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Who Am I?

Barry Noice

I was born in Stratford on Nov. 11, 1938.   In those days it was the CNR shops.  Then in the 50`s the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and now Justin Bieber

My father was a skilled cabinet maker in a local plant and my mom was a homemaker.

My memories of those early years include public schools with the names of Shakespeare’s characters; a wonderful high school history teacher, Captain Brian; a part time job at the Avon Theatre when it was still a movie theatre; and a bellhop and ‘gopher’ at the Queen’s Hotel on Ontario Street.

Then there was my best weekend job at Ellam’s Restaurant across the local newspaper, the Stratford Beacon Herald.  Here I acquired my love of language and of cooking. I learned some basic short order cooking skills and late on Fri. and Sat. nights I listened to reporters and writers from the newspaper as they discussed writing news items, correct grammar usage and how to phrase headlines and titles.

After grade 11 we moved to Woodstock and at school I met Anne who later became my wife.  We later moved to London, just in time to start at the

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University of Western Ontario in Modern Languages.  I had a great, busy 4 years studying French, German & Italian. Not just the languages, but history and culture. We were a close-knit group of students and enthusiastic profs.  On graduation in 1961 with an Honours BA in Modern Languages and after taking some summer courses, I accepted a job offer to teach high school in Preston.  It was a bit closer to home than another offer to teach at the high school in Red Rock.

Anne and I were married in ’62 and she joined our staff in our small language department.  One of my senior students was an air cadet who had his pilot’s licence.  He persuaded me to go flying.  I was hooked and signed up to earn my private pilot’s licence out at W-W Airport which I eventually acquired.  It was a great way to clear the mind of the day’s more mundane concerns. 

During those years, Anne and I learned to play tennis, practised downhill and cross-country skiing and travelled frequently in Europe - mostly in France, Germany and Switzerland.  We stayed in remote, off the beaten track towns at family-run inns, and also rented a small house in a remote southern French village for 2 summers, all the time making new friends, honing our language skills and doing important research into French wines and cuisine.

The years passed and eventually we began to bump into former students, who would ask ”Did you used to be Mr. Noice?”.   Jeff Hutcheson of Canada AM. and Dr. Steve Pautler who helped develop the DaVinci method of robotic were a couple of my students.

Someone wrote that life sometimes happens when you aren’t paying attention. In the spring of 1990 we were shocked when Anne, was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.  There followed a hard year of surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy and a not too hopeful prognosis. It was a time when I, probably like many of you here, learned the skills of caregiver. We had been living in Waterloo, but as Anne slowly recovered, in 1993 we moved to the 

village of Conestogo, to a house surrounded by gardens, woods and with a stream: a very therapeutic location. We ran it as The Old Flax Mill B&B for 8 years mostly in spring and summer. We were even invited to be part of a publication “The Best Places To B&B In Ontario”. 

Anne had not returned to teaching and I retired a year early in 1994.  As Anne recovered from cancer, she wanted to give back to the community.  She, with 2 other women, founded HopeSpring, the local cancer support group. We also established, at our home, a small cancer support program called Wings of Hope where people could visit for a day to talk about their cancer issues, perhaps stay over and enjoy the quiet setting.

At this time I fell into a new, 3-year teaching job at UW, teaching English conversation skills to visiting middle-management groups who had been sent to UW by PetroChina.  They were geologists, engineers, mining experts, accountants, and lawyers, all of whom took university courses to acquire knowledge of the petroleum business from the Canadian side.  It was an ideal teaching situation---super-keen classes, 3 hours, once a week, class size about 6 to 10. Most spoke some English, some were almost fluent. There was no curriculum—my lessons grew from Globe and Mail articles which developed into much discussion.  It was a fantastic experience for me, a window into a new culture and society and an understanding of the incredible pressures these individuals and their children were under to succeed.

That brings me up to the present. We downsized  in 2008 and moved back to Waterloo. Anne enjoys excellent health, and is involved in several community projects.  After retiring, I became involved in the arts, watercolour and acrylic painting and sketching and I belong to 2 local painting groups and associations.  We still enjoy travelling now and then and find that generally, if we pay attention we learn something new every day!

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