In the end, Mother Nature and family history proved too much, and the warrior stood down from his fight. On August 26th, 2018, Rob Henry passed away from cancer at his home in Waterloo, Ontario.
"I found a mass".
"Hello, I am Dr. x".
"You have stage 4 rectal cancer"....
How does a person hear those words and figure out what to do next?
Rob did somehow. In his words, “by getting up each day and putting one foot down and then the other”. He faced each new day with an unbelievable level of bravery and courage; never losing his sense of humour or his positivity. He fought this battle fiercely to the end with the unwavering support of his amazing wife Heather, his children Tom and Maureen, and his sister Laurie at his side.
A lover of quotes, Rob’s mantras became - “Illegitimi non carborundum” (Never let the bastards grind you down) and “It’s my story to write”.
Rob’s story began in Shawinigan, Quebec on February 27th, 1961. His father, Walter Henry and mother, Mary Joan, along with his brother, David, moved to Renforth, New Brunswick in 1964. His sister Laurie was born in 1970; and there his family roots remain. Rob’s mother Joan passed from cancer in 1971; his brother David died from a heart attack in 1999.
Rob grew up in Renforth, reveling in the "charms" of the Kennebecasis River, playing basketball and creating the kind of friendships that only strengthened throughout the years no matter the time nor the distance. How perfectly fitting that lifelong friends Bill Mayberry, Chris Magee and Krisan Palmer joined Rob’s family in his final days to ensure this great man left the world with a “great send off of love and comradery”.
Rob’s accomplishments are too many to list. He undertook everything he did with a level of excellence…and a well-thought out plan. He graduated first in his class from Kennebecasis Valley High School in 1979. He served as a reserve communications operator in the Canadian Forces, and graduated with distinction in Business Administration from the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton in 1983.
At UNB, lifelong friendships- too dear to single out here - continued to grow out of those brought from KV down the highway near Saint John. He played three intramural sports, was President of Aitken House, and won the Lieutenant Governor’s medal (first in his faculty) from the Faculty of Administration.
After a call-out to the communication center at the Canadian Air Force Base in Lahr, Germany, Rob returned to Saint John to start his business career, earning his Chartered Professional Accounting designation with KPMG in 1987.
Rob considered himself so lucky to be married to his best friend Heather (Atkinson) for 32 years, and unbelievably blessed to have had two beautiful children. Their son, Tom was born in 1989, and their daughter, Laurie Maureen (Mo) was born in 1990. Hours were many in hockey arenas, dance studios, gyms and running shoes.
In Saint John and the “Valley” and the “Soo”, Rob would build the skills and the contacts that would see him spend over 20 years in the wood panels industry; a career that would take him and his family to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, back to New Brunswick, to Markham, Ontario, and ultimately to Atlanta, Georgia as V-P of Finance for Arauco North America.
Rob’s legacy will live on through all the lives he has touched. He was a brilliant, genuine, kind man who has left a tremendous hole in the hearts of his wife and children, their partners, Alex McCaul (Mo) and Heather Mann (Tom), his sister, Laurie, his mother in-law, Sandra Atkinson, his brothers in-law, David Young (Laurie), Norman (Chantal) and Mike (Andrea) Atkinson and sister-in-law Paula (Martin-Henry) Cullinan. He will be forever missed especially by his niece Ali Krieger (Jon) and his nephews Greg Henry (Courtney), Dominic, Peter, William, Ben and Michael Young.
If there was a set of personal values that carried through, it was that Balance - athletics with academics, career with family, flexible operations with tough financial standards - would earn you the relationships you needed. Success might come, not by promotions or material gains, but by treating others the way you would want to be treated, never losing your positivity or sense of humor or compassion. And of course, you can never spend too much time in a canoe on trips with your family (which Rob and Heather did from the time Tom and Mo were three).
All these values - together with a lifelong commitment to physical fitness - gave Rob the grounding he needed to hear those difficult words in 2016. These values deepened his love for his family - and his love for a little piece of heaven they had found on Otter Lake, near Parry Sound, Ontario. You’ll find him there now - at Henry’s Hollow - sitting in the sauna or sipping a scotch by the fire.
Rob did not wish to have a funeral service. Instead, in true Aitken Animal fashion, we will celebrate a life well-lived and a battle valiantly-fought, sharing stories of this great man with food, drink and song in his hometown of Saint John, NB in October. Details will be shared in the coming weeks.
In lieu of flowers, please feel free to make a donation to the charity of your choice; spend some time with someone you love; or celebrate Rob in a way that feels right to you.
Rob and his family would like to thank Kelly Shotbolt and Rob’s colleagues at Arauco North America; Dr. Wolff and the exceptional care staff of the MD Anderson Cancer Center, the Grand River Hospital and Paramed who offered tremendous support, compassion and care throughout this journey.
Cancer sucks. No one fights alone.
Please visit Rob's obituary notice on Facebook.