THE END

ROBERT ‘BOB’ ALLEN ALLISON

1947-2007 He learned early the importance of a strong work ethic, and never forgot it

CATHY GULLI May 14 2007
THE END

ROBERT ‘BOB’ ALLEN ALLISON

1947-2007 He learned early the importance of a strong work ethic, and never forgot it

CATHY GULLI May 14 2007

ROBERT ‘BOB’ ALLEN ALLISON

1947-2007 He learned early the importance of a strong work ethic, and never forgot it

THE END

Robert in Timmins, “Bob” Allen Ont., Allison to George was and born Nancy, on March who also 19,1947, had a daughter, Elizabeth. They immigrated to the rocky rural region from northern England. George was a first aid chief at a mine, and Nancy a children’s aid worker. They were compassionate and hard workers, and Bob learned early the importance of a strong work ethic and serving others, says his son Scott, who received the same lesson from Bob.

During childhood, Bob looked forward to getting a new pair of hockey skates from his parents every Christmas. In high school, he

excelled on the football field as offensive tackle and defensive lineman. When he graduated in 1967, Bob received a partial scholarship to play for Harvard. But Bob knew his parents would struggle to support him, so he never went to Massachusetts.

Instead, Bob, who had worked summers underground with his father, left Timmins for Toronto— if football wasn’t his future, neither was mining. He earned his accountant designation, and worked with a tire company, and then in the music industry, before he was hired with the telephone company in New Liskeard, Ont.,

200 km from his hometown. Marg Bowman was an accounts payable clerk. At a curling bonspiel they met socially for the first time, even though they’d been raised in neighbouring towns. “We never associated because they were miners and we were farmers,” she recalls. Despite their new friendship, Bob’s quest for fulfilling

work didn’t stop; he moved to North Bay, and she went to Ottawa. In 1974, Bob was in the capital city for a conference, and invited Marg to dinner. “We talked a long time, till 2 a.m., and it just fell into place. After that we were a couple,” Marg says. She moved into a cottage on Lake Nipissing with him.

In 1977, Bob and Marg married. The honeymoon to the East Coast was postponed a few months when Bob couldn’t get out of meetings. Over the years, Bob, Marg, and their children Scott and Jennifer (along with their black and yellow Labs) lived in towns across Ontario—Owen Sound, Scarborough, Thunder Bay, Wingham, Newmarket—according to Bob’s work as a financial expert known for turning around struggling companies. “He was a workaholic,” laughs Marg, and “he always bettered himself when he moved.”

In 1982, the family relocated to Rexdale, Ont., for tragic reasons. Elizabeth, recently widowed, died suddenly of a heart attack. Bob and Marg adopted her children Tracey and Mark as their own. George also moved in with them, because Nancy had died. A few years later, he too was killed by a heart attack. “Bob was a rock during all of this,” says Marg, “He kept working on what he had to do.” Adds Jennifer: “Everything he did was for the benefit of the family.”

By 1990, Marg was longing for northern Ontario again, and Bob for work beyond the private sector. They went back to Thunder Bay, where he became the superintendent of business for the Lakehead

school board. Now responsible for the financial health of educational institutions full of ambitious young students, Bob was reinvigorated. By 1999, he was ready for his next challenge. He took the same position at Kawartha Pine Ridge school board around Peterborough, Ont., where staff were looking for someone to fill the void left when the previous superintendent of business—a hardworking and gracious leader—died of a heart attack at his desk on his birthday. “Bob knew this when he took the job, but it wasn’t a big deal for him,” says Marg.

Bob was just the right fit. His business acumen meant he knew how to stretch limited funds, and he was sensitive to the needs of teachers and students. “He’d say, if we make a decision that doesn’t improve things for kids, then why make it?” recalls Joe Hubbard, Bob’s colleague, adding, “He was a mastermind of pulling strings and making the best out of poor

situations.” It was stressful, says Marg. To accomplish so much, Bob often worked late evenings, most Saturdays, and throughout the summer. “But he didn’t complain. I heard him refer to this uninterrupted time as ‘relaxing,’ ” says Brenda Todhunter, Bob’s secretary.

Last Sunday, Bob flew with a colleague to Banff for a school conference. They had attended the same event last year in Quebec City, but it was marred by loss when one of their secretaries suddenly. This trip was going better. On Monday night, people ered to socialize. Bob enjoyed the scotch and cigars that had in years become part of his relaxation regime. The next morning, in the hotel lobby, Bob collapsed on a couch. He was rushed to eral Springs Hospital. On April 24, 2007, Bob Allison, 60, died heart attack. BY CATHY GULLI