Obituary of Dennis Wilfred Lawson
Dennis Wilfred Lawson, Ph.D., P. Eng., (14 February 1942-19 January 2023)
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Dennis Lawson on 19 January 2023 in Regina.
In life, Dennis was a dedicated, faithful son, brother, husband, father, uncle, grandfather, friend and colleague who touched many throughout his rich life.
Dennis (Denny on his father’s side of the family) was born to Gordon and Iris Lawson in Winnipeg, where he grew up on Deer Lodge Place next to his future partner Patricia (Pat, Patsy) Webb. In 1952 Dennis moved with his family to the Maritimes when Trans-Canada Airlines transferred his father to Moncton, New Brunswick. The untimely death of his father in 1956 in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, when he was only 14 prompted a return to Winnipeg.
While attending St James Collegiate Dennis joined the Air Cadets and from 27 February 1958 to 31 March 1961 served in the Primary Reserve (RTTP) and Auxiliary Fighter Control Operator Group 2 of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) where he trained as a radar operator. After graduating in 1960, he enrolled in the University of Manitoba, obtaining his Bachelor of Science with honours (Geology) in 1964, paying his way through university with merit-based scholarships and summer employment in northern Manitoba with the Manitoba Mines Branch.
Dennis continued his courtship of Patricia Webb in Winnipeg and from a distance in Ottawa where he began his career in the federal public service with the Geological Survey of Canada. They were married in Winnipeg in 1965 and moved to Guelph, Ontario, where Dennis earned his Master of Science in agriculture engineering and PhD in soil science (hydrology). Both degrees were financed by the federal government who retained Dennis on salary and supported what would become an impressive publication record in peer-reviewed scientific journals. After the birth of their first son Gordon (1970) with whom he shared a Valentines Day birthday, they moved to Ottawa where Dennis continued his career with the federal public service with the Geological Survey of Canada and, later the Inland Waters Branch, Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. Two more sons followed, David (1972) and James (1976).
In Ottawa, weekends were often spent at Buck Lake, near Kingston, Ontario, where Dennis and Pat built a cottage. To ensure that his eldest son would obtain a coveted place in a local beaver colony, Dennis volunteered to be a leader, following in the footsteps of his father who was associated with the Boy Scout Movement in both Winnipeg and in Moncton where he organised scout camps.
To be closer to relatives in Western Canada, Dennis and Pat moved their family to Regina, Saskatchewan, in December 1979 where he accepted a position with Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) as Chief of their Hydrology Division. As a Uranium Specialist with Environment Canada, Environmental Protection, Saskatchewan District, from 1982-1995 he led environmental impact assessments of proposed new uranium mines and represented the crown at public hearings, earning the trust, respect and admiration of his provincial colleagues, industry and the non-governmental sector in Saskatchewan. He performed a similar role as Senior Mining Specialist, Western and Northern Region, from 1996-1999, albeit with an expanded remit, e.g. diamonds (Lac de Gras, Northwest Territories). Among the first generation of civil servants to obtain French language training in Ottawa, Dennis was deeply committed to bilingualism and succeeded in maintaining his proficiency throughout his career in Regina.
After his retirement from the federal public service in 1999, Dennis continued to serve the community as a lecturer in the Geology Department of the University of Regina, a lecturer at the First Nations University of Canada where he developed and delivered a health inspectors course and traveled the province delivering presentations for Living By Water, Nature Saskatchewan. Throughout his career and in retirement he was very generous with time for the many colleagues, students, relatives and family friends who would seek out his advice and guidance.
Outside of the office and the lecture hall Dennis continued to curl and embraced his sons’ passion for alpine skiing, taking his family on ski trips to Banff and later Fernie, British Columbia, location of a family ski condo from 1993-2020 and many Christmas gatherings with extended family. He supported his sons’ David and James with the Regina and, briefly, Rossland, British Columbia, alpine ski teams and then from 1986 to 1994 organised and led a ski trip affiliated with All Saints [now Immanuel] Anglican Church where he obtained notoriety for his annoying but effective wake-up calls. He was proud of his grandchildren Matthew and Chloe Lawson’s accomplishments on the FIS circuit with the Sunshine Village Ski Team.
Summers were spent at the family cottage at Ingolf, Ontario in the Lake of the Woods Area. But also supporting camping and hiking trips with his son James’ Venturer Scouts group, which included hiking the West Coast Trail as well as canoe trips and a mailboat expedition in the Bahamas for Duke of Edinburgh Award candidates led by Pat.
Despite his education, professional reputation and achievement, Dennis never took himself too seriously and within his extended family was known for his relaxed, easy-going nature, storytelling, silly songs and humour.
Predeceased by his sister Iris, Dennis will be greatly missed by his wife of 57 years, Patricia; his sons Gordon (Tara), Ottawa; David (Heather), Canmore; and James (Marcy), Saskatoon; his sister Yvonne (Ken), Dauphin Manitoba; his grandchildren Christopher and Miranda (Gordon), Matthew and Chloe (David); and many family members, colleagues and friends.
A celebration of his life will take place on Saturday, 4 February 2023, 2:00 PM at Immanuel Anglican Church, 142 Massey Road, Regina, Saskatchewan. The service will be livestreamed on Immanuel’s YouTube live page. Internment at St. James Cemetery, Winnipeg, will take place at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in memoriam to Nature Saskatchewan: naturesask.ca