Robert Roy Atkinson (CM)
Passed away on May 17, 2016, surrounded with the love of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Roy was a character who loved his family and all things Irish. He was the oldest of ten born on February 17, 1924, to Bob and Elsie Atkinson on the farm his grandfather and grandmother homesteaded in 1906 located north of Springwater, Saskatchewan. As a young man, Roy tried his hand at selling deep freezes, cutting and selling Christmas trees out on the coast but had his eye on a dark haired beauty from Duperow, Saskatchewan. She wasn’t anyone’s fool; he had to spin some real Irish magic to turn her head. Luckily for us on November 17, 1951, Roy married Bette Aylward, and they began their 52-year life farming, raising kids and working for social and economic change.
Together they raised five children and in his view there wasn’t a dud amongst us (which is as close to a compliment as one could get with this character). Roy loved his kids but adored his grandchildren and great- grandchildren. His tough exterior turned soft when it came to them and he enjoyed a unique relationship with each and every one of them. His wife Bette, parents Bob and Elsie Atkinson and his sisters Margaret, Louise and Doris and brothers Blair and David, predeceased Roy. He leaves a legacy of activism, love, determination (as in you never give up, ever!), integrity, ethics and hard work for his children: Pat (Alfons J.P.), Leta, Bob (Bev) Wendy (Todd), Mike (Kristin) and his grandchildren Gavin (Natalka) Tyne (Nicole) Bailen (Roxanne) Shane (Michelle) Jamieson (Krystalyne) Ryan (Morgan) Colton (Liz), Kate (Mike) and Danny along with his great-grandchildren Bentley, Stella, Brooklyn, Allie, CallieAnne, Boston and Max. Roy also leaves behind his sisters Lavonne, Elsie, Roberta, and Thora, as well as many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and nephews and cousins.
Whether the 8th Street Co-op cafeteria, where he would hold court, a town hall meeting or the family living room, Roy was an outstanding orator and has many high school medals to prove it. As an activist farmer, he devoted his life to lobbying governments and providing leadership to Canadian farmers. He was President of the Saskatchewan Farm Union from 1962 until 1969 when he became the president of the National Farmers Union, a position he held until 1978. He served on the Economic Council of Canada and was a member of the Canadian Council for Rural Development. He was a board member of Federated Cooperatives Limited and was a “grassroots general” in Saskatchewan’s fight for universal medicare serving on the Community Health Services Association formed in opposition to the 1962 doctors strike.
From 1965 to 1994 Roy was a member of the Canadian Wheat Board Advisory Committee and served as chair from 1980 until 1985. He was an elected delegate to the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. And from 1998 he was co-chair of the Prairie Alliance for the Future, a western Canadian organization dedicated to creating a regional grain collection and transportation system. Roy was also active in forming the Landis Producer Coop after the elevator system in Saskatchewan was decimated.
Roy was an activist spokesperson on behalf of farmers and wasn’t afraid to use public demonstrations for the causes and public policy he was advancing. His only objective was to improve farmer economics and ensure the survival of the family farm.
In recognition of his life’s work, he was inducted into the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame and invested with Canada’s highest honour the Order of Canada. His family, comrades and protégés were inspired by Roy’s unwavering sense of compassion, fairness, conviction and curiosity. There is no doubt that he will influence his family for generations to come.
On behalf of the Atkinson/Aylward clan, we want to thank the outstanding health providers our province has. In particular, we want to thank Roy’s doctor at the Saskatoon Community Clinic, Dr. Margaret McMahon, who looked after his healthcare needs with her quiet but fierce Irish determination and the lab technicians who visited him at Luther Tower. We also want to thank Darryl Martin at Luther Towers who supported Roy’s determination to live an independent and dignified life. For the health team on ward 5300 at RUH and Dr. Ann Dzus, we say thank you for your dedication to your work.As Roy would say “We sure have the best there is providing care in our publicly funded and administered health system.”
A Memorial Reception in Celebration of Roy’s life will take place on May 27, 2016, at the Battleford Room at the Bessborough Hotel at 3 p.m. Please wear what you like and blue jeans and polo shirts would suit Roy just fine. Honorary Pallbearers will be the staff and “Senators” from the 8th Street Coop Cafeteria. Arrangements have been entrusted to Saskatoon Funeral Home. As Roy would say “In solidarity and shop Coop even if Federated Coop makes you mad.” Condolences may be left at www.saskatoonfuneralhome.com Arrangements are entrusted to the SASKATOON FUNERAL HOME, 306-244-5577.