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Monday December 31, 2012

Arthur Francis Morton

Gentle soul, gifted painter, inventor, family man, fussy guy. Born April 16, 1920, in Montreal, died Aug. 17, 2012, in Kamloops, B.C., of a stroke, aged 92.

There are some men who don't have much going for them in childhood, yet they overcome these odds and live a happy life.

In the 1920s, when Arthur Morton was growing up with four siblings in a working-class family in Montreal, his happy, innocent world suddenly ended when his father was killed accidentally at work in the train yards.

The five-year-old was shipped off to live with relatives in Britain so his mother could work to support the family. Rheumatic fever obliged the relatives to realize the climate was not good for him, so he was returned to Canada, travelling alone with a mariner paid to watch over him.

Arthur's home for the next 10 years was a Ukrainian orphanage in Winnipeg, where he and his brothers learned to sing the Internationale, and were raised with firm discipline until, in their teens, they chose to leave and hop freights during the Depression.

Dad recalled once working all day as a farm labourer and being given a brown-bag meal to eat after he left the premises. When he sat down to eat it, there was nothing between the two slices of bread.

On other days, the kindness of railway workers who let him ride the rails gave him strength.

Back in Montreal, he joined up to fight in the Second World War, but was never sent overseas because of his health. He found other ways to serve. While swimming at the Natatorium in Verdun, Que., he rescued a beautiful sunbather who was being harassed. By then, the skinny blond child had grown into a muscular, tanned Adonis.

He married the sunbather, Thelma, in 1948, and settled down, not moving again until 1992. He took two years to build a bungalow in St. Hubert with his own hands while they lived with their son in "The Shack," a two-room cabin.

Arthur's job as a tool maker at Northern Electric gave him the opportunity after work to invent prototype parts for race cars. One of them was a seat belt for a convertible.

He became a fussy guy who needed a lot of order in his life. He was so obsessed with germs, he would not eat anything at pot-luck suppers. The only kind of germs he liked were dog germs.

After retirement, when his wife gave him an oil painting set, Arthur revealed a talent for still life and landscape painting. He learned by trial and error and TV demonstrations. The house was soon filled with Art's art.

His last great adventure came in 1992 when he and Thelma moved to Kamloops, leaving everything and everyone they had known. There, they enjoyed seeing their grandsons grow to manhood.

When he moved to a nursing home, he called it a "pleasant prison." His grooming routine, which lasted longer than anyone else's, kept him looking great every day. Thelma always said he was the only guy she knew who took out the garbage wearing a tie.

Arthur Thomas Morton is Arthur's son.

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