Dr Bedford Zane “Dale” Aylward, 1930–2022
It is with a heavy heart cushioned by treasured memories that I honor Dr Dale Aylward, who died peacefully surrounded by family at age 92 on 25 August 2022 at Rotary Manor in Dawson Creek, BC. He was well cared for while spending his last many months in the facility with the love of his life and wife of 66 years, Bernice.
Dale was born in Five Islands, Nova Scotia, to Herman (a painter and cook) and Melba (Corbett) on 23 July 1930. He was a teenager during the Depression, so he and his sister, June (still living and active at 90 years of age), enjoyed a very simple childhood and understood that hard work and a good education would pay off.
The clam factory at Five Islands used to pay $1 per bushel, and Dale would often get $5 to $8 per day digging clams. He was a lifelong reader and learner, and he often had two or three books on the go. His kids remember complaining when he listened to his medical cassettes while he drove them to school.
Dale started work as a teacher but soon realized it would be difficult to afford to raise a family, so he applied and was accepted into medicine at Dalhousie University, sponsored by the Canadian Armed Forces. He was a noted storyteller and would regale his classmates with a new story or joke every morning before the start of classes. They gave him the nickname “Daily.”
Bernice shortened it to Dale, and it stuck with him for the rest of his life. The only person who referred to him as BZ or Bedford was Bernice, but only when he was in for a scolding.
Dale finished his military service in Whitehorse, Yukon, and he and Bernice had three young children by that time. They drove south, ending up in Saskatchewan, visiting cities along the way. They met a group of like-minded doctors in Dawson Creek, mile zero of the Alaska Highway, and loved the farming community. They settled in for the next 60 years.
Dale became the driving force in the medical community. He started the Dawson Creek Medical Clinic and built a busy medical practice, including emergency, deliveries, and surgery (tonsillectomies, myringotomies). After taking an extra year of pediatrics, he became the support for sick children and neonates. He was chief of staff of the hospital, Pouce Coupe Care Home, and Rotary Manor. He took medical students every year and was granted a lifelong membership in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC.
Dale was a kind, caring, calm, competent, and compassionate doctor, and a perfect role model and mentor for all new doctors (including me in 1982). He was never flustered and never spoke a bad word about a colleague, patient, or anyone else. He had a ready smile and a wicked sense of humor.
He continued to do rounds at the nursing home and assists at surgery into his late 70s after retiring from his medical practice (one of his sons, Darroch, took that over).
One orthopaedic surgeon insisted that Dale be his assist. Dale had such a calming influence on the OR team and was such pleasant company. He joked that when Dale developed a slight tremor, he had to develop one as well with the same frequency to match it.
Dale loved family events, hunting, and fishing. He served several terms as a city alderman and was on the board of the Kinsmen Club. He was an entertaining speaker and was in constant demand to serve as an emcee at community and medical events. He had an extensive library of joke books and would weave these jokes seamlessly into his monologues and introductions.
He bought a ranch and raised Black Angus cattle; he had 350 head at one time. He eventually became president of the Canadian Angus Association.
The farm was a great place to raise his four children and entertain friends and colleagues, and later his 10 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. The 1 July party at “Gumbo Gulch” was not to be missed. He would joke that he actually was a vegetarian but liked his vegetables transformed into something tastier.
What a legacy; what a life.
—Bob Newman, MD
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Bob Newman, MD. Dr Bedford Zane “Dale” Aylward, 1930–2022. BCMJ, Vol. 65, No. 2, March, 2023, Page(s) 65 - Obituaries.
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Dale was a dedicated physician and valued colleague, welcoming me as a green physician to the medical community, always supportive and encouraging. It was a privilege working with him and I am grateful and a better doctor today for having known Dale.