October 7, 2022

Mr. Denis Nevin Memorial Fundraiser


Denis James Cleland Nevin (September 13, 1932 – April 16, 2024)

Denis JC Nevin was a Belfast man by birth and international adventurer by inclination. He was born into a family of independent and quirkily brilliant children, brother Terry and sisters Caroline and Rosemary, and was raised by mother Maud and great aunts Ria and Mary Ross following the early death of his father, William.

Denis pursued his bachelor’s at Queen’s University, Belfast and was president of the University Drama Club – he was a lifelong dramaturge and very fine tenor. He played in and/or directed Sweeney Todd, Little Mary Sunshine and other musical and theatrical productions on several continents, and always supported school and community theatre. He left university life with a very practical teaching certificate in mathematics, a subject he had an uncanny proficiency in despite his artistic roots. Much later, he would become the first computer science teacher in his school district. He didn’t fear technology, and in fact loved it – he made many creative digital compilations of visuals and soundtracks to share with family, and he loved playing word games online with friends around the world.

By 1961, Dad had fallen in love with – and won the heart of – “the most beautiful girl in Belfast,” Lillian Keenan. It was part of their love story that he managed to also win over her tough-as-nails mother and gruffly loving father, not to mention her three older brothers George, Jim and Sammy, and sister Maisie. None of us to this day knows how he did it – especially as a non-drinker in Northern Ireland – but be darned if he didn’t end up not just marrying Lillian but also softening-up her mother and sister and becoming great friends with her scathingly funny brothers and brother-in-law Wesley.

Denis first taught in Belfast but left with his new wife for a teaching post in Hawera, New Zealand right after their wedding. Daughter Caroline was born there, followed by Ngaire (Ny-ree) when they returned to Belfast, and David when they ventured to Canada for his next and final teaching posts. First stop was Rossburn, Manitoba, “only 20 miles from blacktop” (which they thought must be a mountain) then Ladysmith on Vancouver Island, and finally Kimberley, BC where they spent 42 very happy years.

Denis and Lil made their own colourful and loving community wherever they went. In part it was the times – entertaining at home was normal (and economical), so they hosted dinners and bridge parties and many New Year’s Eve parties. They also played a LOT of duplicate bridge (Denis was a Ruby Life Master) and they made many lifelong friends in that world, as well as with their many good neighbours and friends in Kimberley.

One of the great things about Denis was his adventurousness – he and Lil lived on three continents and travelled to Japan, the Netherlands, Belize, Guatemala, Mexico and many parts of Northern Ireland, Canada and the US. Denis had often visited Europe as a student, and he wanted that same experience for his children. When they were 13, 10 and 7, Denis applied for a sabbatical and permission to home school them. In a Canadian Forces base in Lahr, Germany, he bought a used Mercedes Benz postal van converted to a camper and the family spent six months traveling throughout Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Yugoslavia, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and France. These adventures led all of his children to become travellers themselves as adults.

Denis is survived by his beloved wife Lillian, his sister Rosemary, sisters-in-law Maisie and Julie, daughters Caroline (Nancy) and Ngaire (Brian) and son David (Izumi). He was a proud uncle to Deirdre, Debbie, Patricia, Jenny, Patrick, Samantha, Janice, George, Julia, Mary, Keith, Wendy, Sharon and Michael. He also took great delight in his Canadian extended family Sheila, Carla, Twyla, Clint, Melanie, Kerry, Laurie, Pat, Colleen, Sheila, Keith and Heather. Among the most important people in his life were his grandkids Zachary, Aidan, Jordan, Bella, Allanna, Jenna and Liam, all of whom will dearly miss their Daddo. We all feel so fortunate to have known him for as long as we did.

Since 2016, Gilmore Gardens in Richmond has been Denis’ home, close to daughters Ngaire and Caroline, and easy access from Asia for David. We have all been, and continue to be, very grateful to the Gilmore Gardens community who welcomed and have supported Denis and Lillian over the last eight years. We also wish to express the family’s deep appreciation to the Westside Nursing care aides (in particular Vanessa, Nancy and Ophelia) and to the Palliative Care Team at Richmond Hospital and Doctors Ngai and Li who made his last days as comfortable as possible.

As Denis wished, there will be no service. If you wish, donations may be made in lieu of flowers to the Richmond Hospital Foundation or charity of your choice.

If you would like to learn more about Richmond Hospital Foundation, please contact:
Andrew Soares 
Donor Services Assistant
[email protected]