William “Bill” Dempsey is still in the hearts of many in the Scarborough area.
Dempsey, who died Aug. 15 at the age of 89 and is described as the very model of the engaged civic citizen, was honoured at a memorial on Oct. 5 at the Centennial-Rouge United Church.
Federal politicians John McKay and Dan McTeague, Scarborough East Councillor Ron Moeser and numerous other community leaders and friends of Dempsey’s were all in attendance.
“Bill was a political wannabe,” McKay said. “There was no candidate for office who didn’t receive a letter of advice from Bill.”
Dempsey’s advice may have sometimes fallen on deaf ears, but in one case it caused international change.
“Paul Martin decided to initiate DART (Disaster Assistance Response Team) in Sri Lanka after reading a letter from Dempsey,” McTeague said.
Dempsey, a veteran of the Second World War often concerned himself with international affairs, but most of his time was spent on projects in the Scarborough community.
“Nothing was dearer to Bill than the waterfront,” Moeser said.
Dempsey spent a half century of his life successfully fighting for the creation of the Port Union Road underpass and Waterfront Park.
A common theme resonated from all who spoke — that Dempsey fought tirelessly to better the Scarborough community.
“The TDSB [Toronto District School Board] should do a course on the life and times of Bill Dempsey,” Moeser said.
Gay Cowbourne, a long-time friend of Dempsey’s said he “was a walking archive of the Highland Park area. Not only did he know everything about it, but he knew everyone in it.”
Cowbourne, as well as others agreed that the Centennial-Rouge United Church was a fitting venue for Dempsey’s memorial.
“He would have wanted it right here, in the church he fought so hard to keep open,” she said.
David Adamson, Chairman of the Royal Canadian Legion District D, spoke of another side of the kind-hearted man.
“[At one point] his position in the military was to interrogate prisoners,” Adamson said. “He often kept this part of his life to himself.”
When the memorial ended, the large group in attendance, lead by Dempsey’s wife Evelyn, walked to the church’s banquet hall. Everyone who attended lined up and one-by-one gave their condolences to his wife.
“The memorial was nice, but very emotional,” Evelyn Dempsey said. “It was great to see so many loved ones.”