N.J. (Neil) Coy

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Born in Calgary, Alberta in 1929, Neil grew up on the family farm south of Calgary. With his two younger sisters, Neil first attended the Herronton School and then the Blackie School from which he graduated in 1948.

Neil`s first job was working as a clerk in the assay office at a mining camp near Port Radium, NWT, north of the Arctic Circle. Returning to Southern Alberta the next year, he worked odd jobs for local farmers and the Pioneer Grain Company.

During this time, Neil enrolled in correspondence courses to upgrade academically and applied to attend the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art (now SAIT Polytechnic). After selling his car to pay for his first year tuition, Neil was fortunate to be awarded a scholarship in his second year of studies at SAIT.

Neil graduated in 1954 from SAIT and worked in the Peace River Country for the Alberta Department of Highways, then later with the federal Department of Mines and Technical Surveys on a pipeline project in the Yukon.

Neil was employed subsequently by Wolley-Dod & MacCrimmon Surveys Ltd., articling to Bill Wolley-Dod from 1956 to 1958. After taking time off for hitchhiking and hosteling through Europe, Neil received an offer to become an instructor at SAIT and began his lengthy career there in 1958. He particularly enjoyed teaching astronomy, field work and computations to students in the Surveying Technology Department. Neil was a wonderful mentor and always made a point of keeping track of his former students, even going as far away as Australia to visit them and remain in touch.

Neil was an avid outdoorsman early on in his life and career, with a passion for fishing, hunting, hiking, mountaineering and ski mountaineering. Along with a close knit group of friends, Neil undertook many adventurous trips into the back-country. These often included a wineskin and overnight stays in remote mountain lodges and cabins. Ski mountaineering and the pursuit of fabulous pristine powder was one of Neil`s favorite pastimes.

During one memorable winter excursion, as a member of a four-person party, Neil successfully ascended the summit of the North Twin Peak of the Columbia Icefields, the third highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.

Along with two partners, he became a businessman in 1960, opening the Pro Sporting Goods Limited store in Calgary’s North Hill Shopping Centre. They sold and serviced high-end equipment and specialized in fishing, hunting, mountaineering and skiing gear. This business opportunity allowed Neil to share his passion and knowledge of the outdoors with many appreciative customers. At this time in Alberta, Sunday shopping was unheard of and on their day off, Neil and his friends would head to the mountains for more outdoor adventures. As both their career and family commitments continued to expand in 1970, the three partners eventually agreed it was time to close the store.

Neil received his Alberta Land Surveyor commission in 1970 and continued to teach at SAIT. During the summer of 1975, he returned north to work on the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline right-of-way along the Mackenzie River Delta. Neil also brought four of his students with him to work on this project. In 1976 Neil once again headed north for project work at the North Slope Beaufort Sea (Arctic Coast Pipeline).

Neil met his wife Judith at a square dance. They married in 1965 and raised three daughters together. During SAIT`s non-instructional months, Neil and his family camped for the entire summer; not surprisingly, they hiked, fished and canoed. Some summers also involved extensive family road trips across the United States, through the Maritimes and to other locations in Canada — all fond family memories.

In 1978 while touring through the Gulf Islands, Neil and Judy fell in love with the landscape of the west coast and purchased a home near Ganges on Salt Spring Island. Neil arranged for a leave of absence from SAIT in 1979-1980 and worked for a private surveyor on Salt Spring Island. He loved this temporary return to field work and got into shape again quickly while trekking through the rugged west coast vegetation and terrain.

He was able to practice what he taught and returned to teaching at SAIT with a renewed perspective. After taking early retirement in 1986, Neil and his wife Judy moved to Salt Spring Island then eventually to Sidney, BC in 1989. Here, Neil became an enthusiastic member of the seniors hiking club and joined their weekly outings to various locations. He participated in these hikes well into his eighties. He also pursued his love of photography as a member of the Sidney Shutterbugs Camera Club.

In his retirement Neil continued to travel, visiting the United States, Australia and New Zealand and returning to the north one last time in 2004 to photograph wildlife at the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary in the NWT.

Neil passed away suddenly on March 24, 2013 at his home in Sidney, B.C. with his wife Judy by his side. In addition to his loving wife Judy, Neil is survived by daughters Laurie, Joanne and Vivian and six grandchildren.

Vivian MacMurchy