Armitage, Bruce Harvey P. Eng.

 

April 6, 1950 – January 20, 2024

After his remarkable recovery from a massive hemorrhagic stroke
in 2011, which left Bruce half paralyzed but undeterred, he died
unexpectedly on January, 20, 2024 from a rampant infection. Bruce
was a civil engineer, an innovator and one of Canada’s pioneers in
the use of polymer materials to repair deteriorating concrete in the
building restoration field. He relished the challenge of analyzing
and devising solutions for complex concrete repair issues – a
professional passion that once landed him in a pen at the Metro
Toronto Zoo to address the corrosive effect of rhino urine. Bruce
loved his family and friends unreservedly. In the winter, few things
excited him more than a major Toronto snowfall. He’d rush out at
the crack of dawn, fire up the oversized snowblower and clear
sidewalks on both sides of the street – a burly, bearded figure
happily making a racket and shooting plumes of snow.
Left to process the loss are Bruce’s wife Virginia Galt and their four
children, Patrick Armitage of Brockville, Ont., Alex Armitage of
Toronto, Katie Armitage of Oshawa, Duncan Armitage of Toronto
and grandchildren Maria and Jameson, whom he adored with all
his heart. Bruce is deeply missed by his brother John and family in
Kingston, his aunt and uncle Don and Jill Jarvis in Toronto and their
family, his kids’ partners, the Galt and Ramsden clan in Calgary and
so many good friends.

Born on April 6, 1950 in Brockville, Ont., Bruce was the son of Jack
and Audrey Armitage and a younger brother to John. His dad Jack,
who served in World War II with The Fighting Newfoundlanders,
met and married beautiful, fun-loving Audrey Jarvis in England and
the couple settled in Brockville after the war. Bruce and John grew
up in a house that Jack built on an enormous lot near the St.
Lawrence River. Their grandfather, United Church Minister Francis
Armitage, and grandmother Ida lived in a house Jack built for them
next door. It was an idyllic childhood, says John. There was the river
to swim in, a forest to play in and an outdoor hockey rink that Jack
meticulously maintained. On Friday and Saturday nights the
Armitage brothers would play hockey until they were exhausted,
waking up the next morning to find that the rink had been
magically flooded. Bruce often mentioned that some of his most
cherished memories were the walks and philosophical talks with his
grandfather, who patiently answered questions and imparted
knowledge to the curious little boy holding his hand.
They were free-range kids in the summer when they were old
enough to roam, says John, going home for lunch at noon when
they heard Phillips Cables factory whistle, then back out to play
until the 5 p.m. factory whistle which signaled dinner time – always
a significant event in an Armitage household. Audrey was an
excellent cook. Jack, a longtime employee and supervisor at Phillips
Cable and Automatic Electric (later AEL Microtel) was a builder and
tinkerer. Both boys inherited the building bug, designing roads and
highways in the sandbox, creating a balsa wood replica of the

house they lived in, there was always Meccano. John enrolled in
civil engineering at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. and Bruce
followed his path two years later. (Jack had bought three
Volkswagens, using one for parts to repair the other two, so John
and Bruce could get back and forth between Brockville and
Kingston. They usually shared a ride home on weekends in one of
the refurbished Volkswagens, wearing blankets if they used John’s
car because the heater didn’t work.) Bruce’s first full-time job as a
professional engineer was with Cardinal Construction, a firm based
in Cardinal, Ont. specializing in sewers and watermains, before he
moved to Ottawa to work for the British civil engineering giant
George Wimpey Ltd. He somehow made his way onto the
Parliamentary Press Gallery pickup hockey team – the lone
engineer amongst a group of journalists – which is how he met his
future wife Ginny, one of the shinny-playing scribes. Wimpey
closed its Ottawa branch in 1979 and transferred Bruce to the
Toronto office, where he worked as an estimator and project
manager, sopping up knowledge while hungering for a more
entrepreneurial setting.
As luck would have it, a consortium of professional engineer-led
firms based in Alberta, Nova Scotia and Ontario’s Kitchener-
Waterloo area – early proponents of the use of polymer materials
in building restoration – had invested seed money to establish
Polymeric Engineering Ltd., with a view to extending this new
approach to concrete repair to the Toronto market. Bruce, then in
his early 30s, was hired in 1981 to get Polymeric up and running

