A tribute from Harold Thuringer

COURAGE!—I knew Neil for over 20 years and have always admired his courage, his wit, his sense of humour and especially his penetrating mind. He had a amazing ability to bring up current issues and have people explore, discuss and debate them, issues related to the Catholic Church, and spiritual issues generally; to politics literature; history; and current events.

He adeptly ran many social groups, hosted radio and TV programmes that addressed topical issues and events, and was often invited to moderate community forums.

Politics, both Canadian and American, were his cup of tea. He was a particular fan of Obama and the Democratic Party.

He would also tune in regularly to Fox news and become particularly agitated by Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. Neil took an active role in the Meech Lake debate, traveling
across Canada with other Quebec leaders to support it and lend his leadership and wisdom.

Neil’s history of growing up in a small Ontario town during the depression followed by his years as a Jesuit seemed to mark him profoundly as regards to spending money on himself. The Jesuit rule of owning no personal property, e.g. when you went out you took the last coat available in the front hall. While traveling together I stayed with him at the Chateau Frontenac, Neil refused to pay $15 for a hamburger and made his way across the street where the prices were more in line with his upbringing.

Though it must be said, this imprinting did not prevent him from being very generous to many charities and individuals who are still benefiting from his gifts, always making sure that the cause was efficient and consistent with basic human values and rights that he held so dear.

Aside from regular Exchange meetings, we would meet two or three times a month for breakfast, sharing our concerns, fears and joys. I always came away feeling I learned something, or discovered a new idea or question to ponder over. One of the
most intriguing questions that Neil would ask of those in his circle was “Why do you want to live?” We mused on this over a period of two or three years and it proved interesting how our responses to this question changed over time.

We also shared the occasional game of golf at Meadowbrook in Cote St Luc, along with other duffers and more proficient players. This afforded many opportunities for discussion as we were paired with one or two other players. Neil was the only golf partner I have ever played with in 60 years who didn’t count his strokes. I noticed Neil was more relaxed about his game and the caliber thereof after a number of bogies and
mulligans, all of which was entertaining and left me in good
spirits enjoying the outdoors and our friendship.

I considered him a close friend despite our different backgrounds, skills and intellects. He allowed me to be myself and always seemed interested in and tolerant of my many
“unwashed” ideas and convictions. I think of him often and miss him greatly. Thank you Neil!


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