John Reginald Armstrong



Born in Belleville, Ontario, John was the first of four children born to Robert E. and Winnifred A. Armstrong. He was named after his grandfathers – John Groombridge and Reginald Armstrong – and for the first year and a half of his life he lived with his mom and dad in an apartment in Trenton, Ontario, near to his paternal grandparents. The rest of his life, save for a three-year stint at the University of Toronto, was spent in western Canada. The small village of Clyde, Alberta, was where he spent the next five years of his life, during which time he had regular contact with his maternal grandparents who lived nearby. During those years he became a big brother to two siblings: Margaret (1950), and David (1952). Four more moves to western Canadian cities ensued over the next nine years, until such time as the family finally set down roots in Athabasca, Alberta. During those trying years a third sibling was born, Barbara, in Edmonton (1957). The many moves took its toll on the family, but during this time John’s fascination with fossils and prehistoric life was ignited. Fossils were gathered from the creek beds of Manitoba to the hillsides in Calgary and became part of John’s treasures that had to be packed with the family’s belongings each time the family moved. He was a geology nut!

In settling down in Athabasca, John was able to form some enduring friendships with fellows his age, especially those who liked to accompany him on treks through the trails of the Muskeg Creek valley that could be accessed from behind the family home. These were happy days for John.

John’s three years at high school were another matter. Some of the teachers regarded John as an odd-ball character who needed correction. Numerous strappings took place by teachers for rather spurious infractions. In those days corporal punishment was meted out to a number of students, but John had to endure more than his share of some of the teachers’ opprobrium. A fine exception to this was his English teacher, Jack Appleby, who could see John’s potential as a writer and a poet. He was the first of several mentors to look beyond John’s “odd-ball” ways and see his true potential. (John was crestfallen when he was told that this fine beloved teacher succumbed to a heart attack and died halfway through the school term.)

Four years at the University of Alberta led to a BSc in geology and paleontology. That’s where he met another of his mentors, Dr. Charles Stelck, his professor of paleontology. John became the only student ever to correctly identify all fossil specimens on an exam. Dr Stelck assisted John in getting summer employment in northern Yukon in the summer of 1966, and later into obtaining his first job with an oil company in Calgary once he graduated. John was also invited to join Dr. Stelck and his two sons on trips to the badlands of Alberta, one of John’s favorite stomping grounds. In 1970, John felt led to take a two-year diploma course at Regent College in Vancouver in Christian Studies. This then led into a three-year stint at Wycliffe College in Toronto, an Anglican Theological School, where John received a Masters of Divinity degree. During this period, he became a life-long friend of his fellow classmate Reverend Charles Balfour. Though John was ordained a deacon, he never took on the duties of a priest overseeing a Parish.

For the next twelve years, John worked in the field of stratigraphy (analysis of drill core samples) in Calgary until such time as he was laid off due to the slump in oil industry at the time. A period of unemployment eventually prompted John to seek training to be a cook, since one of his passions was cooking. At around this time John was diagnosed with diabetes, and so his career as a chef was short lived due to his reduced capacity for standing for long periods.

John was a strong advocate for inter-faith dialog, as he would regularly attend monthly luncheons of the Edmonton Interfaith Centre. Other interests included: painting, writing, and travelling (mostly to Hawaii and the American southwest).

Over the past two years, John’s health deteriorated to the extent that he required hospitalization for complications from his diabetes. In August 2022, he was admitted to the Royal Alexandra Hospital as he lacked the strength to even walk. Eventually he was placed at Age Care Miller Crossing nursing home in May of 2023, where he received excellent care until his death.

Arrangements entrusted to Foster & McGarvey Downtown Funeral Home.

In Loving Memory of
John Reginald Armstrong
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