Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Douglas Norman Cass

Douglas Norman Cass
Born September 23, 1920
Died November 19, 2008

Douglas Norman Cass the first born child of Norman Cass and Mildred Hughes Cass was delivered on September 23, 1920 in the city of Fredericton, New Brunswick. His father was Canadian and his mother British. Shortly after his birth the family moved to Calgary where his father was employed as a forestry surveyor. Soon after the move first Doug’s sister was born and then later his brother. Sadly, when he was only three and a half, Doug’s mother died after the birth of his younger brother. This led to Doug and his sister moving to live with his grandparents in the United Kingdom whilst his younger brother went to live with an uncle and aunt. It was there in the UK that Doug was to spend his next 27 years. One of his fond childhood memories was “ Running around with an Indian feathered headdress to impress the British kids!”

Life was somewhat different in England as his grandfather was a church deacon and so he was required to attend church three times every Sunday with no playing on the Sabbath. To assuage his boredom he took to reading the Bible from cover to cover whilst sitting in the pews.

Doug was a lively lad and so it comes as no surprise to learn that at 16 his grandfather removed him from school for being the ringleader in some misbehaviour. He was sent to work at Basildon Bond, the stationery manufacturer, in the machine shop as an engineering apprentice. As he once pithily said, “This had the same appeal as being in prison!” However, he put his best foot forward and made the best of it. As a balance to this work he took up competitive cycle racing, which he thoroughly enjoyed. One of his disappointments was trying, with many of the lads from Basildon Bond, to join up for the second world war but being refused as he was designated in a “protected occupation”. As he grew into his late teens Doug’s idealism and world conscience developed and he became interested in politics and union work. By the age of 22, to the horror of his family, he was secretary of the Hemel Hempstead & District Trades and Labour Council.

In the early Fifties Doug began to consider returning to Canada to see his father and in 1951 made the trip back across the Atlantic Ocean. He was 31 years of age. After spending two weeks with his father in Ottawa he began working for A. V. Roe until layoffs occurred. He next joined a Montreal vitamin company and became immersed in the field therapeutics and natural medicines. This work continued into the Seventies. For a time he also went to chiropractic school but eventually decided this was not for him. However he never lost his wide ranging interest in various therapies including Wilhelm Reich’s work.

Doug had a huge appetite for reading and in the late Seventies began studying Rudolf Steiner’s writings. He was part of the community that met at the Living Seed Health Food Store in Toronto and it was there that he met his wife Helen. They married in 1986. Many Ontario members will remember Doug and Helen’s caretaking and stewardship of Hill House where Doug also founded Tri-Fold books.

In 1995 Doug and Helen moved to Guelph, a city that he enjoyed immensely. He was active in the community and particularly loved the farmers market, the arboretum and the Boathouse restaurant. We spent pleasant afternoons enjoying tea at the Boathouse on our visits to him. His interest in a healthy body and love of nature drew him time and again to the arboretum where he followed every trail until he did not need the signs any more to find his way.

This was so characteristic of Doug, always walking the path, seeking, searching, questing for knowledge and understanding. Never could you visit Doug and be mundane or superficial. He was direct, sometimes challenging, always with a pile of books beside him that were his current reads and with a list of questions, discussion points and opinions to enliven your encounter.

Here was a man whose love of life, the world and his fellow men and women kept him alert and active until the time of his passing.

Jef Saunders

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Although I may not have met Douglas in person, I have benefitted from having been able to purchase Anthroposophical books through Tri-fold Books.
I send my condolences to his wife, Helen. Thanks for the article about his life. Best wishes for his memorial service from Henriette van Hees.