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Obituary for William Johnson "Bill" Shields

William Johnson "Bill"  Shields
William Shields
June 8, 1932 - Monday, May 14, 2018

After a life well-lived, William (Bill) Shields left this earth the evening of May 13, 2018 in the loving arms of his wife Irene. He was a devoted husband and father, an old friend to many and a charmer with emergency room nurses. Bill had a witty sense of humour and a love of sarcasm that was faithfully passed on to his children, flavouring the tone of most family gatherings – always loud, full of laughter and rousing debates on a variety of subjects.

Born June 8, 1932 in the same Calgary General Hospital as his mother, Bill was the only child of Alberta and Johnson Shields. He fell in love with Irene Loran and they were married in Calgary in 1954. A convert to Catholicism prior to his marriage, Bill was a deeply religious and spiritual person. He came to know the love of a big family with Irene’s parents and siblings and they made sure their own children spent lots of time with each other, their cousins and both sets of grandparents. Bill taught his children that all people were equal, regardless of race or religion, that it was important to give back in some way to their community, and expected them to be generous, thoughtful and forgiving.

Bill’s children and grandchildren were the lights of his life – as well as his two faithful pets Arunda and Bear. He was a simple and thoughtful man, full of wisdom, encouragement and support. His children Pat (Vince) Letizia, Bob (Kelly) Shields, Bill (Roberta) Shields, Judy (Al) Fortini and Janet (Glenn) Zosiuk loved, admired and respected him. We all enjoyed sharing different points of view although Bill could take a stand and hold a strong opinion on many topics. Hence the raucous family discussions!

Bill was always involved in his kid’s lives. Born under a wandering star, Bill moved his family back and forth across Canada to Montreal and Lethbridge, where he coached his two sons in Little League Baseball for many years, and taught Pat how to catch and throw on the sidelines (because there were no teams for girls and he thought it was important.) He was ahead of his time and he and Irene made sure that their sons and daughters always had equal time and equal work, in and outside of the house. They taught their daughters how to use power tools and made sure their sons could cook and clean. Education was important to Bill and Irene and they made every effort to ensure their kids were educated or skilled in trades.
After a successful business career, Bill and Irene retired in their early fifties and built a family cabin at Hidden Valley Golf Resort where Judy and Janet learned to excel at golf and underage drinking in their teen years. This set the stage for many, many summer gatherings of family and friends with annual golf tournaments, and grandkids learning how to swim, roast marshmallows and drive a golf cart. In 1988, Bill and Irene became Snowbirds, heading to California for a few years before settling in Phoenix for ten winters. Bill’s daily journals from those decades of fun and travels make for great reading and his grandchildren often pull them out and reflect on the times he remembered with such humour and fondness.
Before moving back to Calgary in 2016 to spend more time with family, Bill and Irene spent almost 20 years in Fort Macleod growing old with dear friends and finding a close and connected community. Actively involved in church service and community activities, Bill was a member of the Knights of Columbus. He always referred to himself as a ‘flatlander’ and loved spending his senior years living in a small Prairie town. He always said he only needed a hospital and a library to be content and he made good use of both!

Grandpa loved to tease and he was blessed with thirteen grandchildren (Jessi, Nick and Kate (Rod Ruff) Letizia; Mark (Jazmin Palacio), Rachel (Vincent Hervét) and Hillary Shields; Stephanie (Aman Adatia) and Chelsea (Steve Lenton) Shields; Joshua (Taylor Marzoff) and Luke Zosiuk; Hayley, Matthew and Emily Fortini) and three great-grandchildren, Leonard and Naomi Hervét and Florence Letizia-Ruff. Stephanie left us way too early, passing away from Metastatic Breast Cancer in May 2017 and Grandpa looked forward to meeting up with her in Heaven and looking for his little dogs on the Rainbow Bridge.

The grandkids – all grown now - have many memories of Grandpa: the mysterious ‘Gate to Nowhere” at the cabin, his ability to sneeze 17 times in a row, his passion for good manners and the unfortunate position seated next to him at the table, where you got a fork or a flick if your elbow was on the table. No hats in the house, no toys on the floor and no outdoor fires over 1 foot in height - he was fondly, and sometimes fearfully, referred to as Grumpa by his grandchildren
Known to embarrass his family on occasion with his bizarre fashion sense –his gold paisley and white terry cloth beach ensemble, replete with dark socks and dress shoes, and a straw fedora stands out. His pants were always a bit short, he thought golf shoes went with everything and he had a huge all-season sweater collection because he was always cold – as a matter of fact, he often wore his winter jacket indoors when visiting people.

Bill loved music and musicals and his best kitchen rendition was Tevye in “Fiddler on the Fridge” - a performance that can never be ‘unseen’. He loved to sing and everyone remembers his loud, warbling voice singing hymns in church or the anthem at a ball game. He introduced his children to Glenn Miller, Broadway musicals and the Beatles. He was open to his kids’ choices of music, only ever objecting to the volume.

As he got older, his need for quiet became more pronounced and he used to say about visits when the grandkids were young – “I love to see you and then I love to see you go.” Bill was always a great reader too, finding the library in every place he lived. In the past few years, he enjoyed reading several books at a time, so he could move from one to the other if a passage was boring. Bill always said he had a great life and was so proud of his family. He loved his Irene and expressed his gratitude and love for her every day. He did not fear dying because of his deep faith and in the end, he simply stopped. He was tired and he was ready.

We will always miss him.

Funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Luke’s Catholic Church (1566 Northmount Drive NW, Calgary) on Friday, May 18, 2018 at 11:00 am. Reception to follow in church auditorium.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Bill’s name to a charity of your choice or his preferred organization: the Knights of Columbus Scholarship Fund in Fort Macleod. Send payment to: Father MacGillivray Council 5089, Box 1812, Fort Macleod AB T0L 0Z0

Bill loved bright colours - especially red. If you are attending the funeral, please consider wearing red or bright colours in celebration of his life.

To view and share photos, condolences and stories of Bill please visit Arrangements entrusted to the care of Choice Memorial Cremation & Funeral Services (403) 277-7343.
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