A tribute to a husband, father, grandfather, friend and mentor.
In his home that he designed and built, John passed away peacefully with his loving and devoted wife Valerie at his bedside.
He was 86.
John started developing health issues in his late seventies. He had Myasthenia Gravis challenging him for 15 years. During this time, he had shingles.
This was devastating for him as it left him no eyesight or hearing on his right side. He was very sick.
He was known to tell everyone and anyone, be sure to get your ‘Shingle’s Shot!” Although he was unable to manage the on-going challenges he was faced with, his mind remained sharp and his sense of humour was endless. He always was quick with a joke, a laugh and a smile!
In 1952-55, John began working at General Motors of Canada, Oshawa, enrolled in the Tool & Die Apprenticeship in the Trim Fabrication Program. From 1955-60, he transitioned to position of Tool Processor in the Trim Fabrication Area. From 1960-67, he was the Senior Process Engineer for Cutting & Sewing in the entire Trim Fabrication Area.
In 1967-79 he transferred to Oshawa Truck Plant as a Process Engineer in General Assembly and in charge of Air Tool Coordination.
From 1979-82 he was Senior Tooling Engineer, in charge of all tooling for the Truck Plant, including the Supervision of Tool Crib Personnel. From 1982-83 he led Body Shop planning of the G.M.T. 400 Program. Here he worked with a selected and talented young group of engineers and designers, proceeding in developing the best quality, most efficient Pick-Up Truck Body Shop in the corporation. In 1983-89, he was General Supervisor, Body Shop Engineering and Process, responsible for all facets of the “Purchase Installations” and “Tune In” of the corporations supplied equipment. From 1989-91, Senior Management Engineer, responsible for all General Assembly equipment in the Truck Plant.
From 1991-92, Senior Manufacturing Engineer, Quality Control Department of the Truck Plant Body Shop. In 1992, John retired from General Motors of Canada, giving 40 years of dedicated and loyal service. His hard work, commitment and contributions to the Oshawa Truck Plant helped to produce quality trucks and expanding manufacturing, resulting in employment opportunities for many people in the community.
His dedication contributed to a very successful Quality/Cost Competitive Organization. In May of 1975, John received the Canadian Supervisors Council Recognition Award, presented by General Motors of Canada for outstanding achievements in the field of Industrial Supervision. Past member of the Oshawa Curling Club. He started the game in his late 20’s and played 40+ years. He had a great aptitude for the strategy of the game and was successful over the years in Club and Provincial Competitions.
John and his team won the 1972 Governor General Trophy. He was also a member of the KRA for 45+ years. One of his favourite passions was talking with his colleagues at the meetings. This became a mini holiday for his wife Valerie. John was a true historian developing a tremendous interest in history and antiques, always studying and reading to learn more. He had a passion for certain furniture pieces, that he would get down on his hands and knees to examine the fine features. His collected items all had a history to them. Detail was important along with markings as it had to be “True” & “Right” for his liking. The Antiques Roadshows became a “must watch” t.v. program, not only for him but for Valerie as well. John was asked for interviews on his hobby and collections; “G.M. Topics” 1967 and Upper Canada 1990. John also wrote several articles that were published in the “Man at Arms” magazine. John wrote, Valerie typed, Sylvia proofread. It was teamwork!
John was born and raised in Oshawa, ON, part of a long line of history of “The Luke Family”, who had impact on the City of Oshawa in Government and Business. He was the son of the late Cyril and Gladys (Allin) Luke, predeceased by his sister Linda Grace Scott and his first wife Donna (Blake).
John had many interests and hobbies that started in his younger years. It became a passion in his life. At the age of 14, he experienced the loss of his dad who was a City Assessor. He matured at a young age, helping out his mother and sister. He spent much of his childhood time outdoors in Harmony Woods learning about nature, fishing and hunting. He loved the outdoors. He attended King St. Public School and O.C.V.I. High School.
After the war, he picked up a trade as a cutting and sewing, tool and die maker at General Motors. John met Donna who worked at General Motors, secretary to Chuck Clifford, Parts and Sales Manager for Canada. John and Donna spent weekends sailing on a small sailboat moored at the Oshawa Harbour. John being an explorer often travelled the North Shores of Lake Ontario. John also spent time in Muskoka at the Farrar Cottage. It was this exposure that prompted his love of Muskoka that lead to another one of his visionary plans in later years. His next visionary plan (always thinking of possibilities) was to design and build a home on a yet to be developed street (asparagus field) in the early 60’s, now known as Switzer Dr. The two of them became a family of four, as Jeffrey and Claire came along, later joined by Friday the Bassett Hound and Puff the bunny rabbit, adding personality and character to the family home. Always thinking about possibilities, John purchased a 100-acre farm in Tyrone. Jeff and his dad would spend weekends there, hiking through the woods, cutting wood for the fireplace or fishing in the Trout Pond, his dad built and stocked.
In the early eighties, John’s wife Donna became ill and passed away in 1984, after a lengthy illness. John now had the task of keeping the family going with driving Jeff to baseball and hockey games, Claire to her Highland dancing classes and competitions outside of the Oshawa area. For their father, this became a regular routine after work, home for ½ hour signature nap, prepare their meal and out the door! John was glad when Jeffrey could drive! During these times, there were curling games to play along with a chance to play some golf.
