Dr. William Hedley Francombe’s final accomplishment was one he’d wished for – to die peacefully in his sleep with his true love, Patricia, at his side.
Bill passed away in the early morning of Dec. 28 at the Dorothy Ley Hospice in Toronto, succumbing to cancer that challenged him for more than 40 years. He was 87.
Patricia, his loving wife of 63 years, and their family, supported by a kind and generous team of professionals and volunteers, had comforted Bill through his final days at the Princess Margaret Hospital, at home and at the hospice.
Bill will be deeply missed by his four children and their spouses - Marcia Doyle (Tim) of Toronto, Mark Francombe (Elaine) of Brantford, Leslie Francombe (Victor) of Toronto and Paul Francombe (LeeAnne) of Toronto.
Forever, he’ll be remembered for his humour, courage and unconditional support by his grandchildren and their spouses – Patrick (Rachael), Christopher and Matthew Doyle, Katherine Francombe Pridham (Hudson), Elizabeth McNaughton (Simon), Madeline Francombe, Vivien, Ava and Daphne Francombe, Tyler (Alyce) and Carly Richardson.
Bill was the proud Grandad Bill to great-grandchildren Miles, Adaline and Stella Pridham, Lyla Keen, Nora Richardson, Eleanor McNaughton and Georgia Doyle, who arrived within days of his passing.
Bill was born on June 11, 1932 in Galt, Ont., the son of Arnold Francombe and Edna Hedley. He was predeceased by a younger sister, Betty, in 2006.
Bill graduated with an M.D. from the University of Western Ontario in 1958 and spent several years as a Medical Research Council Fellow in Montreal before moving to Toronto in 1965 where he specialized in hematology and blood diseases such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia.
He maintained his clinical work in Toronto while making a significant contribution to medical education for more than 30 years before retiring in 1997.
During his career, Bill held a variety of positions in the Faculty of Medicine at U of T including Professor, Associate Dean and Vice Dean. His hospital appointments at the Toronto (General) Hospital included Vice President, Medical Education, Senior Staff Physician, Deputy Physician-in-chief and Head of the Hematology/Oncology Department.
Upon retirement, he worked part-time with Canadian Blood Services in Hamilton and moved with Patricia to Niagara-on-the-Lake, where they had owned a historic house in the old town since 1981.
Their home was christened “the white house” by the grandchildren and for 36 years was the home of family gatherings and the source of memories that will keep Bill alive in the hearts of his loved ones. Oh, the newspapers and books, breakfasts at the Stagecoach, wild water-gun fights, fireworks at the lake, under-the-dining-room-table antics and conversations filled with advice, humour and love. Bill was known as a distinguished doctor, but to his family he was a playful patriarch and a serious cruciverbalist. You’ll have to look it up because Bill’s not around to ask. He knew the answer to most of our questions, but if not, he’d provide one anyway.
Bill was right at home in NOTL, joining the Rotary Club, the Shaw Festival Guild and Red Roof Retreat, a charity to support those with special needs in the Niagara Region. He was proud of his contributions to his new community and missed his friends and colleagues when age and health necessitated a return to Toronto in 2017.
However, the trip across the lake brought him closer to Toronto theatre, cinema, music, his beloved Maple Leafs and, most importantly, family. Though perhaps more restrained, the visits by his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were no less frequent or appreciated. He loved them deeply and they visited with him until his final hours, sharing with Bill, Patricia and each other the stories that shaped their lives.
Cheerio, Bill. Cheerio, Dad. Cheerio, Grandad and Grandad Bill.
The family would like to thank everyone who cared for and comforted Bill over the last few months.
Cremation has taken place. A memorial visitation will be held at Turner & Porter Butler Chapel, 4933 Dundas Street, West (between Kipling and Islington Aves.) on Saturday, January 25, 2020 from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Donations to the Dorothy Ley Hospice, the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, Red Roof Retreat, Canadian Blood Services or the charity of your choice would be appreciated.