Stephen Gaetz

Obituary of Stephen Reginald Gaetz

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It is with great sorrow and bittersweet gratitude that we announce on Sunday evening February 18, 2024, at Twin Oaks Hospital at approximately 8 pm, (his favorite time of the day) Stephen Reginald Gaetz, 75, of East Petpeswick, after a difficult journey with cancer that he courageously faced and was determined to overcome passed peacefully surrounded by his family.

Stephen, the second child of four children was born on June 6, 1948, to the late Ross and Ellie (Myers) Gaetz. His first job, which Stephen spoke of often, was peeling several 10lb bags of potatoes to be used to make fries with his brother Graham before school every day at their family-owned corner store near Lake Banook. He would soon, with his parent's permission but still too young, join the Royal Canadian Navy at age 17. He proudly served on the HMCS Columbia where his passion for the open waters of the ocean grew along with his great respect for mother nature which would also grow his interest and passion for storms whether it be thunder and lightning, hurricanes, or massive snowstorms. He was known to stay up all night for a good storm, often waking up his granddaughter Mercina in the wee hours of the morning to join him as she shared his passion for all things weather-related as well. Sometimes plowing every hour but he enjoyed every minute. Blessed with a photographic memory, he would earn his engineering degree during his time with the Navy, along with his thirst for travel. He spoke with great enthusiasm of the many places he had been and would captivate you with his knowledge of history and could tell a story like no other. Wherever he went he made friendships that would last a lifetime.

Stephen and Darlene married in 1969, and thus began an adventurous journey that would last 54 years and 39 moves throughout Atlantic Canada. His love of the automotive business and passion for fast cars led him to be co-owner with Jack Spicer of a Volkswagen dealership, general manager of a few, and eventually owning an automotive dealership, Harbour City Dodge. He worked hard and played hard. If he wasn't working, he was spending time with family enjoying the great outdoors camping and trailering, or off on hunting and fishing trips with his brothers and or friends in Moser River or Labrador. While residing in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, his best friends Monty and Gloria Brake embraced his family as their own and prompted him to build a cottage close to them on Pinchgut Lake. This resulted in spending every weekend snowmobiling, ice fishing, 4-wheeling, or dirt biking, teaching his children valuable life lessons while making memories that would last a lifetime. Eventually moving back to Nova Scotia in 1980 to be close to family which only lasted until he became the owner of a dealership requiring his family to move to Saint John, New Brunswick where he made new lifetime friendships. While trailering for many summers at Wally's Campground in Cambridge Narrows, friendships flourished with Donnie and Marie McKelvie and Bruce and Connie Melanson. He always looked forward to the call that Bruce made to him every Christmas Eve. After a chance meeting a special friendship with David Chase and Terry Melles would develop due to raising daughters the same age, much to the girl's dismay. They could be found boating along the Saint John River, dinner parties galore, many trips across the water to Maine, cruising the Caribbean together, travelling all over the world and sometimes they would even bring the kids along resulting in many fun times and great experiences learning about other cultures. These family trips are treasured memories that instilled the travel bug in both Stephanie and Stephen along with Kim and Michael as well. Eventually, life would hand out another opportunity to move back to Nova Scotia as the primary investor and co-founder of Auto Motion Limited which started as a used car business, leading to the franchising of an automotive detail business and ultimately selling cellular phones before cellular phones were popular going against the grain as who would ever buy a cellular phone when everyone had a house phone? Before his retirement in 2000, AML Communications Limited would prove to be one of the largest cellular telecommunications companies in Atlantic Canada. The journey and adventures that Stephen and Darlene shared created memories that most people could only dream of. Darlene on a moment's notice, was always up for whatever Stephen presented, and quietly behind the scenes made it happen. She never complained even when she was unsure of the outcome like when he came home and asked her if she could pack up the house which was by no means a tiny house and be ready to be on the ferry leaving Newfoundland for Nova Scotia by Friday evening. This conversation took place on Tuesday during supper of the same week. We were on that ferry no questions asked, as when Stephen made up his mind about something it generally happened fast. Over the years the two would forge a friendship that can only be described as truly the best of friends. Through the trials and tribulations of raising a family and multiple moves, there was no shortage of stress, however, they always came out stronger and they had a marriage that they built doing things their way. He stated not long before he passed that he loved her, and he always did. It certainly was a powerful love to witness through the years.

