Dr. William G. Friend
July 25, 1928 – December 16, 2018
Dr. William G. Friend died peacefully at Vancouver General Hospital on Sunday December 16, 2018 at the age of 90. Predeceased by his dear wife of 62 years Shirley Patricia Friend, Bill was an entomologist, teacher, researcher, university administrator, keyboard, flute and ukulele player, cook, sailor, mask carver, traveller, coach, mentor, computer expert, inventor of great ideas, friend, god-father and husband.
Bill was a zoologist from the beginning. He grew up next to the Ottawa River and as an only child spent much of his early life outside exploring the natural world. His mother told of sometimes being worried opening the fridge because she would find jars of tadpoles, snakes and other of his discoveries. His curiosity led him to both McGill and Cornell Universities. While doing his Ph.D., he and Shirley started their incredible partnership. After getting married, they settled in Ottawa where both their mothers lived, and to whom they devoted themselves. There, Bill began his career as a staff scientist at Agriculture Canada until his dear friend William Beckel convinced him to give it up and start an academic career at the University of Toronto. He did exactly that, they moved into Thorncrest Village in Toronto and at U of T he started a research lab, recruited graduate students, helped design and deliver the undergraduate Biology program, even did a stint as a Dean and built a long and successful career at U of T. His research was linked to the wicked problems of Chagas and malaria, highly destructive diseases carried by mosquitoes. He loved his research trips into Algonquin Park where, wearing a black turtleneck and jeans would sit in the heat while his graduate students harvested mosquitoes off him for their experiments. Bill and Shirley had a strong social enterprise that engaged their work and community environment.
During his tenure at U of T he was recognized for excellence in teaching, received numerous research grants and awards, published hundreds of papers, transformed the lives of many students, participated in administrative committees, conferences and engaged in many community endeavours. As a professor at U of T, he had the privilege of several sabbaticals which he shared with Shirley in Cambridge England, Berkley California, Sebring Florida, Vienna Austria and Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.
Although they were childless, Bill and Shirley ‘adopted’ several who they nurtured and supported as their own, paying special attention to their milestones as well as their day-to-day challenges.
In 1994, Bill and Shirley retired and moved to Vancouver where they connected and re-connected with their “tribe”. Dr. William and Sheila Rivers, William and Dorothy Beckel, Marni Johnson and Gord Roberts, Heather Waddell, Pat and Dagg Overgaard, Lois Hardy, the Seniors’ Centre and the Fit Fellows… many, many people were important to Bill and Shirley’s retirement life. They also travelled to Tahiti, Hawaii, Australia and Alaska. When Shirley died in 2016, Bill moved into the Westerleigh Retirement Residence in West Vancouver. And in his words “landed softly”. Despite losing his lifelong partner, Bill engaged with life, remained positive, exercised regularly and made meaningful relationships until his death. Thanks to the staff at Lion’s Gate Hospital and Vancouver General Hospital for their compassionate care.
Bill will be remembered for his warmth, smile, wise counsel, Hawaiian shirts, friendship and his kindness. He will be missed by many.