Toronto, 1935 - where it all began
Victor was youngest of three children, born in Toronto, Canada.
His artistic talent showed itself early, catching the notice of an elementary school teacher who encouraged him such that, at age 9, he won a scholarship to attend classes at the Ontario College of Art.
He moved on to Jarvis Collegiate, where he edited the school magazine and won several art competitions.
Student to Teacher to Bohemian
Post-secondary, Victor went to the University of Toronto where he studied political science and economic history. Those were his studies… the interesting parts include painting with Aba Bayefsky, working with Douglas Duncan at the legendary Picture Loan Society, and being a cartoonist for The Varsity newspaper (alongside a young Peter Gzowski).
Graduate studies took Victor to London, where he enrolled in the London School of Economics. The excitement of London was a lure not to be ignored however, so he left school and got a job teaching. As rewarding as that was, Victor also couldn’t ignore the pull of the Continent.
He became a Bohemian, travelling around Europe with his easel and paints, selling pictures to tourists. He settled for a time near Alicante in Spain where the wine was good and he met a lot of interesting creatives.
Back to Reality
In 1961, Victor was coaxed back to Canada.
He got a job as a social worker and worked with Northern Affairs Canada.
He yearning for more travel though, so he took, and passed, the Foreign Affairs exam.
In 1963, he married the beautiful Margaret Nixon (aka Nicky), who became his ever-so-tolerant life partner through 57 years of marriage.
A Colourful Career
Victor’s first posting was Beirut, as Commercial Secretary, Canadian Embassy, travelling to Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Baghdad.
“I was the junior man in the embassy,” he remembers. “I was assigned a lot of travelling going regularly to Jeddah and Riyadh, and as a young guy, I thought I was Lawrence of Arabia.”
First son, Andrew, was born in Beirut.
In 1966, Victor was appointed Consul and Trade Commissioner, Canadian Consulate General, in Detroit, Michigan, working on the newly signed auto pact.
It was here that Marc was born.
1969 found Victor and his family in Milan, Italy. As Consul and Senior Trade Commissioner and acting Consul General, he found inspiration for painting everywhere, prompting the family to rent a cottage up in the mountains on weekends where he painted a lot.
While in Milan, Victor hosted an art show for Quebec-born Jean Paul Riopelle, a definite artistic highlight for the host.
Third son, John, was born in Milan.
In 1972, Victor returned to Canada, working on loan to Labatt Corporation as Assistant to the Vice President (International). He was made director of a Labatt pasta-making subsidiary in Trinidad, where expansion and modernization provided secure jobs to local workers.
But Wait... There's More
1974 to 1976, Victor and his family were on home soil in Ottawa, where he input policy concerning trade related matters for CIDA.
India was the family’s next adventure. Victor was appointed Development and Trade Counsellor in 1976, identifying projects where Canada could help provide assistance to the poorest of the poor.
In 1979, Victor was appointed Consul General in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Here he was able to secure funding for an animation school within the University of Sao Paulo that still exists today.
An amusing anecdote here includes a request from visiting then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to see the city’s nightlife. Victor arranged a visit to the famous Oba-Oba Club, where Trudeau was recognized and pulled onstage to dance the samba with a troup of beautiful women.
1982 to 1985 found Victor back in Canada in the position of Director General, Export Marketing Bureau with the Department of Foreign Affairs.
From 1985 to 1988, Victor served as Canadian Ambassador to Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.
Retirement in The Crosshairs?
Victor’s final career postings were back in Canada. Three years running the Department of Industry, Science and Technology office in Vancouver; three more years running Information Services for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
Finally, in 1994, he was seconded to to the University of Victoria as Adjunct Professor, International Business with the Faculty of Business.
This was the perfect location, perhaps the desired location, to conclude his career as it brought them back to Nicky’s home city where there were both family history and lifelong friends.