Having a life well-lived with no regrets, Milt Sather was a generous and kind Rotarian and Guelph Country Club member, a former Treasurer and City Administrator for the City of Guelph and a much loved family man. Milt was adamant that there were no free rides in life, and that everything you achieve; you do so by earning it. He enjoyed big-band music, golfing, the Blue Jays and especially the Saskatchewan Roughriders, a nod to his roots.
Milt passed away at the Guelph General Hospital on Saturday, August 1, 2015 at the age of 82, on his daughter’s birthday.
Milton Richard Sather was born on November 29, 1932 in Colgate, Saskatchewan, to parents Ivor and Margaret. Murray and Don were the first two children born into this family. Next came Shirley, and Milt was the youngest sibling. There was 15 years difference between him and Shirley, as two other siblings passed away in between.
Milt and his mother were very close. Milt’s family was very poor and Margaret never had more than $5 in her pocket at given time. On Milt’s first day of school, his mother packed him tomatoes in a mason jar for his lunch. He was so nervous to be at school, that he couldn’t eat his lunch, until he was on his way home after school and ate his jar of tomatoes while riding his horse. As a high schooler, Milt was very active in sports. In the yearbook, there were photos of him on every school team, including basketball, football, baseball and rugby.
Milt worked for a local man doing a laboring job while in high school. This mentor realized just how sharp Milt was so he paid for his education, providing the opportunity for Milt to take his Chartered Accountant (CA) schooling through correspondence. Milt’s mother passed away from cancer when he was writing his CA exams. After that he lived with his sister, Shirley. Milt graduated with his CA in Saskatchewan in 1958.
Milt came to Toronto to work in1959. It was there that he reconnected with a lively woman named Joan, a teacher who had also come to Toronto for work. Milt and Joan had a common connection, as Milt was friends with Joan’s brothers back home in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Joan asked Milt out on a date. They courted and soon after got married on March 26. Daughter Jane was born, followed by another daughter, Joanne. “My dad was like Bob Newhart and my mother was like Lucille Ball,” shared Jane MacEachern. “He was very stayed and my mother was very colourful. They were married for 57 years. They really loved each other and were role models for everybody.”
Milt and Joan moved to Guelph in 1961. Milt was hired on as the City Treasurer in 1963, working in that role for 19 years. In the last 10 years of his career, Milt was the City Administrator from 1982 to 1992. In an article appearing in the Mercury on October 14, 1992, Milt was lauded as being one of a cautious breed of Canadians whose attitude towards money was steered by the Depression. Milt was the person to introduce zero-based budgeting and was always fiscally responsible, never once having the City’s expenditures exceed the set budget. Milt’s daughter Joanne Kennedy recalls, “He always did the right thing, even when that was hard or it was the unpopular choice, and he always put his family first.”
Milt predicted great pressures on Guelph as people would be moving out of Toronto, which would be good for transportation and Guelph business. He knew that Guelph was a good place to live. Milt was the perfect mix of someone who could get the job done and not upset people in the process. “Dad was well-respected by so many different groups – Police and Fire Chiefs, Mayors, staff and unions,” remembers Jane. “He was the most non-judgmental person. He always encouraged us to be grateful.”
Christmas was always a really happy time with wonderful memories at the Sather house. Joanne recalls that at Christmas, “He always included as part of our prayer at dinner, how fortunate we were to have had another year of good health and of being blessed to be together as a family.”
Over the years, Milt never really asked for anything for Christmas, so Joan had to get creative. Once she bought him an organ for Christmas. He played it only a couple of times; giving it the old college try. One year she bought him a model ship and filled every opening with money and told him ‘Your ship has come in’. Another year she made him up a money tree. Joanne recalls that “Christmas was huge at our house; my mother went nuts at Christmas and there would be presents from one end of the living room to the other.” The Sather family grew to include grandchildren, as Milt was the cherished “Papa” of Mitchell, Alex and Owen.
Milt and Joan loved to travel throughout the retirement years and went on many trips with their friends George and Hazel Fowler, who were from England. They became a surrogate family to each other and spent every Christmas together. One of Milt and Joan’s favourite getaways was Arizona, where many of their childhood friends from Saskatchewan also stayed, and it became a high school reunion every year.
Milt was a member of Guelph Country Club for 50 years. In reaching this membership milestone with the Guelph Country Club, he earned a free lifetime membership. Despite this, Milt continued to pay for his annual membership, because he felt it was the right thing to do.
“There were two loves in his life, my mother and golf,” shared Jane. “He went South every year for the ‘beer can open’ – a golf tournament with his Country Club friends. My mom would get antsy before he left, and he would fuss over her and buy her flowers. I never understood this dynamic when I was a young girl, but now that I have a family of my own, I certainly do!”
“Starting out in life quite poor, my father worked very hard to attain what he had,” shared Joanne. “Saying that, he felt very blessed and was very generous and giving to a wide variety of charities.” Milt was also a proud member of the Rotary Club of Guelph for over 50 years. In 1967, the framed Rotary Four-way test was given to him for his birthday. It hangs in Jane’s office now to remind her of her father, who led with his heart and who always chose the right thing to do. Milt especially enjoyed working at Sparkles in the Park, and Jane recalls asking him to come for dinner one night, but he said he couldn’t because he was working security at Sparkles. Thinking of their 80-year old father working security was an image that made both her and Joanne smile.
Joan developed dementia, and Milt took care of her for many years at their home. Eventually she had to be moved into a long-term-care home. Shortly after, Milt and his daughter’s family were at their cottage in Southampton, and they were sitting around the fire listening to big band music and having a glass of wine. “Dad’s eyes were closed so I asked him if he wanted to go to bed,” recalls Jane. “He said to me, ‘No, I was just dancing with your mother.’”
Joan passed away in January 2015.
Milt was in and out of the Guelph General Hospital three times, and the care that he received was remarkable. Milt was admitted on June 16 and passed away six weeks later of cancer.
Shortly after, the Guelph Country Club held a memorial golf tournament in Milt’s name and planted a tree for him on the 8th hole.