Sidney Hugh Willis Paine 1934-2008

He loved airplanes and cars. When his sister was born, he asked God for an Austin instead.

Sidney Hugh Willis Paine was born in Toronto on Oct. 7, 1934, to English immigrants Sidney, a plant manager, and Agnes, a homemaker. As a young child, Sid was infatuated with all things mechanical. In one well-loved family story, his sister Gwen remembers that Sid reacted typically to the news that his mother was pregnant. First he asked for a baby brother and then amended the request. Says Gwen, who is seven years younger, “Mother heard him saying, ‘Please God, may I have an Austin car?’ ” By that time, the Second World War was raging and Sid often bicycled to Downsview airport to watch RCAF pilots landing and taking off. Sid was too young to fight, but he joined the Air Cadets and, after the war, he passed his private pilot’s test. At 17, Sid flew from Buttonville over the city of Toronto. But he said later that his mother worried about the danger. By the time he met his future wife, Barbara Norton, at a dance at the King Edward Hotel, he had quit flying for good.

Still, along with a keen interest in sports, aviation remained one of Sid’s lifelong loves. Before his wedding in 1964, he began a 32-year career at Air Canada (then called Trans-Canada Air Lines), scheduling its inflight crews. He and Barbara had three children, Laura, Catherine and Stephen. The family moved from Toronto to Oakville and then to a brand new house in Mississauga to be closer to Sid’s job at the Toronto international airport. Soon Sid was taking advantage of the company’s employee discounts, flying the family to Jamaica, Bermuda, and New Jersey to visit Barbara’s relatives.

In his mid-30s, Sid took up golf, becoming a member of the Trafalgar Golf and Country Club, and making pilgrimages to St. Andrews in Scotland and Pebble Beach, Calif., eventually becoming a marshal on Ohio courses where his sometime acquaintance, Jack Nicklaus, played. He became an addict, says his daughter Catherine. “If he wasn’t on the course, he would watch golf on television. And if he wasn’t watching it, he was practising his swing in the basement or in the backyard.” When he wasn’t golfing, Sid was gardening, a passion he learned from his parents. On his big corner lot, he kept a massive garden that “stopped people in their tracks,” Catherine says. He often spent 10 hours at a stretch, sometimes in the pouring rain, tending to every kind of fruit tree and flower,including his prize-winning roses. “His most precious possession was his family,” Gwen says. But his roses were a close second. And his cars were third. Sid was always careful to park them where they wouldn’t be scratched, even if he had to walk long distances. Says Catherine: “He thought if he took good care of something, there was no reason why it shouldn’t last forever.”

Sid had what Gwen calls “a gift of the gab.” Wherever he went, he made friends. After he took an early retirement from Air Canada in 1992, he got a job at the YMCA in Mississauga, handing out towels and tidying up the men’s locker room. “For him it was a free membership,” Catherine says. “And he met all these wonderful professionals who became his new friends.” He was so gregarious, members said, he would follow them right into the showers to finish a long-winded story. The only time the place was quiet was when he was in a bad mood. And that didn’t happen much. Sid was such a natural-born tease that he even loved to irritate the family cats, Trixie, and later Tasha. “Neither cat liked my father,” Catherine says.

Growing older was something Sid tried to defy by exercising and eating healthy — a bowl of prunes was a breakfast staple. And “he had a bucket list in his mind,” Catherine’s husband, Charles Austin-Roberts, says. In his 60s, Sid took up downhill skiing, in his 70s, skydiving, and, a month ago, gliding. But Charles saw his frustration. The two became golfing buddies about 10 years ago, playing different courses around Ontario. Sid refused to use a cart, even as he got older, and he was never happy with his game. Even when he hit a really good shot, Charles says, “He would say, ‘I really didn’t get a hold of that.’ He wouldn’t accept the fact that he couldn’t hit the ball as far as he used to. He had a very competitive nature.”

About three years ago, Sid bought a British-racing-green, 1991 Mazda Miata. Barbara didn’t like the sports car. Still, on Sat., July 19, she and he drove to a friend’s birthday at the Dunnville Autodrome, a private track on the north shore of Lake Erie. At 10:40 a.m., Sid went off the course and travelled about 200 m into the corner of a hangar belonging to the Dunnville airport, a place where RCAF fighter pilots trained during the Second World War. He died at the scene. He was 73.