alongside his first hire, Keith Hunt. “It was state of the art at the
time in the building restoration sphere, there was no textbook for
this stuff,” says Murray Gamble, president of The C3 Group of
Companies, which oversaw Polymeric and C3’s other divisions.
Bruce and his company’s founding investors in Nova Scotia, Alberta
and Kitchener-Waterloo were in constant touch. “They really kind
of fed off each other and built that knowledge base through each
other as we continued to develop various technologies,” Gamble
recalls. This appealed to Bruce’s intellectual curiosity and love of
learning. “He truly was one of the pioneers of the building
restoration industry of Canada.”
Bruce’s enthusiasm followed him home, where the family was
treated to dissertations about building envelopes, waterproofing
and mould. He entertained the children with a video tour of the
Niagara Falls sewer system, which they dutifully watched. That
said, Bruce also thoroughly enjoyed the endless hours at hockey
rinks, soccer fields, football fields and the family road trips, during
which he threatened to play Neil Young songs nonstop between
Toronto and Brockville if they didn’t stop fighting in the back seats.
He loved dogs and other animals. A much-told tale was about the
time he and John, as kids, found an orphaned baby raccoon, took it
home, named it Tiny and kept it as a pet. He loved a good party.
After more than 20 successful years with Polymeric, Bruce struck
out to start his own family business, Brock Engineering Ltd. Brock
was gaining traction when Bruce had the hemorrhagic stroke that
he survived, against all odds, with profound disabilities. His right

side was paralyzed from the neck down and he was transferred to a
complex continuing care setting for people with poor prospects.
We were pretty sure Bruce was still “there” although he wasn’t
doing much. Fortunately, because his ward was housed in a
Toronto Rehab Institute facility, speech therapist Sam Williams
stopped by to take a look. When we mentioned that Bruce had
appeared to be reading a particularly gripping article about rebar
corrosion in a concrete magazine, Sam pulled out some flash cards
and Bruce spoke his first word – flower – in a croaky voice. This
performance earned Bruce access to speech therapy,
physiotherapy and occupational therapy. Maria was there every
day after kindergarten to help Poppa with his exercises. After two
years, Bruce could bear weight on his paralyzed right leg and
transfer, he could eat, speak, read and – the instant he learned to
sign his name – discharged himself from hospital. Ginny’s UBC
cohorts, colleagues from The Globe and Mail and mutual friends in
Toronto and Ottawa raised money towards a porch lift and a
hospital bed. John picked up the outstanding cost of the power
chair (which Bruce drove like a bat out of hell). We’ll be forever
grateful for the support from friends and family. Big thanks to
Ginny’s sister Nancy Ramsden and long-time friends Doug Long and
Nancy Wilson from our Ottawa days who were constant
companions throughout the years (with Nancy Wilson delivering
bedside news reports to Bruce before Sunday morning walkies.)
A second small brain bleed and seizure in late 2022 left Bruce
weakened and more fatigued, but he still read printouts from The

Globe with his coffee in bed every morning and diligently did daily
exercises before transferring to the chair. Bruce never complained,
just got on with it. He derived the most joy from his visits with
Maria and Jameson. We had ten good years with him at home, due
in large part to Bruce’s tenacity and the excellent care provided by
Dr. Aaron Harris. The heroic efforts by Michael Garron Hospital’s
ICU team to try to buy us more time were greatly appreciated.
Bruce’s class, decency and comportment throughout his life left a
big impact on family, colleagues, friends and the many young
tradesmen whose careers he launched. He’s so sorely missed. We’ll
always love you, Bruce. A celebration of life will be held at a later
date for those who knew him. In lieu of flowers, please leave a
favourite memory on the Tranquility Funeral Services Inc. website.
If anyone wants to donate in Bruce’s name to the adult day
program at Variety Village, that would be fun too.

