Dr Thomas Lachlan Calder, 1927–2017

Issue: BCMJ, Vol. 60, No. 1, January, February 2018, page(s) 67 Obituaries
Jill Calder, MD, FRCPC

Dr Thomas Lachlan Calder, 1927–2017
Dr Thomas Lachlan Calder passed away on 15 September 2017 at home after complications from a stroke that he suffered in May. Dr Calder was born and raised in New Westminster, and graduated from Duke of Connaught High School, where his father, Thomas Hanning Calder, was principal. He went on to study at UBC (BSc 1949) and McGill (MD CM 1953), where he met and wed a fellow medical student, Norma (“Tommy”) England—the love of his life for 45 years of marriage.

After medical school the Calders moved to West Vancouver where they raised six children. Tom practised medicine for 47 years and Norma eventually enjoyed her own medical career and advocacy work. Tom’s busy practice was old-fashioned, full-service medicine with house calls, deliveries, surgery, hospital rounds, and care of all ages, including a tender focus on the elderly. Tom loved and lived medicine and was a respected member of the medical staff at Lions Gate Hospital until his retirement in 2000.

His other passion was music. Because his children played in a community band and he recognized other adults in his community had the same interest, he co-founded the West Vancouver Adult Band in 1969. He played his euphonium (and other instruments on demand) with several other groups—more so after his retirement from medicine—and he never walked anywhere without humming or whistling like a one-man marching band. His Doctors’ Band, composed of retired physicians, played at nursing homes throughout the year. Some band members were older than the audience.

Tom was a member of the Kinsmen Club back when polio was the battle, as well as a mental health advocate for schizophrenia and mental health services. Tom and Norma were strong partners in facing their challenges. In 1980 Norma had a hand in taking a support group of eight people to over 30 Friends of Schizophrenics groups throughout the province, which would later become the BC Schizophrenia Society. Norma was recognized for this incredible volunteerism in 1988 with a Governor General’s Silver Medal. Tom’s contribution to the evolution of schizophrenia services was at the grassroots level—supporting his sons, watching treatments, and advocating for best care. He was also the man behind the scenes for Norma’s activities, and while he kept a low profile, he guided and funded multiple initiatives. He also combined his musical talent into the advocacy work, and organized entertainment and music for annual parties and fundraising balls. His Pops Band played at the start of the annual Walk for Schizophrenia as they launched from Lawson Park. Tom also played a major fundraising role to establish a Psychiatry Research Chair at the University of British Columbia, in Norma’s name.

As he rests in peace, his headstone reads, “With music in your heart.”
—Jill Calder, MD, FRCPC