Weekends were up to the cottage in Muskoka and dad wanted us to be right there, at the car, on time! Weekends were for relaxing and a few cocktails on the dock, just what he needed his Rum-de-dums! John and Valerie met through a mutual friend/client. Valerie was running her healthcare agency and was providing services to the Butlers, who were John’s friends. John was of the opinion ‘life goes on’ and so it did with Valerie every step of the way. We travelled in Ontario, Cape Cod, England and Mexico.
It was then decided to be in Muskoka at the cottage. Valerie encouraged him to build his life long dream of a Log Cabin in 1986. The big shovel started and by 1987 the Log Cabin came to life. John applied his wood working skills inside, building a harvest table to seat 8, and a step stool for Valerie to reach the cupboards. It was authentic in design, colour and artifacts. An overly large fireplace that John designed was a main feature and he loved to build roaring fires in it. His 1985 Silverado truck made many trips hauling wood to the cottage for this fireplace. The truck was a trademark of his!
Our retirement years were spent there, Spring, Summer and Fall. We would go back for Christmas and have family, friends gather. Valerie loved this time of the year. We had many visitors for the first few years all wanting to be a part of the Luke Log Cabin. The “peace” and “tranquility” was often referred to as “A little piece of Heaven”. An avid reader, John loved to read and it was only at the cottage in a chair belonging to his mother that he did. He enjoyed mysteries such as Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie. This was a favourite pastime with Valerie. John’s social life was meeting up with coffee gang at Tim Horton’s. He very much enjoyed the fellowship.
In the latter years, when he no longer drove, James, Norm or his son-in-law Chris would come and get him. Later, coffee happened at the house when he was less mobile. He enjoyed children and they certainly enjoyed him. He would entertain them with stories such as the “Saber Tooth Chipmunk”, “Titus the Bear” or “Mildred the Moose”. Valerie would often say he missed his calling in writing children’s stories, they would have been a hit. He also liked to tease, he was often seen asking a child if he could have a lick of their ice cream cone. Only one little girl offered him a lick. There was little Seraphina and her blankie, which John would take and hide on her. The teasing was always in great fun.
While driving up to Muskoka, he would often take Jakes the doll and hang it out the window to the cries of his granddaughter Cara. He will be missed by numerous relatives, nieces and nephews, extended family, many friends and colleagues, and in-laws and their families. One day a special baby girl was born. This was Grandpa’s one and only grandchild, Cara Jean Henson. He knew there would be endless opportunities to teach and tease her. Grandpa John always put a smile on my face. Countless memories from growing up with a jokester for a grandpa. We had our inside jokes, always teaching me facts about nature, animals, such as the Saber Tooth Chipmunk, the way the world worked including watching the BNN stock market with hopes that I, as a three year old, would enjoy it, as grandpa believed in teaching things at a young age.
Some of my favourite memories we had together include taking walks by the creek, seeing who could stick the most burs on each other, going out for many ice cream cones, visits with Barney the bassett, opening cards with funny drawings inside, impromptu stories and nights by the fireside. Grandpa loved to embarrass me as well, like the time he showed me how to blow the paper off the straw and it landed in a lady’s hair, who wasn’t too happy about that! Me and grandpa knew it was funny. As the years went on, I learned your tricks and you knew you wouldn’t be able to get away with them anymore.
I’ll always love you and cherish the memories we had and we have many. John will be missed tremendously by his son Jeffrey (Lorraine). Jeff credits his dad for the creation of a marvelous legacy, one filled with tremendous memories, his influence, vision, judgement, common sense, appreciation and understanding has been the DNA in my life and part of so many others.
He is the reason I say that wisdom is the combination of experience and understanding. John will be missed by his loving and caring daughter Claire (Chris). Dad was a mentor in so many ways. I will miss his sense of humour, the stories and jokes he told, Sunday morning coffee with 10 pack timbits to satisfy his sweet tooth, spending time at the cottage with him and the warm fires in the fireplace he would make for me, since I was a little girl. John’s son-in-law Chris will miss the stop by, have a coffee and discuss world news.
Chris was always doing odd jobs around the house for John. Must mention John’s grandson-Barney Henson, a four-legged Bassett Hound that he would send cards to in the mail with various drawings, and like any hound, he knew they were from Grandpa! They also shared many timbits, Barney always knowing how many were in the box.
The Luke family wish to express a special thank you to our family doctor, Dr. J.G. Bolger, whose many telephone calls and directives in helping us to care for John in his last weeks. Thank to staff Marla. Thanks to Dr. Vera Bril (TGH), for the treatment over the many years of John’s Myasthemia Gravis. Many thanks to Dr. P. Campbell and Staff at Parkview Optometry, Partners in Community Nursing Staff and Simcoe Oshawa North Pharmacy. Special thanks to Clair P. and Bob W. in notifying John’s school chums and long-ago friends. Thank you Rob Thom in posting on Facebook our loss and sharing responses about; the fine man John was, excellent man and friend, great pleasure to work with, smart and talented, pivotal in the development of so many, the loss of a great person and legend. To our neighbours and many friends, your acts of kindness will never be forgotten during our difficult times.
Many thanks to ARMSTRONG FUNERAL HOME staff in accommodating us during COVID-19.
In lieu of flowers, the family would greatly appreciate donations made in John’s name to the Neuromuscular Disease Fund at Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation. Please visit tgwhf.ca/tribute or call 416-603-5300. Cremation has taken place.
While we wait to celebrate John’s life at a later date, we ask you to raise a glass to a remarkable man who will never be forgotten.
Condolences may be places at armstrongfh.ca .