Ralph MacMILLAN
Ralph MacMILLAN
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Living Reef Memorial

Obituary of Ralph Baldwin MacMILLAN

On September 20,2020, after 92 years of enjoying everything life provided, Ralph Baldwin MacMillan passed away peacefully at his home in Victoria surrounded by family. He dedicated his life to two things: seeking to improve the world he lived in and embracing the many relationships and friends his interests provided There was nothing that Ralph did that he didn’t do exceptionally well, with passion and an equal amount of compassion. In industry and philanthropy, he was, as in all aspects of his life, kind, thoughtful, and quiet. But his humility belied a strong intellect and business acumen, and though kind, he never shied away from taking on the role of the contrarian and asking the hard questions. Ever modest, he would be dismayed if this moment was used to list off his board memberships, accolades, and achievements, however Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre (of which he was a founding member), the Alberta Art Gallery, the Edmonton Symphony, Alberta College, and more benefitted greatly from his involvement. He was a tremendous patron of the arts and artists and consummately focused on using his many resources to support those he could. His career in real estate as the owner of Edmonton Properties offered him opportunities to invest in his passions—dedicating space in Edmonton’s Birks or Armstrong Buildings to up-and-coming artists and philanthropic organizations. Throughout his life, Ralph dedicated himself to athletic pursuits. His favorite sport was tennis which, in typical fashion, he excelled at, winning the Alberta provincial junior tennis championship, the Edmonton City tennis championship, and the provincial doubles tennis championship alongside his longtime partner, Frank Oliver. His love for the game persisted throughout his life—and until he reached eighty, he played as many as 4 times a week at the Royal Glenora Club. In retirement, he picked up golf with the same resolve and lifelong athletic aptitude. He was a fervent reader and literature was his entry point to many of his life’s biggest explorations. His favorite book was Thoreau’s Walden. So much so that he dragged his brother and young son to rural Alberta to build a log cabin, by hand. Over the course of a week, this ragtag construction team overseen by an artist, perfectionist, and draft dodger from Wisconsin, worked 14-hour days building a Thoreau-esque getaway with no running water, no electricity, many a bear sighting, and a wood-burning oven (in which he recalled his favorite Thanksgiving turkey ever was cooked years later). To know Ralph was to know a man who embodied the phrase “lifelong learner.” He gifted his children with exceptional educations and instilled in them that same passion for learning. At 70, for example, he learned piano. His passion for reading was a way to constantly expand his mind, his skills, and his perspective on the world. Some things, however, could not be learned from books. As began to dabble in retirement, he embarked on his life’s greatest adventure—becoming a sailor. He was happiest at sea, bearing witness to nature’s majesty as he guided his boat powered only by the wind (though he lost many a captain’s hat to both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans). To learn to sail by reading about it proved impossible. There was no shortage of trial and error—countless mornings waking up quite a ways away from where the anchor was set the night prior, a handful of (luckily minor) docking incidents, an overboard dog—but his tenacity and passion again prevailed and he became as adept at captaining his beloved sailboat Santé as he was in all his other endeavors. But more than any professional, educational, or athletic accomplishment, Ralph’s most lasting legacy is reflected in the relationships he nurtured and the loving family he leaves behind. He was a true gentleman—whether dining at Rideau Hall or at a fast-food restaurant, he treated every individual he encountered with the same level of humanity, respect, and kindness. To him, his family consised not only of his nuclear family, but his beloved housekeeper Martha who raised him to be the man he became and his equally adored assistant of 45 years, Nancy Porozni, among many others. Ralph is predeceased by his parents Dorothy (Fred) Haldane (née Spottswood) and Ted Baldwin and his adoptive parents Frank and Grace MacMillan. He is survived by his adoring wife of 35 years, Gisèle MacMillan (née Champagne), children Jeffrey and Nicole, grandchildren Colin, Aden, and Jason, brother Dick (Gail) Haldane, and sisters Bonnie Brown and Donna Wood, along with countless siblings-in-law, nieces, nephews and grand-dogs. At the end of a long day on the boat, Ralph would always delight in a “Santé Gin” – a double shot of Tanqueray with a huge squeeze of lemon and the tiniest splash of Canada Dry tonic. Join us in celebrating a true gentleman with a Santé Gin of your own. “Santé, darling!” In keeping with Ralph’s wishes, no service is planned. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the charity of your choice or to Victoria Hospice.
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