Dave Mitton

Of our several losses over the past year, one of the greatest is that of Dave Mitton.

Dave was a founding member of the Langara faculty having started at the King Edward School campus of VCC in 1965 (when he was just 21 years old).

He was a builder of community who not only enjoyed conviviality but saw it as a welcome duty. A founder of the Langara Faculty Association and senate, of the fundraising Gala where he performed with the Derryairs, and of institutions such as the annual LFA Presidents’ Bar where his famous Margaritas were always a main attraction whose appeal was augmented by the fact that acquiring one was a chance for a chat with Dave

His community building extended beyond just Langara and he helped to establish a similar level of conviviality to the proceedings of the provincial math articulation committee on which he served as Vice-Chair for several years. And as is so typical of him he continued in regular association with members and leaders of that committee long after his retirement – having regular lunches with colleagues David Leeming and Leo Neufeld after his move to Victoria.

When he gave necessary correction it was always gently done and I never saw him angry

Some emails:

Dave Lidstone: I am saddened to share with you the news that the Langara Mathematics and Statistics Department lost one of its cornerstones when Dave Mitton passed away on March 5 at age 77 years.   The notice in the Vancouver Sun includes some wonderful pictures.  (https://vancouversunandprovince.remembering.ca/obituary/david-mitton-1081788987)   I’m sending this to those of you for whom I have email contacts and hope you won’t mind me exposing the recipients.  My list is not complete and likely not up to date.  I’m sure others will want to know–please share.  Also,  I am sure we will hear wonderful stories and thoughts from many as the news gets around.   For now let me close by offering a variation of a traditional Scots lyric.   Of all the comrades that e’er I had They’re sorry for my going away So fill to me the parting glass And drink a health whate’er befall I’ll gently rise within your thoughts Good night and peace be with you all.  

Alan Cooper: In both the Department and the Faculty Association Dave was a builder of community and good fellowship. He was, and remains in our hearts as, both a definer and an embodiment of what it means to be a Langaran. He will be missed.

John McBryde: Thanks Dave L for circulating the sad news of Dave Mitton’s recent passing, and your kind and fitting words accompanying the message. In so many respects, Dave Mitton was a giant at Langara College, serving in so many roles within the Department and Faculty Association as a whole, not only during his tenure of 35 years, but also after his retirement where we would see him at the Presidents’ Bar at the annual Christmas Dinner, at the Galas, at retirement functions and in various social settings. It is such a shame that Covid restrictions have prevented us from gathering to pay tribute to this wonderful individual, our good friend and colleague who – together with Halina with whom I spoke earlier today – hosted so many of the Department parties over the years. It is a testament to Dave that, as well as from his own Department, many tributes have poured in from those colleagues who served in other areas of the College. Dave was an inspiration, living life to the full and bringing joy to us all. We shall miss him greatly.

It is such a shame that Covid restrictions during this last year have prevented us from gathering to pay tribute to this wonderful individual, our good friend and colleague who – together with Halina who was also a bastion of the College – hosted so many of the Department parties and social functions over the years in their warm and welcoming home.  It is a testament to Dave that, as well as from his own Department, many tributes poured in from those colleagues who served in other areas of the College.
Dave was an inspiration, living life to the full and bringing joy to us all. We shall miss him greatly. I feel privileged that I often sat at the same table with Dave and Halina during the annual Langara Christmas Dinners, including at the last Dinner in 2019, before Covid forced cancellations.

Shortly after I responded to you and Alan an hour or so ago, it occurred to me that as my first Term teaching at the College was in the JAN-APR Term of 1967 (at that time Vancouver City College on 12th Avenue at Oak Street), where Dave had already been teaching since its inception as a College in September 1965. Hard to believe that our first encounter as colleagues was 55 years ago this month. Makes it all even more poignant!

Dave had so many friends and colleagues that it would be very difficult to track them all down or to include their recollections individually or even collectively. As mentioned in my submission, I recall that there were numerous tributes poured in from both the Maths/Stats Department as well as colleagues from across the whole spectrum of the College.

Edgar Avelino: As a new immigrant to Canada in the summer of 1973, I took an Algebra course with Dave in the spring semester of 1974. This was to be the beginning of a nearly 50-year relationship I had with Dave.

At this time in my life, I did not know what field of study I wanted to pursue. I was certainly not considering Mathematics. How could someone who needed tutoring in Math throughout high school even consider this? But unlike my supercilious high school Math teachers, Dave’s calm manner in teaching the subject put me at ease in the classroom and less anxious about the subject. Little by little, the subject became more and more interesting to me. By the end of that year, I had decided to major in Mathematics.

Ten years later, I applied for a teaching position in the Langara Math/Stats Department. Dave was the department chair at that time and was therefore in the Selection/Recommendation Committee that interviewed me and later on, evaluated me. In post-evaluation meetings with him, I always came out optimistic and more enthusiastic about teaching. And in my final evaluation, I remember how positive he was when he recommended me to the committee for a regular contract.

For so many years when he was at Langara and even after his retirement in 2000, he and his wife, Halina, welcomed the department to their home in Vancouver on a Friday in September for a department party. Dave valued and nurtured these social gatherings which brought members of the department closer. He often organized lunches or got together with a few Langarans after work to have a couple of drinks at one of the pubs near the college or sometimes called us to sit around in his office just to chat and have some laughs. There was also the annual summer weekend spent at Don Burbidge’s home in Princeton, BC where we sat around in Don’s patio and listened to each other’s stories. Dave was a great story-teller.

