Dr Reid Townsley

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 50, No. 2, March 2008, Page 69 Obituaries


It is with much regret that I announce the death of Reid Townsley, who died in December.

Reid was born at the Wellesley Hospital in Toronto. He was brought up and went to school in Ontario. His father was killed in a riding accident when Reid was just 20, and in order to pay for his university fees, Reid first worked for a time in a northern Onta­rio gold mining camp, and subsequent­ly did some geological surveying.

He entered Queen’s University in 1938, initially, like his father, to be­come a geologist, but at the end of the first year decided that this was not for him, and chose medicine. In the summer vacations he worked as a bellhop on the steamer Hamonic, which ran passengers and freight from Windsor up the Great Lakes to Thunder Bay.

In 1942, in his fourth year, he was inducted into the army. He joined an accelerated program introduced during the war to fulfill the need for doctors in the armed services, which allowed him to graduate in July of 1943.There followed a year of internship at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, and on a weekend trip, returning on the ferry from Victoria, he met Esther, who became the love of his life. They were married in 1945 and remained a devoted couple for some 62 years. 

Reid was shipped overseas two weeks after they were married. He was stationed in southern England, which he learned to love, and served as a medical officer in a reinforcement unit and in various hospitals.

Immediately after the war he was stationed in Holland, where first began his other passion in life, sailing, on a 23-foot gaff-rigged sloop called Rainbows—the beginning of several love affairs with other boats.

Following his demobilization from the services, Reid and Esther headed for Vancouver. They settled in North Vancouver where he first established a general practice. He began his career in anesthesia first as a general practitioner, but later in 1956 left his practice to take further training, qualifying as a specialist anesthetist in 1958 through the program at VGH. He re­turned to the North Shore and became one of the leading anesthetists in the department at Lions Gate Hospital.

Reid was an excellent anesthetist as well as being a fine doctor. I was always delighted to have him in difficult cases. He was calm, collected, and efficient, and always able to provide the special services that might be required in a given situation.

He was a quiet-spoken man, always thoughtful, with a delightfully subtle sense of humor. In addition to medicine, he had a great love of good literature, music, and art. He and Esther had traveled widely, and he was, in my opinion, an “educated doctor” and a delightful companion. 

I was privileged to spend two or three sailing holidays with Reid. The first was on Flirt, a lovely 30-foot wooden double ender. He was an ex­cellent sailor and skipper, and taught me most of what I know about sailing, for which I shall always be indebted.

He retired to live on Saltspring Island in 1980, where he and Esther built a lovely home, and where for some years he continued to work part-time in the hospital there. He eventually had to give up sailing, but then took up golf with equal enthusiasm. He is survived by his wife, Esther; his two sons, Frank and Rod; daughter, Mary Jane; and several grandchildren.

He was a charming companion, an excellent doctor, and altogether a lovely man.

—Guy Winch, MBChB
West Vancouver

Guy Winch, MBChB. Dr Reid Townsley. BCMJ, Vol. 50, No. 2, March, 2008, Page(s) 69 - Obituaries.

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