Follow this link to the website:

https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/variety-the-childrens-charity-ontario/

17 replies
  1. Frank Whiten
    Frank Whiten says:

    We would like to express our sincere condolences to all of Bruce’s family.My parents and his were good friends back in the day.I new both Bruce and John.Frank and Bev Whiten

    Reply
  2. Ron Thomas
    Ron Thomas says:

    As a cousin of Bruce who knew him growing up in Brockville, I am truly saddened to learn of his passing. The memorial was a moving and heartfelt tribute that captured the essence of a kind, courageous and resilient man who left the world a better place. The description of Bruce in his early years growing up in Brockville was captured perfectly. From our family, our deepest sympathies to all his family and friends. Ron & Arlaine Thomas

    Reply
  3. Brian McWatters
    Brian McWatters says:

    I didn’t really know Bruce, but I knew his wife Ginny from as way back as university. We were students together, journalism colleagues together and shared many fun times together. I know that Bruce must have been a helluva guy because the Ginny I knew wouldn’t settle for anything less. My condolences to the family during this difficult time.

    Reply
  4. Catherine Fifield
    Catherine Fifield says:

    On behalf of my mom (Anne Fifield) and myself we send our sincere sympathy to all of Bruce’s family and friends. That is a beautifully written tribute to him, an amazing individual.

    Reply
  5. Katie Armitage
    Katie Armitage says:

    Dear Dad, thank you for all of the invaluable lessons you have taught us, mostly by the example you led and the way you carried yourself with such dignity, kindness and class. I will continue to look to your example for guidance whenever I feel I’m not strong enough to push through. I love you with all of my heart.

    Kate

    Reply
  6. Sally Daniels
    Sally Daniels says:

    The name Bruce means ‘character’ and Bruce was certainly a character. So much fun to be around and such an interesting man. Always a laugh out loud story to tell. Our thoughts (Bruce and I), are with you Ginny and the family at this difficult time.

    Reply
    • Ginny Galt
      Ginny Galt says:

      Thanks, Sally. Those Bruces are in a league of their own. So many fond memories of all the laughs with you and your Bruce, John and Jane, Anne and Struan, Paul and Wendy and all the others who had the good fortune to go to those fabulous Spanton events.

      Reply
    • Virginia Galt
      Virginia Galt says:

      Oh Sally, what a treat to hear from you. Those Bruces are certainly in a league of their own.So many treasured recollections of those memorable (!) nights at the Spantons. Thank you so much. It’s so lovely to be reminded of all the funj we had.
      Ginny

      Reply
  7. Tammy Caudle
    Tammy Caudle says:

    So beautifull! Thank you Bruce, for letting me be a part of you and your beautiful families life. I am forever grateful! Your smile, laughter and jokes will always be a core memory I hold close to my heart! Sending love and prayers

    Reply
  8. Tammy Caudle
    Tammy Caudle says:

    So beautifully written ❤️ Thank you Bruce, for letting me be a part of you and your beautiful families life. I am forever grateful! Your smile, laughter and jokes will always be a core memory I hold close to my heart ❤️

    Reply
  9. Jane Spanton
    Jane Spanton says:

    It is difficult to think of a more generous or genuine man than Bruce. He was most definitely an excellent friend and he loved his family with his whole heart. John and I are so sorry for this loss.

    Reply
  10. Gail & Dan Stanoev
    Gail & Dan Stanoev says:

    Katie, Cam, Maria & Jameson…..so sorry to hear of your Dad’s passing. He was a lucky man to have such a wo

    Reply

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