Sometime in the early months of covid, Dave phoned me just to check up on me. We had agreed to get together after the pandemic was over. Sadly, this will not happen.

Outside of my family, I cannot think of anyone who had a greater influence in my life than Dave. To me, Dave was a teacher, a colleague and a friend. I miss him a lot.

Rebecca Friesen: Thanks for letting us know, Dave. I’ve very sad to hear this news. I never got to work with Dave MItton as he was retired when I started but I have lots of good memories of him and Halina. The very first Department party I attended was at their home.. They made me feel very welcome and I enjoyed seeing them again over the years at many other parties. He was a lovely man and a great supporter of Langara and especially of the Math department. He will be missed.

Elaine Cone (wife of Al Cone – another core Langaran whom we also lost this year): I want to acknowledge the wonderful heart Dave had. He would go out of his way when he came to Vancouver to visit Ernie Allen who was in Banfield Pavilion down the street from VGH and stop by to visit my Al (Cone) in Windermere, across from VGH. Because of Al’s stroke, he couldn’t speak, but Dave didn’t mind having a one-sided conversation. He realized that while he couldn’t speak, Al could understand, and it was wonderful for Al to see his friend. I think Dave was the one at Langara who encouraged Al on his quest to climb “Sky Pilot”, getting him a T-Shirt emblazoned “Sky Pilot or Bust” When I told Al that his friend Dave had died, he wept.

Tim Higgs: Dave was my first Langara roomie — summer 1976 in “cellblock A264″ as he referred to it — and was my friend ever after. Among my fondest memories: “wine guys” bike trips [with friends Steve and Shaun] to Cordova Bay where Dave always offered a welcoming glass.

Steve (not an official Langaran, but my co-sommelier at many Xmas wine-bars), Dave Mitton and I for years drove to Oregon to buy wine grapes; Shaun was a “mature” student of mine at Langara when he had a mind to get a degree in enology (after having been a fighter pilot instructor in the Canadian Air Force) and as such joined the wino group that included Mitton.   For maybe 4 or 5 years, until Mitton had gone somewhat downhill two years ago, Steve, Shaun & I would invade Mitton’s on bicycles for a couple of overnights in the summer. You can imagine the agenda: spend the day hiking the beach or the hills, or maybe driving to an Island winery, then good food, good wine, and lots of talk.   [Though gotta say, I don’t understand why one would waste their time integrating around a circle, only to get back where they started — not even if one were assured that they were encircling a finite number of singularities!]

Larry Warren: Dave exemplified a life well lived, leaving behind a world better for his sojourn in it.
I will greatly treasure any chance we may find to meet to acknowledge our friend’s life and our friendship.

Keith Gilley: We will miss his wonderful sense of humour and his devotion to Langara’s faculty friends.

Jose Aguirre: It is very difficult to accept when a well known Mathematics and Statistics Professor of Langara College and friend: Prof. DAVE MITTON leave this world, it is sad but we have to accept it!!
As a colleage, we know of the wonderful stories and thoughts, specially about teaching and friendship that students and colleagues spread at Langara .
Well, we have to accept it and give the condolences to Halina, his dear wife.
Good night and peace with you all

Mary Novik: I, too, have good memories of Dave Mitton, who was a mainstay — sometimes the mainsail! — of college life. For those caring for family members with Alzheimer’s, I’d like to recommend a book, Four Umbrellas, co-written by Vancouver author June Hutton and her husband, Tony Wanless. The book records Tony’s struggle with young-onset Alzheimer’s and their struggle to get recognition and help for his condition.
Stay well and stay safe!

Del Myles: As I remember Dave, he was a very genuine individual. Although my contacts with him were few and far between, I knew from others that he was most well liked. I do want to express my condolences to Halina, and hope that she will take comfort from having had so many years living with Dave to remember fondly.

Leo Neufeld: It’s always good to hear from dear friends and former colleagues. Yes, we also miss our luncheon buddy, Dave Mitton. I will forward to you a few emails I sent to people around the time that he passed away.

I did mention Dave at the last meeting of the now BCcupms and the Secretary noted it in the Minutes

Dave attended the BCcupms meeting at Columbia College in 2016. I believe that that was the last time that he attended one of those gatherings. There is a nice picture of him in the photo gallery for that meeting (attached) taken at the ‘Greek’ Dinner. Dave was always a loquacious, cordial dinner guest/companion with stories at-the-ready. One story he loved recounting was about the embarrassing adventure that Jack Bradshaw undertook in the wee hours after an evening of touring the watering establishments in, I believe Prince George. Great fun!

Dave served as Vice Chair of the BCCUPM (as it was then) — I think during David Leeming’s tenure which ended in 1994. The last meeting he attended was at Columbia College in 2016.

Dave and Halina lived in Victoria for some months every year. This allowed Dave, David Leeming and me to host lunches for the three of us on a rotation basis. We will miss those time to catch up and reminisce.

It was reassuring to hear from Halina and Dave’s daughter Jennifer that “He lived his life to the fullest” and that thanks to both of them “He had very good quality last months”.

In addition to the many messages on the retirees listserv and math dept email list there were many private exchanges in his memory so that in his passing, as in his life, he continued to bring people together. May he ever continue to do so!