Dr. Mark A E Nixon

January 6, 1932 ~ March 13, 2024 (age 92) 92 Years Old

Dr. Mark Nixon Obituary

Sunday 11th of February 2024 saw the peaceful passing of Dr Mark A E Nixon in his beloved home at age 92. Husband to Dr Patricia "Paddy" Mark (1942-2021), father to Clare McQuaid (Rick McQuaid), Paul Nixon (Iris Nixon), Adam Nixon (1966-1986), Sarah Nixon (Jesse Capon) and Ruth Nixon. Grandfather to Luke and Emma McQuaid, Hannah, Gillian and Clementine Nixon, Georgia Nixon and Elliot Capon. Great Grandfather to Issac, Eli and Noah McQuaid. 

Born in Salisbury England on January 6th, 1932 to parents Robert Frank Nixon and Hilda Elizabeth (Youngs) Nixon. Mark attended medical school at Cambridge University and went on to practice anesthesiology initially in England and then on deployment for 3 years with the Royal Air Force in the Pacific. In 1967 he immigrated to Canada, following Paddy, his wife to be across the Atlantic. They were married in Deep Cove, BC in 1972 and eventually settled in Nanoose Bay, BC, where they bought an acreage and built their family home. Together they created a stunning garden celebrated each year at their legendary May garden party. For over 20 years Mark worked at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital as an anesthesiologist. 

Mark was a man who was continually fascinated by the world around him. Once something captured his interest through beauty, function, or both, he immersed himself in the subject, becoming an expert. His memory for minute detail was incredible. 

He dove deeply into so many thing - vintage cars, wine, astronomy, music, and music theory, rhododendrons and azaleas, airplanes, computers, steam trains and model trains, and even the tiniest creatures: insects, spiders - he examined them all with great affection and interest. He loved butterflies so much that once as a young man he found a rare butterfly in England called a Silverwashed Fritillary Valenzia  and would celebrate the date he called  ‘Valenzia Day’ privately to himself every year. 

Mark loved to make things with his hands - he built amplifiers, computers, their garden, the entire irrigation system in the garden, he rebuilt old cars. He built his two story workshop with his own two hands, and in it he constructed a huge model train set. 

One of Mark's greatest loves was for Rhododendrons . He learned everything about them, growing many from seed and creating his own hybrids. Meticulously he catalogued and tagged the hundreds of  rhododendrons in their magnificent garden. He shared his knowledge to anyone interested and could point out the names and heritage of all his rhododendrons on a walk through the garden. 

Mark dreamed of becoming a pilot. Aeroplanes, flying – it all captured his heart. Particularly Spitfires – the very mention of one would bring him to tears. Reminding him of his parents, the war, England, and the secret Spitfire factory across the street from his childhood home in Salisbury.

Mark had a great love of music, show tunes, tin pan alley jazz, and opera but his big love was for classical music. He collected countless records and CDs as well as the sheet music for his favourite pieces and read biographies of the composers. He kept the playbills from every concert he ever attended. He also knew more about music theory than many professional musicians. 

Mark loved strong coffee with whipping cream, butter on chocolate cake, all of Paddy’s cooking. He made funny noises to children and dogs. He had a great sense of humour. He had an eye for design. He was a beautiful writer. And he never owned a pair of jeans or a t-shirt. 

He was also practically nocturnal. When left to his own rhythm he would go to bed at 3am and sleep till noon. He was not a morning guy. But, for years after he retired, he would wake up very early and make Paddy’s tea and eggs before heading back to bed. 

He was a true romantic. On every holiday there would always be flowers, and funny, loving cards for Paddy. He loved Paddy’s mind and listening to her stories, whether it was a rant of frustration, a sharing of something beautiful she had seen in the garden, a particular patient she was concerned about, or a colleague whose story had made her laugh.… He would have her gin & tonic prepared for when she walked in the door, and the debrief would commence. And every evening, with a cat on his lap, they would sit at opposite ends of the couch, their arms extended, holding hands.  

Mark was the kind of parent, grandpa and great grandpa who could answer any question about science. His mind was a marvel. But if someone commented on his intelligence he would say “I don’t think I’m smart. I’m simply curious”. His mind was brilliant, as was his genuine humility.

Mark had many challenges in life. He was a child on the Autism spectrum in a time when there was no understanding of the gifts inherent there or of the support he needed. He was in his 80’s when, after much research on his part, he diagnosed himself, announcing it at the dinner table. There was no disagreement.

He had a difficult inner life. Depression, self doubt, and a powerful fear of death enveloped him regularly throughout his life. After Paddy died and he lost the use of his legs, his life became very small, confined more and more to the house, with the occasional jaunt around the garden on the scooter he named Ziva, then confined to the downstairs only, eventually to the living room. While his family and caregivers did all we could to support him and love him through those very difficult years he would, in his grief, become angry or depressed. 

Then he started to see a psychiatrist named Francis Nuamah, whom he and Paddy had known in medical circles. Mark and Dr Nuamah worked together for a couple of years and Dr Nuamah would give him homework - books to read and documentaries to watch which Mark would diligently dive into. 

Through their work together a new side of Mark emerged. A man who accepted his condition in life, who appreciated all the people who were helping and supporting him physically and emotionally, a man who began to see death not as a bleak, painful finality but as a great mystery in an ultimately friendly universe.  This profound change, we all agree, was due to the guidance of Dr Nuamah. And we thank him infinitely for this. Mark began to overflow with love for people. His smile would beam. And perhaps most importantly, he finally began to love himself. Six months before his death he told Ruth, "I’ve realized something amazing. Maybe I’m perfect just the way I am, maybe I always have been." And then he looked right at her with tears in his eyes, and said “Maybe we all are”.

As he neared death Mark let us know that he was ready. He knew he was loved and he knew that we felt his love. His fear had left him and he died with grace. This was his final fatherly lesson. We are so proud of him. It has been a great honour to walk him home. 

A special thank you to Russell Wright, Christine Dona and Julia Nemur who took such good care of
him in the last years of his life making his home so comfortable and available to
him with his limited mobility during that period.

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