Dr Dave James died peacefully in the ICU of Victoria General Hospital on 2 August 2020. He never regained consciousness after a tragic accident 1 week prior. He had retired a matter of months beforehand, having just completed 25 years as a general surgeon in Campbell River, and was in the process of moving to his dream retirement home on the coast of Quadra Island, a new chapter in his life about to begin.
Dave was born in Winchester, England, and spent a happy childhood as the third of six children of John and Jennifer. His education started at his maternal grandfather’s school at Aysgarth, Yorkshire, then progressed to Harrow School, where he was introduced to the Queen as part of the school’s 400th anniversary celebrations in 1971. His family emigrated to Vancouver in 1973 as his father, John, had joined a family practice at Oakridge, but Dave stayed behind to attend his father’s alma mater, St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London (where his mother and later sister, Angela, nursed). After qualification, he worked in house-officer and senior house–officer jobs in Winchester, Reading, Anglesey, and Lincoln, among others, before applying and being accepted to the UBC surgical residency program, which enabled him to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a surgeon. This also enabled him to rejoin his immediate family in BC.
Dave worked hard and played hard during his residency years but couldn’t wait to branch out into the real world. After doing locums on Vancouver Island, he had the opportunity to work in South Africa, which he jumped at. There he gained valuable experience in hospitals large and small, enabling him to have the confidence of managing any surgical challenge.
While in Cape Town, he became aware of a general surgery vacancy in Campbell River. Having fallen in love with the island lifestyle during an earlier locum at Port McNeil, it was not a difficult decision to apply for the job, and thankfully his application was successful. He started work there in 1995, built many great relationships with colleagues and patients, and became a highly respected member of the community. He traveled to the north island for surgical consultations monthly and participated in a busy call schedule at Campbell River Hospital. He was renowned for his compassion, great bedside manner, and surgical expertise. There was still time for him to participate in volunteer work in Guatemala, where he performed surgery on the disadvantaged as part of a medical team. This reminded him of his time in South Africa; he was always aware of how privileged we are in the developed world.
Dave was a gentle soul with a wicked sense of humor—from a young age he was a great practitioner of practical jokes and latterly became a master of the pun. He enjoyed entertaining family and friends at his beautiful home overlooking the Campbell River harbor, where he had his boat docked. He was extremely proud of his English and Welsh heritage and was a great collector of antiques, books, and paintings, especially maritime themed. He also loved listening to music, gardening, and traveling to all four corners of the world. He had so many plans for his retirement, which makes his early demise especially cruel. Although he never had children of his own, he was a great family man and much loved.
Dave was predeceased by his mother, Jennifer, in 2011, but is survived by his father, John (Anne), now age 92 in White Rock; brother, Richard (Joanna) in Ladner; sister, Angela, in Vancouver; sister, Catherine (Gary) in Manitoba; sister, Jackie (John) in Revelstoke; and brother, Ed (Nicole) in Alert Bay; as well as 11 nieces and nephews, many relatives in the UK, and countless friends all over the world.
A celebration of life will be planned post-pandemic.
—Richard James, MD
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