Despite significant frailty in his final weeks, Dr Simon Marinker took his own pulse minutes before he died on Easter Monday. A physician to the end of his 94-year, well-lived life!
This life began in Paris, France, where the family of the doctor-to-be could not have anticipated his longevity or achievements. In fact, he was barely saved from the ravages of rickets in his infancy when his parents judiciously chose to move to London, where they knew they could get milk and other vital nutrients for their sickly son. Years later, a fully recovered and intellectually advanced Simon proved to be a healthy learner at Cooper’s School as a pre-med intermediate student. From 1931 to 1936, he continued on as a distinguished medical student at Middlesex Hospital London University, receiving several medical degrees and honors, before completing 3 years of resident training and receiving a postgraduate degree in 1938.
As if the demands of his studies were not sufficient, and top marks not satisfying enough, he undertook to challenge the conventions of religion, conquer the complexities of the violin, and be a caring big brother to his 17-year-younger sibling, Marshall, another Marinker who went on to great achievements in the medical field. During a locum in Dover, Simon met his lifetime partner, Maureen, a vivacious surgical nurse from Ireland. After first meeting her, he declared to a fellow physician, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry!” And, as he has proven repeatedly over his lifetime, when Simon set his mind to something, there was no doubt as to the outcome.
The newlyweds immigrated to Estevan, Saskatchewan, in 1939. During the Second World War, he served as a surgical specialist and was in charge of surgery at the Dundurn Military Hospital, where he held the rank of acting major. The couple and their two young children, Peter and Michele, moved to Victoria in 1949, where he became chief of surgery at the Jubilee Hospital, and president of the BC Surgical Society. In his spare time, he mastered chess (gaining a draw from the world-renowned Rashefsky), tennis, poker, Ping-Pong, duplicate bridge, photography, and painting.
Notwithstanding an earlier request from Tommy Douglas to become involved in the CCF vision of socialized medicine, Simon accepted a different challenge in 1963: to be one of the 13 original doctors of the Algoma Group Health Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario—referred to by the Honourable Roy Romanow in recent years as one of Canada’s best-kept secrets, a model for medical care. Simon was 50 years old when he made the move, and not only held his own (and that of the AGHC) during opposition from the city’s medical establishment to this “union clinic,” but also saw many of the downtown doctors eventually move to the clinic. During this time, he also started some of the first peripheral vascular surgery in the “Soo.” Simon became a life master at bridge (as did his beloved Maureen), played Noah on stage, and cross-country skied. He retired in 1986, having practised as a general surgeon for over half a century, with yet another honor: the John Barker Award presented to those who have contributed to the development of the Group Health Centre (GHC).
He and ever-beautiful Maureen moved to Victoria in 1988. After recovering from an agonizing year suffering with metabolic neuropathy, Simon continued his lifelong exploration of new avenues and new ideas, this time publishing four books in succession, including Reducing the Risks of Surgery, and Informed Consent to Surgery.
Simon’s passing was peaceful, as was his last year spent in the gracious, respectful, and caring environment at Hart House, surrounded by the books, art, and music which filled the corners of his enormously full life, one in which he not only healed his patients, but consistently shared his breadth of knowledge to improve the lives of others. Few who encountered Simon will ever forget him.
—Michele Matthews (née Marinker)
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