Stephen's children meant the world to him, but he was a man that said little in the ways of I love you or I am proud of you. He remained the same whether you told him you received a scholarship or wrote off one of his cars. There was no in-between.  They would however hear from others and most times people they just met how proud their father was of them and how much he loved them leaving them wondering if these people may have gotten them mixed up with someone else. Where he scrimped on words he made up with his actions. His children learned valuable lessons from time spent with Stephen even when he was short on time, he made sure it was impactful. He taught them to watch a person's actions as they spoke to that person's character more than their words ever could, that it was not always easy to do the right thing, but it was necessary, to live life on your terms and to not follow the masses, to always be kind, give to and help others, live for tomorrow not yesterday and to live without regret. He had the patience to teach Stephen not only how to drive a 36 ft boat but also how to dock it and back up the boat trailer like a pro. at the tender age of 10. Many years later, on Stephen's 50th birthday, the two of them would get their motorcycle license and go on excursions together on the open highway. He taught Stephanie to drive a skidoo at the age of 9 and never blinked an eye when he had to replace the skis on that new sled after that first lesson. He taught her how to drive anything that had a motor and how to drive a car in any weather sometimes terrifying her. He never wanted her to have to depend on anyone and ensured she could take of herself in any circumstance. Whatever both wanted to do whether it was to learn to drive a boat or how to drive a standard he made it happen regardless of their age. If they asked for advice, he would never answer but instead ask questions until they figured it out. Very frustrating since he had no restraint telling them what to do any other time. He held them through heartbreaks even if his tie got ruined and was always up for Dairy Queen as there was nothing that a peanut buster parfait could not fix. He called and later in life texted his kids often and sometimes daily just to say hi. Stephen always made sure they knew no matter their age that they had a home with him and Darlene. When they decided to downsize their house, instead of becoming smaller the house became larger as he wanted to make sure they each always had a room to go home to. In truth, even though he wanted his children to be independent and was very proud of the lives they had carved for themselves, he never wanted them to leave.

There was no denying that his love for his grandchildren was immense. He loved them equally but differently, embracing each personality and cherishing who they were as individuals. He loved the journey of watching them grow and could not wait to see what they would accomplish. There is no doubt he will watch over them, gently guiding them as he would not want to miss out on their endeavors. He soon became more than a Papa to Radwain and Mercina and quickly filled the role of both a mentor and a grandfather which he took very seriously. Experiencing every milestone with them from first steps, hospital stays, and homework (patiently teaching them their times tables daily) to teaching them to operate anything with an engine. They loved every moment with him. Affectionately named Peppermint Papa by Ember and Gracie as he would sneak endless peppermints to them. All four grandchildren had him wrapped around their little fingers and he could always be counted on to fill them up with ice cream treats, peanuts, jellybeans, and Quality Street candy, usually just before supper. Soon the freezer would be locked and the key hidden so the children could not help themselves, only to find out Papa showed them where the key was and kept watch so they could sneak ice cream treats to their heart's content. He tried in vain to teach them to throw out their wrappers so as not to be caught but we still find candy wrappers in the darndest spots. He shared his love of cooking and even baking with them and his unequivocal love for homemade ginger cookies and shortbread cookies that he requested to be made sometimes daily when he could no longer do so for himself. He could often be found holding them all night and every nap from infants to toddlers and older watching Disney movies for endless hours which he loved more than the kids did. He was a safe place for each to curl up on his lap and lay their heads on his chest while looking wide-eyed up into his eyes whispering, “Papa I am in trouble”. There was no disciplining them while in Papa's arms.

Stephen looked forward to reconnecting and spending time with friends from his younger days once back in Nova Scotia and enjoyed immensely the get-togethers with Doug and Linda Baker, John and Laura Lee Ginn, Jimmy and Lynn Griffin, and Eric and Pauline Naugler. Time spent reminiscing would lead to him sharing stories with his family which led us to wonder how these five men made it to adulthood with all their shenanigans. To all who knew him, it is no secret that he pushed the boundaries, tempting life more than even we knew. He lived a life well lived and as his brother Clifford stated he lived a life that most people would not live in ten lifetimes. Your daily calls, Clifford, were a source of such happiness for him, and he would talk endlessly after each call about stories from days long ago, always smiling with a twinkle in his eye that we thought we would not see again. Thank you for these precious moments.

Stephen was strong-willed and stubborn at times, living life on his terms but he also had an enormous heart. His generous nature showed early in life when after filling up every piggy bank he owned managed to purchase the car of his dreams to only without hesitation turn around and sell it to be able to provide a bicycle for his baby brother Floyd. His sisters-in-law who he considered all three as sisters, affectionately called all four brothers the S.W.A.R (seldom wrong always right) brothers. There may or may not have been t-shirts presented to them. He wore his proudly!

