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    Smile He Stood On Guard For Us

    He stood on guard for us. Impropriety never had a chance while Tony Humphreys wore his sword

    Katherine Dedyna, Times Colonist Published: Friday, June 20, 2008

    Anthony Arthur Humphreys: Born, Cobar, New South Wales, Australia, Nov. 29, 1938; died, Victoria, May 23, 2008

    He was a letter-of-the-law kind of guy, as befits a stalwart who at age 69 continued to serve as sergeant-at-arms in the B.C. legislature. He wore a gentleman's sword at his side, a traditional warning to any unruly types on his beloved parliamentary turf -- whether protesting nurses or reporters without suit jackets and ties.

    Although armed with a tough exterior Tony Humphreys was also the kind of man who touched so many people that 1,300 attended his memorial service at Christ Church Cathedral on June 9.

    Humphreys served 33 years in the Canadian Forces, reaching the rank of colonel, and 17 at his legislature post.

    Along with an upright military side that ensured $200,000 in heightened security improvements in the post-9/11 legislature, he was a major force in getting the massive $2-million new organ designed, built and paid for in Christ Church in 2005.

    He was active in the Last Post Society to help bury veterans who had no one left, and spent years tutoring children in math and science. That included a 12-year-old named Lucien, whom he met through Big Brothers while posted in Ottawa in the mid-1980s, and considered his adopted son.

    "Seeing his son married was probably the happiest time of his life," says his younger brother Rod Humphreys of Vancouver, who calls Humphreys "the smartest man I ever knew."

    Humphreys made connections readily.

    Friend Bill Wolferstan recalls: "When I was 11 years old, my older brother died, so Tony became my surrogate older brother. And ever since then, he's cared for me and my family -- our three sons and daughter. He took me on my first sail and I ended up writing three cruising guides to the B.C. coast."

    A stickler for the rules since childhood, he was once introduced as the only civil servant who went to work with a sword. He responded "I'm nobody's servant and sometimes, I'm not very civil," Wolferstan recalls.

    But whenever there was a fundraiser for the Sail and Life Training Society, he would run all over securing art for auctions. "And if they didn't sell, he'd buy them himself," recalls former executive director Martyn Clark.

    When Humphreys's longtime friend and colleague Doug Dobson applied for a promotion, Dobson respected Humphreys for picking a more qualified person for the job.

    "He was a very, very straight arrow," Dobson says, adding Humphreys drove an elderly lady to church every Sunday.

    "He didn't even vote because he felt it was important that he be absolutely impartial," Rod says, adding that his brother also never drank, smoke or spoke ill of others.

    Environment Minister Barry Penner appreciated Humphreys's seriousness about keeping everyone safe in the legislature and "hopefully looking respectable" -- a reference to press-gallery members who sometimes resented his rules enforcing shirts, jackets and ties. They were not surprising in a man who had his uniform redesigned to include the wig bag worn in the British Parliament.

    B.C. Nurses' Union president Debra McPherson suggested her members' democratic rights were threatened in 2001 when the union's raucous protest led Humphreys to bar them from the building.

    Vancouver Sun reporter Jim Beatty once described him as "the sort of guy who says "No" before hearing the question."

    In 2003, citing security risks, he refused to let Lt.-Gov. Iona Campagnolo drive to the front of the legislature building, backing down only after written assurances from the premier's office that he would not be responsible for anything negative that ensued.

    "He did remain stern and stubborn right till the end," Beatty says now, noting Humphreys's passion for upholding the traditions of parliament, including being "a fierce guardian" of the golden mace, wearing white gloves to touch it and letting no one else get their hands on it, including politicians.

    Humphreys was born in Australia, one of five children of a mining engineer and his wife. The family moved to Canada in 1952, but the two years he spent as a boy near an asbestos mine took its toll. After heart surgery May 7, doctors discovered cancer linked to asbestos.

    Rev. Logan McMenamie drew laughter from mourners at Christ Church when he told them that Humphreys had gone ahead of them to heaven to get things organized in a proper manner.

    "Gentlemen," he warned them: "You'll need a tie." { }


    Island Lives is a weekly series celebrating the lives of Island people who have died recently. The series focuses not on the famous, but on our neighbours who have led interesting lives or made a difference in their communities. If you know of someone whose life should be celebrated, let us know by e-mail at features@tc.canwest.com or by mail at 2621 Douglas St., Victoria, B.C., V8T 4M2.

    Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008
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    Mr. Humphreys sounds like a very interesting and fine man. R.I.P. sir

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