Founders of Sir Sam's leave a lasting legacy
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | April 12, 2018
When it came to life, and planning their deaths, Bob and Noreen Bishop knew what they wanted for themselves and their family.
“They always talked about not being in pain or suffering, and dignity of death,” recalled Chris Bishop, one of Bob and Noreen’s five children.
In recent years, the founders of Sir Sam’s Ski and Ride in Eagle Lake were battling health issues. Bob had four different cancers, while Noreen had Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and heart issues.
Back when Chris was 20 years old, his father made his end-of-life wishes clear.
“He said, ‘when it comes my time to go, there’s got to be a pill or something because I don’t want to be suffering in pain,’” said Chris.
Six months ago, Bob expressed his wishes to his doctor and initiated the process to undergo physician-assisted death. The couple qualified due to their failing health.
On the morning of March 27, they died peacefully, holding each other’s hands, at their Eagle Lake home. They were surrounded by family. Bob was 85 years old and Noreen was 86.
According to Chris, they were the first couple in Ontario to die at home together by way of medically-assisted death and the second couple in Canada.
In June 2016, the federal government passed Bill C-14 to make it legal for Canadians with a “grievous and
irremediable medical condition” to access the service.
The family was very happy with the process and the fact that Bob and Noreen’s wishes were respected.
Bob and Noreen were married for 65 years. They first met as young children in school. In Haliburton, Bob started his career in real estate and insurance with Mack Irwin Insurance. He bought the business with two partners in 1955. A few years later, he started R.J. Bishop and Son Real Estate.
“He developed and sold over 400 lakefront and chalet lots in Haliburton, and was involved in the construction of 65 homes, cottages and buildings,” said Chris.
In 1963, Bob established Haliburton CATV Cable with Murray Austin. They ran 3,000 feet of wire from Riverside Drive to Skyline Park to improve the quality of cable TV for residents in Minden and Haliburton. Two years later, he purchased the 1,800-acre Sir Sam’s Inn property. It was the former summer estate of Sam Hughes, MP for the area between 1892 and 1921 and Ministry of Militia and Defense during the First World War. The Bishops renovated the inn, cut three ski trails and installed a T-bar lift. They transformed the property into Haliburton’s first four-season resort.
“Mom worked hand-in-hand with dad at the inn and ski hill, up until 25 years ago,” he said, adding his father was still actively involved until the last couple of years.
In 1979, they sold the inn and focused on the ski hill. Chris and his siblings became involved in the business at an early age, but it never seemed like work.
“It was ideal as a kid,” he smiled. “We were going to the ski hill for the weekend—we thought that was pretty special. We experienced it as it grew.”
Chris has been general manager for several years. His sister, Angela, manages food and beverage and brother JD oversees snow-making. Brothers Steve and Rob help occasionally and are shareholders in the company.
Chris admits it was his parents’ foresight and teamwork that made it all possible.
“My dad had great vision. Mom believed in him. It wouldn’t have worked if they hadn’t been hand-in-hand,” he said. “That’s why it was so fitting when they died, they were holding hands in bed.”
Chris says he will miss their “positivity, optimism and love they had for the family.”
In addition to their business ventures, Bob served as president of the local chamber of commerce in the 1950s and ‘60s and was a member of the Kin Club. Noreen was a big supporter of the Haliburton Hospital Auxiliary, which is why donations were directed to the organization in their memory. She also collected donations for the Canadian Cancer Society.
Chris is grateful for the outpouring of support from the community in recent weeks. They’ve received many cards,emails, calls and “beautiful stories” about Bob and Noreen.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.