He was strong, and brave and had a presence that was bigger than life. The past two summers Radwain was rarely anywhere but by Stephen's side. Stephen would ask Radwain to drive on the pretext that he was teaching him how to drive, but it was clear these drives in his beloved truck were more about him. During Chemo treatment one sunny day, the lawn tractor became stuck on the hill and Stephen pushed it up the hill before Radwain could do anything, proving that even in the throws of treatment his strength was unmatched. Always a steady source of support, Radwain could often be heard saying, “Oh Papa it is okay, I am right here,” while assisting him to stand and walk or picking him up off the floor when his legs started to give out on him always making his Papa feel independent and never a burden. The two have a special and remarkable bond.

Stephen was clever and full to the brim with knowledge gained through all of his life experiences that he loved to share. His son-in-law James would listen intently captivated by his remarkable wisdom of world history and events referring to him as being the internet with legs. Stephen's vibrancy showed through when sharing stories about his adventures shark fishing with his 3 brothers. His eyes would light up especially when talking about their boating experiences out in the open ocean using the many charts that he proudly collected, especially after his experience navigating from Saint John, N.B to Halifax with nothing but an Irving Oil Road map. He spoke fondly about their time boating on the Bras d'Or Lakes. James spent endless hours listening to Stephen tell stories like no one else could keeping him completely engaged. Stephen so loved having new ears to tell all his stories.

Stephen is survived by his loving wife, caregiver, and advocate for the past 5 years, Darlene (Naugle) Gaetz.  He leaves his two children with fond memories and a legacy of love daughter Stephanie LaPalme (James) of Calgary, Alberta, and son Stephen Gaetz of Wolfville, Nova Scotia. He leaves behind his four precious grandchildren: grandson Radwain Gaetz his pride and joy, granddaughter Mercina Gaetz the apple of his eye, his tender-hearted granddaughter Ember Gaetz and sweet loving granddaughter Gracie Gaetz. He is also survived by brothers Clifford Gaetz and Floyd Gaetz; sister-in-laws Maxine (Williams) Gaetz and Sandra Lee Naugle; brother-in-law Gary Naugle; nieces Rosana Lee and Megan, nephews Genghis, Clifford, Patrick, and Jesse (Thank you Jesse for your visits, it meant the world to him. You always had a special place in his heart, and he was so grateful that you found such a wonderful person to share your life with, in Ashley); great nieces Rhys and Audrey Rose, great nephews Roughan, Carter, and Ross; mother-in-law Glenys Naugle. He also leaves many other family members and dear friends, who will sadly miss him.

Stephen was predeceased by sisters-in-law Yvonne (Coleman) Gaetz and Janice (Smiley) Gaetz and brother Graham Gaetz.

We would like to thank Nicole Faulkner for her gentle support of Stephen during homecare and for continuously working, never giving up, and forging a relationship that he finally trusted. Not an easy feat. Your guidance helped us more than you could know, and we will always be eternally grateful for your insight allowing us to understand so that we could have the patience and compassion with Stephen in what we did not realize would be his final months.

Thank you does not seem enough to say to Chris Naugler, Linda and Sammy Keizer, and Dennis Debaie for your unwavering support during this difficult time. We needed help and without having to ask you, you quietly did all you could to ensure that our focus and energy could be with Stephen. Truly the salt of the earth.

There are no words to describe how thankful we are to have had Joanne MacNeil by our side every single day during this trying time. Your support was and is immeasurable. Thank you for all the food you prepared and brought to us each day sometimes twice and for picking up special requests for Stephen. He enjoyed his Coca-Cola and never dropped a crumb of his donut. You are an exceptional and very special person.

A heartfelt and warm thank you to his team of guardian angels at Twin Oaks Hospital. Your impact on Stephen during his time of difficult acceptance through seeing him as a person and not just as a patient by bantering with him and laughing with him made all the difference. He felt seen and heard and you helped keep a vibrancy about him during his stay. We will always be grateful for your gentle guidance with us as a family and for allowing him to never be alone 24/7.

This loss of a husband, father, papa, brother, uncle, and best friend is immeasurable but so is the love he left behind.

Cremation has taken place and in typical Stephen fashion, not wanting to be the center of attention and respecting his wishes, there are no funeral services planned. A celebration of life will occur with details to be determined. He believed that no one should go hungry and was astounded by the many children who went to school daily without food. In honor of him, we ask that donations be made to Feed Nova Scotia ( ), your local food banks, or breakfast programs at your local schools. Arrangements have been entrusted to Serenity Funeral Home, 34 Coldbrook Village Park Dr., Coldbrook, NS, B4R 1B9 (902-679-2822).

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