of a perfect evening was visiting with young campers in their cabins at Kilcoo Camp, telling stories and listening to tales of their day's adventures.
"You haven't seen the Pied Piper in action until you saw John in action," said his long-time friend David HADDEN, the head of Lakefield College School, a private school in Lakefield, Ontario "The kids just loved him."
Mr. LATIMER's life-long love of Kilcoo Camp, the Ontario boy's camp he directed for more than 25 years, began in 1938. At the age of 8, Mr. LATIMER arrived at Kilcoo, located on the shores of Haliburton's Gull Lake, about two hours' drive northeast of Toronto, as a young camper.
He loved the outdoors and became an accomplished canoeist. After several years as a camper, Mr. LATIMER moved on to become a leader-in-training, counsellor and program director at the camp. Then in the fall of 1955, he bought the camp and became its director.
Mr. LATIMER, along with his wife Peggy, directed Kilcoo until 1981. It was as director of Kilcoo that he became known as "Chief" a name that stuck with him throughout his life. After retiring from Kilcoo, he had a cottage built beside the camp and remained active in camp life and as a well-known face to the young campers. Not long after stepping down as the camp's director, Mr. LATIMER's eldest son, David LATIMER, took over and continues to direct the camp.
Mr. LATIMER later wrote a book called Maker of Men: The Kilcoo Story, about the place he loved so much. He also co-authored a camp-counsellor's handbook. With his wide smile and keen interest in people, Mr. LATIMER captured people with his enthusiasm.
"He just had this special gift," said Mr. HADDEN, who considers Mr. LATIMER his mentor and the reason he pursued a career working with young people. "No one I know has had a greater capacity to love so many people."
Mr. HADDEN added: "He had the ability to touch people's souls, really I believe that."
John Robert LATIMER was born on October 13, 1930, in Toronto. After graduating from Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute in north Toronto, he went on to radio school. He completed his training and went to work as an announcer at private radio stations in Guelph, Ontario, and Stratford, Ontario, before joining the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Toronto. At the public broadcasting corporation, he worked in the film department but continued to spend his summers at Kilcoo Camp.
"I think he worked to go to Kilcoo," said his long-time friend John KENNEDY.
At a party of camp Friends, he met his future wife Peggy MacDONALD. The couple married on April 29, 1961, and later had three sons, who grew up around the camp.
Not long after retiring as director of Kilcoo in 1981, Mr. LATIMER went to work in the Ontario government's Office of Protocol.
"He never had any intention of retiring," his wife Peggy LATIMER said. "He always said he didn't like golfing."
As acting chief of protocol, Mr. LATIMER was responsible for making sure visits to the province by the Royal Family and heads of state ran smoothly.
In his role, Mr. LATIMER and his wife had occasion to meet the Queen, Prince Philip, the late Queen Mother and several other members of the Royal Family. The Duchess of York, Sarah FERGUSON, spent time at Kilcoo Camp learning how to paddle a canoe.
From the Ontario government, Mr. LATIMER went to Royal St. George's College, a private boys' school in Toronto, where he was headmaster from 1988 to 1996. About three years ago, Mr. LATIMER and his son David sat down with Richard WERNHAM, a lawyer and entrepreneur who made millions selling his mutual-fund company Global Strategy, to talk about their dream of starting up a private school in Toronto.
Together they, along with Mr. WERNHAM's wife Julia WEST, founded Greenwood College School (the school was named in honour of Mr. LATIMER's mother, Zetta GREENWOOD.) The school, which emphasizes not only academic achievement but the student's emotional, social and physical development, opened last September.
"He fully believed in leadership and building leaders," said David LATIMER, who is the school's director of community life. "He always believed that through leadership, all kids could be helped."
An active member of the school, John LATIMER served on the school's board of directors and took part in interviewing hundreds of prospective students for the school's first year.
Having founded the school, which fulfilled a long-time dream, Mr. LATIMER pursued another goal. He got tickets for his first rock concert. Sitting in the 11th row of the Rolling Stones concert in Toronto last year was a spry man in his 70s, said his son David.
Known as a prankster, Mr. LATIMER's jokes ran from sending dead flowers on a birthday, to filling a room full of balloons, to placing a strange object in a bed.
Mr. KENNEDY can remember finding a plastic rose in his lush rose garden at his home in British Columbia and opening up his suitcase after a trip with Mr. LATIMER to find hundreds of packages of matches tucked away in shirt pockets, socks and underwear.
About three years ago, Mr. KENNEDY and his wife joined the LATIMERs on a trip to Disneyland in California. The two couples spent three days going on every ride, and exploring every exhibit.
"He revelled in it -- he loved it," Mr. KENNEDY said of the trip. "If there is such thing as an inner child, he had it."
Mr. LATIMER, who died in Toronto on April 22 after a short battle with cancer, leaves Peggy, his wife of 42 years, their three sons David, Jeffrey and Michael, and grandchildren Tori, Thomas, T. J. and Charlie.
"I do not regret leaving this Earth... because my life has been utterly fantastic," Mr. LATIMER said not long before he died.

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