Roger Heeler had his own witty way of looking upon the world until the end. On learning that a host of medical tests had failed to identify his cancer until it was too late - a very low probability event - he deadpanned, "How ironic that a statistician is to be claimed against the odds."
Born in a war-blitzed fishing port, Roger quickly demonstrated his keen intellect, excelling in school and showing that he would not be one to follow convention. When publicly spanked by a mean-spirited teacher for being late, he spanked the teacher back, to the delight of the schoolyard crowd.
His teen summer jobs ranged from beach photographer to Icelandic fishing-boat deckhand.
Roger was persuasive. As a scholarship student at the London School of Economics, and a contemporary of Mick Jagger, he helped form a student wine society that convinced local wine merchants to supply their wares for free, leading to many a great party. Before setting off to conduct sponsored population surveys in Liberia and the remote Sahara Desert, he talked the BBC into giving him film and camera gear despite having zero filmmaking experience. When his cameraman was airlifted out with hepatitis, Roger had great fun filming anything that caught his fancy. The BBC did not get quite the documentary they were expecting.
Roger followed his curiosity in many directions, including the arts, bathroom humour, literature, photography, meteorology, astronomy, mushroom-growing and sailing. Although an excellent sailor, he was not an expert in everything. He didn't have the foggiest concept of soccer rules when he took on coaching his son's team after no one else volunteered. And though he was the home handyman, every project required multiple rolls of duct tape. Puns and word play caused groaning wherever he went.
In 1966, Roger married Canadian Joan Fowler. As he recounted, it took less than one second to fall in love forever. Their son Mark was born in California when Roger was completing his PhD in marketing at Stanford University. Their daughter Tasha was born in Canada after Roger took up a professorship at York University. The family also spent time living in England, France, New Zealand, Japan and Hong Kong.
In "retirement," Roger volunteered at the Art Gallery of Ontario, served as an expert witness for trademark infringement cases and treasurer for a UNESCO museum organization, wrote academic papers and summered in the Maritimes. A 2011 visit to Antarctica gave him enough knowledge of penguins, seals and the wandering albatross to regale his three grandchildren for hours.
The fullness of Roger's life is what makes his passing bearable to all who knew this remarkably unconventional man.
Mark Heeler is Roger's son.