Kendall Charles Tancock

Obituary of Kendall Charles Tancock

TANCOCK, Kendall Charles


It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Kendall Charles Tancock on Jan. 27, 2021, the same day Babs (Caldwell), his wife of 55 years, died 14 years ago. He was almost 94.


Ken made his unexpected debut in Hamilton minutes after his sister Nina made hers on Feb. 24, 1927. They were the youngest of six children of English immigrants Arthur and Lillian.


The twins had a blissful, unfettered childhood in Depression-era Burlington. While his brothers and sisters’ spouses enlisted in the war effort, Ken led Boy Scout parades, sang in St. Luke’s choir and picked local crops. In his teens, hungry for adventure, he worked as a bellhop on the Noronic one summer, then went west after Grade 13 to work in a logging camp. A year later, he hitchhiked home to study history at Queen’s. Ken documented it all decades later in a family history treasured by the Tancock clan.


After earning his BA, Ken attended teachers college in Toronto where he fell in love with beautiful Babs on a blind date at the race track. They married just weeks before he started his first job in Paris, Ontario in 1951. Martha, Chris, Pam and Wendy turned up in short order as Ken transferred to schools in Belleville and Agincourt. In 1964, the whole family sailed to England for Ken’s sabbatical year studying the school system. He returned to head the history department at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate in Scarborough for the next 20 years, earning the nickname Mr. History Conference for launching annual board-wide student conferences on pressing issues of the day.


Ken was a young convert to socialism, always ready to fight for the underdog, thanks to brother-in-law Alf Best. A founding member of the NDP in 1961 and forever inspired by his hero Tommy Douglas, he worked to get out the party vote in every election. At age 88, the legendary bagman charmed dollars from donors for the last time.


Ken read widely and voraciously, driven by an insatiable curiosity. He belonged to two book clubs, one for 50 years. Reading, he often said, kept him alive.


So did community. Wherever Ken and Babs lived, they dove into the social life of the street. For 30 glorious years after the two retired to Port Hope, neighbours wandered over to swim in the pool, share a meal, pick tomatoes, enjoy a tipple on the back porch. The garden was the stage for happy family gatherings.


Ken had a booming laugh and an infectious enthusiasm. He took up jogging before it became the rage. He had a passion for music, especially folk songs and opera. He was an artful photographer.


After Babs died, his phone was his lifeline: “The way to forget your own problems is to take an interest in others.” Despite being slowed by emphysema, he expressed gratitude for a well-travelled life, attentive children and, most recently, the care and affection of staff at Empire Crossing. Lately, when visitors said goodbye, he’d say “Fare Well” and mean it from the bottom of his heart.


Ken is survived by sister Nina Rockett and brother-in-law Murray Caldwell; children Martha (Jim), Chris (Lorrie), Pam (Chuck), Wendy; grandchildren Lucie, Johanna, Ben, Maxine; many Tancock and Caldwell nephews and nieces. He is predeceased by wife Babs, sisters Pauline (Alf) Best, Audrey (Dave) Roland; brothers Gord (Marilyn), Os (Grace); brother-in-law Lloyd Rockett.


Donations to Trent University First Peoples House of Learning and Ed’s House hospice in Cobourg.


For now, we celebrate Ken’s life at

Share Your Memory of
Kendall Charles